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Thomas: Three major truths give us the good news — the best is yet to come

Some say that 1 Corinthians 15 is the greatest sermon Paul ever wrote. The chapter begins: “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you have received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved.”  (vs.1,2)

The Greek word translated “gospel” means “good news!” In the midst of this horrible pandemic, there hasn’t been much good news. I’ve stopped watching the late-night news because it’s hard to sleep after hearing and seeing what’s happening in the world around us — and in our nation near us. It’s news. It’s true. But it’s not good news. The gospel of Jesus is news. It’s true. And it’s good news! Actually, great news! Paul points out the three major truths that make this such good news.

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First, Jesus died for our sins.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” (vs. 3) Just as the Bible promised from the beginning of the ages, Jesus, God in the flesh, died for our sins. He was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

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There’s a lot of death around us today. I detest the media keeping a “running score” of deaths caused by the virus like it was some sporting event. But as much as we hate to think about death, the truth is we’re all going to die at some point. We’re all terminal. But Jesus didn’t have to die. As God, He could have remained in heaven basking in the glory and honor the heavenly hosts showered Him with day and night. But He loved us so much, He left all of heaven to come to Earth as one of us, and eventually die for us — for our sins, for our sakes. And it was a horrible death on a Roman cross. A death and punishment each one of us deserves for our sins, but Jesus suffered and died in our place.

Second, Jesus rose from the dead.  

“He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” (vs. 3) Early Sunday morning as some women came to finish the burial anointing of Jesus’ body, they found the tomb empty. Angels appeared and spoke, “Don’t be afraid! You are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He’s not here! He has risen just as He said!”

Jesus is alive. Buddha is dead. Mohammed is dead. Krishna is dead. But Jesus is alive! He lives! He is risen from the grave and is alive forever more! This wasn’t a “spiritual” or “metaphorical” resurrection. Jesus bodily rose from the dead by the power of God proving once and for all that He was and is indeed God’s promised Savior! Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t God breathing new life into a corpse, it was God resurrecting Jesus with a new physical body so wonderful and marvelous that it’s beyond our human comprehension!

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The third truth of the good news: because Jesus lives, we can live! (vs. 5- 57)

Because we have put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, this world doesn’t have the last say in our lives. Some little ditch in a cemetery will not be our final resting place. Because Jesus lives, we’re going to live forever, with Him! “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? ... But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (vs. 55,57)

There it is! The Gospel, the “good news” is simply this: Jesus died. Jesus lives. And because He lives, you’re going to live!

Paul finished (as every good sermon does) with an application: “Therefore my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm! Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.” (vs.58)

In other words, if we truly believe this gospel, we will give Jesus our hearts and lives and be utterly loyal and committed to this gospel. We will live in Him and for Him every day of our lives no matter what the cost until God calls us home to be with Him forever!

A woman, diagnosed with a terminal illness, called her pastor to talk about her funeral. She had suggestions about hymns to be sung and scripture verses to be read. But she insisted on one thing: “I want to be buried with a fork in my hand!”

Her pastor was surprised! “Why in the world would you do that?”

“Well,” she said, “in all my years of attending church suppers and pot-lucks, I always remember that when they begin to clear the dishes, someone always announces, ‘Keep your forks!’ It’s my favorite part of the supper because I know something better is coming! Pastor, I want people to see me in my coffin with a fork in my hand and know: ‘Her best is still to come!’”

In this season of fears and doubts about the future, remember that Jesus died. He arose and lives. And because He lives, you can live too — with the best yet to come! Even in these gloomy days, we can confidently boast, “Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” 

The Rev. William Thomas is pastor at Hereford United Methodist Church. He can be reached at pastor@herefordumc.org.

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