What image comes to mind when you think of Easter? Jesus getting up and walking out of the tomb? None of the resurrection stories gives a detailed description of what happened in the tomb, other than to say the Crucified One was raised. Whatever happened in that tomb was something beyond human understanding. So, the primary image for Easter is a profound absence and presence. There is absence in that all we have is an empty tomb, but presence because, while the tomb is empty Christ is alive, with a gloriously transformed body, and with us!
Of course, the rolling away of the stone did not release Jesus from the tomb, for He had already been raised and gone ahead of the disciples to Galilee. In the resurrection Jesus transcended time, space, and death; those things which limit human existence. So, the stone was not rolled away for Jesus, but for the disciples and for us. We need to see the evidence that the “right hand of the Lord has triumphed” (Psalm 118:16), in raising Jesus so we might believe and through believing, “...have life in His name” (John 20:31).
Preachers have two epistolary choices on Easter: The morning text for sunrise (selected above) and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. In 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8, just two and a half verses, we have a call to celebrate the fact that “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed” (5:7) from the perspective of a post facto resurrection.
Preachers should consider the double entendre at play within the “Words of Institution” that is essential to this text: “On the night in which He [our Lord Jesus Christ] was betrayed” (1 Corinthians 11:23). The Greek word ubiquitously rendered in English “betrayed” means just that, “handed over.” To be sure, He was betrayed by Judas (and so, all of humanity), but handed over by the Father as the Passover Lamb to be the once-and-for-all sacrifice for sins. It was the Father who sacrificed the Passover Lamb just as it was the Father who raised Him from the dead. God is the real orchestrator here. God is the active agent in our salvation.
It was the Father who sacrificed the Passover Lamb just as it was the Father who raised Him from the dead.
Gregory L. Lockwood takes us deep into the meaning of our text by using the perspective of standing atop the mountain of divine vindication of Christ by way of His resurrection. From this summit we gaze not down upon the crucifixion but to the glorious peak. Paul calls us to see the crucifixion for what it truly must be: The victory of God over sin, death, and the reign of darkness. The Resurrection vindicates the claim that victory was achieved on Golgotha by the “blood of God” (Acts 20:28). Lockwood writes:
"Paul proceeds to lay out the Gospel basis for their standing as a new community, cleaned from “the old leaven” (5:7). This came about because of God fulfilling His promise to send Jesus, the Passover Lamb, to be sacrificed on Calvary. The NT portrays Jesus as, “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36; see also the Lamb having been slain in Revelation 5:6, 12; 13:8)."
There are implications and ramifications to the death and resurrection of the Son of God. One being what Paul declares here: The Kingdom of God has dawned on Earth and by it the world is being remade beginning with you Corinthians. The crucified Christ, as Lockwood infers, is the basis for the congregation’s holiness. They share in Christ’s holiness for they have been baptized into His death and resurrection. Hence, they are of the new creation. Indeed, they are themselves a new creation. Leave, therefore, the old leaven (sin) behind and walk in resurrection life.
This calls for celebration, says Paul (5:8). “He exhorts the Corinthians to keep celebrating the fulfilled Passover inaugurated by Christ’s crucifixion. Every day is not an Easter!” Thus, the genius of the lectionaries selection of this text: What better day to celebrate resurrection life now in the baptized than on the day of Christ’s resurrection itself!
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8.