“It is finished!”
was completely validated by
the angel’s declaration:
“He is not here; he has risen”
(Matthew 28:6 NIV84).
What if . . . ? What if you had been born a hundred years earlier? What if you had chosen a different career path? What if you had never met your spouse? Or broaden the scope. What if world history had turned out differently? What if the U.S. and its allies had lost World War II, and we were now living under a dictatorship rather than in a republic? It’s more than an intellectual exercise. Considering “what ifs” can help us see and appreciate God’s gracious direction of our lives and all of history.
That is just what the Apostle Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15 by presenting the most far-reaching and startling “what if” of all. What if there were no resurrection of the dead? The consequences would be staggering! If there is no resurrection, Paul states, then Christ is not risen. The apostles’ preaching is pure fabrication. Faith in Jesus is worthless. Mankind is still under the curse of sin, and those who died trusting in Christ are eternally lost. Hope in Jesus would be mere self-delusion. There would be nothing to live for beyond the passing treasures and hollow joys of this earth. What’s more, we would have no purpose as a church beyond that of all the other organizations which strive to make the world a better place in which to live. The “what if?” scenario Paul paints is the desperate condition of the world without a Savior.
However, Paul stresses in his resurrection chapter that this “what if?” is not reality. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20 NIV84). Jesus suffered and died according to the Scriptures. He fully paid the enormous debt of the world’s sin. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV84). Jesus’ cry: “It is finished!” was completely validated by the angel’s declaration: “He is not here; he has risen” (Matthew 28:6 NIV84).
Let’s not live, then, under the shadow of “what if?” Jesus lives. Death is defeated. Satan is crushed. The resurrection to life eternal is the future of all who believe in Jesus as Savior. Let’s live in hope and with purpose. Even in the face of sickness, financial struggles, old age, and finally death, our hope is sure. Jesus lives. “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NIV84). Whether we spend our days at home, in the classroom, or in the workplace, we have a compelling reason to be there. We are members of the living Christ. We live to serve and glorify Him. As a church body we don’t have to search for an identity or reason for our existence. We have been entrusted with the Gospel good news of Christ crucified and risen to share with fellow sinners around the world.
Finally, consider some additional “what ifs?” What if we were to pray all the more for Christ’s kingdom to come to us and many others? What if we were to ask the Lord to give us greater zeal for the Word and more fervent love for souls? What if we were also to pray that He would open more doors for us to speak to those around us? And what if we were to continue asking for the material gifts and the men to carry His Word to places where we cannot personally travel? What might happen?
Let’s find out!
Michael Eichstadt is pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and president of the Church of the Lutheran Confession.