A lot of times we think of the word ’empty’ in a negative light. But when does emptiness become a good thing? Our celebration of Jesus’ resurrection – and the empty tomb – sheds some important light on that.
My message this past Easter weekend at Eastbrook Church was an exploration of the meaning of “Empty” in light of the resurrection. I walked through John 20:1-31, with reference to a few different passages along the way.
You can view a video of the message and the accompanying outline below. You can listen to the message via our audio podcast here.
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From time to time people ask me what resources I utilize in preparing sermons or series. This was something I encountered quite a bit with the series we just finished at Eastbrook, “Resurrection Hope,” on 1 Corinthians 15. So, let me pull aside the veil a little bit on how I approached five weeks on this brilliant chapter from Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth.
I always begin series planning far in advance with in-depth study, meditation, and prayer over the text I am approaching. In this case, I spent time reading all of 1 Corinthians, giving particular attention to observe repetition of words, key themes, and flow of logic within chapter 15. I took some time to study parallel passages in Paul’s letters, such as 1 Thessalonians 4-5 and 2 Corinthians 4-5.
For each week ahead of preaching, I studied the passage from the NIV with consultation to various other English translations (e.g., ESV, NRSV, NLT) and the Greek text via the free Logos Bible app, which has an amazing amount of study tools accessible for free.
When I work through a book or chapter of the Bible for a series, I usually choose one biblical commentary as my main companion. This time my companion was Gordon D. Fee with his very helpful volume on 1 Corinthians in the New International Commentary series (I just discovered there is a revision due out in September 2014). Fee is a solid textual and exegetical scholar, with a balanced approach to academic and practical insights.
Along with Fee’s commentary, based upon the verses or themes of each week, I turned to a variety of other resources. Here is at least a partial listing of those other resources:
- Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, 1-2 Corinthians
- John Bright, The Kingdom of God
- Gerald Hawthorne, et al, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters
- George Eldon Ladd, I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus
- C. S. Lewis, Miracles
- Lesslie Newbigin, Signs Amid the Rubble
- J. B. Phillips’ words on the resurrection from Your God is Too Small
- John Piper, 4-part sermon series “What Happens When You Die?” available for free download here
- N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God and Surprised by Hope
In a recent posthumously published series of lectures, I came across this statement by Lesslie Newbigin on the resurrection. These words particularly leaped out to me in light of our recent journey through 1 Corinthians 15 at Eastbrook Church called “Resurrection Hope.”
Christ gives us the victory because He has broken the power of sin, and in breaking the power of sin, He has broken the power of death. Death is still a fact. In Adam all die. The barrier is still there. What we are assured of in Christ is that death is not the last word, but that God in His mercy is able out of the ruin of corruption and death of men and of man’s social institutions to raise up that perfect incorruptible society which is our true goal. It is the assurance that that goal is in the end to be reached – though we cannot reach it in a straight line by our own power. (Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, p. 50)
Here are the discussion questions that accompany my message, “Resurrection Victory,” from this past weekend at Eastbrook Church, the final week of our series, “Resurrection Hope,” from 1 Corinthians 15, looking specifically at verses 50-58.
- When you hear about the resurrection of the dead, what sort of things come into your mind?
- This week we conclude our series, “Resurrection Hope,” on 1 Corinthians 15. Whether you are alone or with a small group, begin by asking God to speak to you and then read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 aloud.
- Paul brings together the various parts of his discussion of resurrection here, drawing implications both for those who are alive at the time of Christ’s return and those who have already died. Paul states a basic principle in verse 50 that normal, human bodies cannot “inherit the kingdom of God.” Why do you think Paul begins with this principle?
- The phrase “kingdom of God” is common in the Bible, appearing eleven times in Paul’s letters, four of which are in 1 Corinthians. In general, the kingdom of God refers to the rule and reign of God entering into human existence. What is Paul referring to here in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58?
- In light of the reality that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” Paul says that we will all be changed (once in both verse 51 and 52). What sort of change is he talking about for both the living and for the dead at this time (see verses 42-44, 50-54)?
- What is Paul’s central, high point of celebration in verses 54-57?
- What do you eagerly anticipate at a personal level about the ultimate victory over death at Jesus’ final return?
- You might expect Paul to end with verse 57, but in verse 58 he turns the corner into our everyday lives here and now. What specific areas of our lives should be touched now by the hope of the resurrection? Which of these leaps out as most important in your life now?
- What is one thing God is speaking to you through this study? If you are alone, write it down. If you are with a small group, discuss these things with one another.
What does it mean to live in light of Jesus’ victorious resurrection? What future hope does it bring to us? How should it shape our lives now?
These are the sort of questions we delved into this weekend at Eastbrook Church in my message, “Resurrection Victory,” This was the fifth and final weekend in our series entitled “Resurrection Hope” that draws from Paul’s words on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15.
The outline and video file for the message is below. You can view the message online here or listen to it via our audio podcast here. You can now access all the messages from the “Resurrection Hope” series here. You can also visit Eastbrook Church on Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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