1 Cor. 15:1-11
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy.” Loyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle in a 1988 Vice Presidential debate
There’s nothing like a first-hand witness to stop an opponent in their tracks. The Bentsen quote above is one of the most iconic “mic drop” moments among political debates. Dan Quayle never recovered politically from that verbal kill shot, and certainly never compared himself to Jack Kennedy again.
Paul used a similar technique to encourage the believers in Corinth. He reminded them that the gospel they had accepted was far more than just a philosophy or set of religious beliefs. The gospel was a man, that walked the earth, taught eternal truth, died to pay a debt that we couldn’t, and defeated death by rising again three days later. The gospel hinged on the God/Man, Jesus, not an idea. And because of this, Paul was able to point to the historical Jesus and to the many people still alive that had witnessed firsthand all that had been told them.
Our enemy has done a good job in the current culture of relegating Jesus to a holiday mascot on par (but not as fun) as Santa, or the Easter Bunny. We are tempted, because it was so long ago, in such a foreign place, and such an unbelievable story to allow Him to shrink in status and relevance.
When April and I got the opportunity to go to Israel a few years back, one of the thoughts that kept occurring to me (embarrassing for a minister) was, “Wow! This is a real place, not just a setting for some stories in an old book.” That’s not exactly what I thought, but it might as well have been. As we sat and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, walked along the Via De La Rosa, kneeled on the very cobblestones where the Roman soldiers would have whipped Jesus, and stood in the tomb where he rose from the dead, there was no getting past the actual history of this place. Men and women witnessed these things and many died for their testimony to the fact.
This year as you focus on the Passion Week and what Jesus did for you, know that you are part of a movement that at its core celebrates the Eternal God, stepping into history to show His unfathomable love for us.
Use the HEAR method as you spend time with today’s passage:
Highlight – what words or phrases jump out at you?
Explain – what does the passage mean?
Apply – how does the passage intersect with your life today?
Respond – how is God leading you to respond?
Jon Price, Associate Pastor