Eat, Drink & be Merry…
‘…We eat, we drink, the next day we die…’ (1 Corinthians 15, 33)
God raising Jesus from the dead was the ‘article of faith’ as far as Paul was concerned. It demonstrated the ultimate sovereignty of God in that this was something, perhaps the one thing, that a human being could not do, could never do for themselves. It confirmed that nothing could frustrate the fulfilment of God’s ultimate purpose as far as the whole of creation is concerned, each one of us included. It vindicated the means according to which that purpose was and is ultimately revealed to the world, to each one of us; Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It determined the basis upon which ultimately, under God, each and everyone was to be judged; atonement for sin, forgiveness of sins, justification of the sinner, reconciliation between sinners. It affirmed that just as, ultimately, life triumphs over death so accordingly good will triumph over evil. It consecrated the lives of those whose lives would otherwise have been considered wasted, lost for ever, remembered no more by conferring upon them an ultimate dignity in death that was denied them in life.
But for Paul, the raising of Jesus from the dead was not just an ‘article of faith’ no matter how rich the rewards of believing it to be so. His experience on the road to Damascus, his direct encounter with the risen Christ, persuaded him that God’s promise to every believer was not just that they would enjoy their ultimate reward but that what was ultimately to be made real for every believer was actually to become a living reality immediately. Hence all the forgoing which we described in ‘ultimate’ terms ca/should/ought/must be recast in terms of being immediate’ – the ‘there and then’ is become the ‘here and now’ – not either/or, but rather both/and. Paul’s contention is that God raising Jesus from the dead – if we believe it – requires us to live every moment of every day both in the light of the resurrection, and in the power of the resurrection. But and it is a big but, we have to believe in it. Ironically, in another place Paul contends that the most significant barrier to faith was the suggestion that Jesus’ death on the Cross was sufficient to achieve reconciliation between God and humankind – foolishness to Greeks, a stumbling block to Jews – but today, and the seeds were already being sown back in Paul’s day – what is foolishness; the suggestion that a man who was dead could be raised from the dead. What is the stumbling block for so many, the suggestion that a dead man could be raised from the dead. Maybe we are too clever for our own good; too worldly wise – again Paul saw it coming, talking of God in Christ confounding the wisdom the wise, the cleverness of the clever, daring the early Christians to be proud to be called ‘fools for Christ.’
But in this particular chapter Paul employs a different tactic in order to seek to persuade his readers/hearers that without a belief in the resurrection, what would be the point of being a Christian; of seeking to live the Christian life; of following Jesus’ teachings. Why, because without a vital experience of the immediate sense of the reality of resurrection, none of us is able to know what it means to live life to the full; to be fully human. We may, from the best of motives, seek to be the best we can be, humanly speaking; but all the while denying ourselves the opportunity to be better than the best, because, in the absence of faith, we will all fall short in some measure. We may accept that this all there is, and embrace life for what it offers – fast and furious – a heady cocktail of hedonistic excess. We may come to bemoan the very nature of life itself, questioning our very existence, waiting for Godot. We may fashion icons of our own; sanitising their past, idolising their present, mortgaging the future, airbrushing out of history those inconvenient truths that would otherwise hamstring us and ultimately bedevil us whatever we do. Ultimately, we will be delivered from all of this…the perishable yielding itself up the imperishable, the mortal to the imperishable…for God has decreed it will be so. But, if we dare believe it, what is to be our ultimate destiny can be our immediate reality…but only if we dare believe it to be so.