How Are the Dead Raised?Fr. Barnabas Powell
“But, how does it work?” That was the question burning in my mind as a young, curious, typical pre-teen boy. So, I did what any normal kid would do. I took the clock apart! Still didn’t get my question answered because I didn’t understand the concept of the gears and spring system AND the clock never worked again because I didn’t know how to put it back together again! Needless to say, mom wasn’t happy.
It’s natural, and I believe a God given gift, for us to be curious as to HOW something or someone “works.” This drive of curiosity and inquiry is both good and useful. We wouldn’t have the medical world we have today without it. However (I bet you saw that coming!), as with all our passions, unless our curiosity is disciplined, it will take us to an unhealthy place!
Let’s look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 15:29-38:
Brethren, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? Why am I in peril every hour? I protest, brethren, by my pride in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesos? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Come to your right mind, and sin no more. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
Our precious Corinthian parish is filled with a lot of “fun” people. Of course, the whole city is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan blend of all the folks from all over the Empire. It truly is an ancient wonder of a gathering from all sorts of cultures, languages, and people groups. And, it’s a hot mess!
The whole of 1 Corinthians 15 is about the Resurrection of the Dead. And there were some “highly educated” among the Corinthian parish that dismissed this idea as “impossible.” “Once you’re dead, you’re dead!” as one “highly educated” friend once told me. But Paul answers back that if the dead aren’t going to be raised from the dead, then WHY are you in a Church that proclaims that Jesus rose from the dead? Makes sense.
Paul appeals to three very strong arguments to combat this silly notion of the dead staying dead. First, he insists that if the dead aren’t raised then why would he endure the stuff that’s happened to him? All the problems, persecutions, and even life-threatening situation Paul faces with faith BECAUSE he believes that physical death isn’t the end of his story! Next, Paul insists that this is causing a problem there in Corinth because these folks have forgotten some timeless wisdom about who you hang around with. My mawmaw would say “Don’t be surprised if you have fleas when you lay down with dogs!” If you folks there in Corinth are going to fellowship with people who don’t even believe in the foundational truth of the Christian faith, then you have to expect that this is going to cause problems among you! Finally, Paul reveals an insight that is central to our Orthodox Faith. He tells these Corinthians that you only reap a harvest if the “seed” is planted and dies there in the earth. THEN the seed produces what it was intended and designed to produce by the Creator.
Paul also says something interesting at the beginning of the passage, and, yes, I saw it. Too bad the devotional is too short to do it justice. Let’s just say Paul finds it interesting when people do things out of nostalgia and religious habit without appreciating just what their actions are really saying!
Today, do you find it easy to dismiss the more “unbelievable” parts of the Orthodox Faith because of your unhappiness with the answers about “how” something happens? How does the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ? How are the dead going to be raised? All legitimate questions, mind you, with an answer that is meant to heal you from pride and arrogance, Are you willing to be healed or will you persist in stubborn insistence? The answer to THAT question determines if you’re Orthodox on Purpose or not!