The people of Bondi Junction and Sydney as a whole, are appalled at the horrific knife-attacks that took the lives of six unsuspecting people in a shopping mall last Saturday afternoon. Others, including a nine month-old baby, remain in a critical condition. The shock and the grief are palpable as loved ones lament their loss.

How do we face a broken world where, any day – and I don’t want to be morbid – we might unexpectedly die?

In First Corinthians, chapter 15, verses 3 through 6, we read: For I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living…

Christianity didn’t start because a group of philosophers had come to the same conclusions about life. Nor was it the result of a group of mystics having visions of God. It began with a group of eyewitnesses. A company of very ordinary men and women who saw something very extra-ordinary happen. In a word it began with history.

It’s important for us to consider this. The four Gospel records reveal that on a number of occasions and in different ways, Jesus prepared his disciples for his death.

In chapter 14, John the Gospel-writer records that on the night of his arrest, Jesus told his disciples the was going to prepare a place for them. “You know the place to where I’m going,” he said. At this one of the disciples, Thomas, expressed his frustration: “Lord, we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:4-5) ‘Where is this Father’s house you’re talking about? How can we know the way to it?’

And when the story of Jesus’ resurrection broke, John tells us that Thomas, who was not with the other disciples on the third day after the crucifixion, said that he didn’t believe it. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my hand in his side, I will not believe” John 20:25b). A week later he saw him, risen from the dead. “Put your finger here and see my hands,” Thomas, Jesus said. “Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe. At which Thomas responded, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

Were these people deluding themselves, trying to make the best of the shock and horror of the crucifixion?

You are doubtless aware that the first Christian sermon was preached in Jerusalem some six weeks later, around three miles from Jesus’ tomb. Nobody was in a better position to test the truth of the story of the resurrection than those who were there that day (Acts 2:24). Significantly, when Peter insisted that Jesus was alive, risen from the dead, we don’t find 3,000 sceptics or cynics at Pentecost following these events. Rather there were 3,000 converts.

The first Christian preachers were insistent. Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead. His tomb was empty on the third day, not because the body had been stolen, or because the disciples had removed it, or because Jesus had come out of a coma in the cool of the tomb, but because of divine intervention.

And, to return to First Corinthians chapter 15, Paul assures us that there were reliable witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection: he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living…

Furthermore, Paul continues: …if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith (15:14).

Suppose someone had turned up with the body of Jesus and had proved without a shadow of a doubt that the body was his; or, suppose someone turned up tomorrow with water-tight evidence that Jesus had not risen from the dead, would you still be a Christian? I wouldn’t. Nor would the apostle Paul.

Jesus’ resurrection was not a mythical story. It was the real God, breaking into real history at a particular place and at a particular time. This, says Paul, is what makes Christian faith credible. It is true because it is supported by eyewitness evidence.

God’s ‘Yes’ to all who believe. In verses 16 and 17, Paul writes: ….If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men and women. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Paul assures us that because Jesus had risen from the dead all who truly turn to him will not only benefit from the cleansing of sin through Christ’s crucifixion but will also rise from the dead with him.

In chapter 15, verse 21 he continues: For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.

The problem. Because we’re related to Adam, we’re susceptible to death. We’re participants with Adam in turning away from God, and in a very real sense we all share Adam’s curse.

The bad news is that by one man death has come to us all. But there’s good news: by a divine masterstroke, by another man there is now resurrection for all who have turned to the Lord.

When we attach ourselves by faith to Jesus, we can be assured that even though our bodies may rot and decay in a grave, the day will come when we too will be raised from the dead. But each in his own turn, Paul writes: Christ the first-fruits; then when he comes those who belong to him (15:21).

On that great and awesome day when Christ returns, he will give a new resurrected body to all men and women who believe – people from all races and nations. For God’s people death is not Goodbye, but Goodnight!

And so we pray for all who grieve – that they may know the comfort and hope found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayers. Almighty God, Father of all mercies and giver of all comfort; deal graciously, we pray, with those who mourn, that, casting all their care on you, they may know the consolation of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

God of the nations, whose kingdom rules over all, have mercy on our broken and divided world. Shed abroad your peace in the hearts of all men and women and banish from them the spirit that makes for war; so that all races and people may learn to live as members of one family and in obedience to your laws; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Almighty God, you show to those who are in error the light of your truth so that they may return into the way of righteousness: grant to all who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s service that we may renounce those things that are contrary to our profession and follow all such things as are agreeable to it; through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

© John G. Mason