“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
One of the profound memories from my childhood comes from the time when I was on holiday with my family at Cathedral Peak Hotel, in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa. It was an idyllic setting overshadowed by the sandstone and granite peaks that towered two thousand metres above the valley. We spent two weeks horseback riding (my father fell and broke his arm), swimming, hiking, lawn bowling, and eating lashings of good food.
One afternoon, toward the end of our holiday, the children at the hotel were having a whale of a time in the swimming pool playing dive bombers. Dive bombers is a very simple game. We ran across the lawns making Japanese zero fighter plane noises at the top of our lungs and then leapt into the pool with our legs folded up under us. The child who made the biggest splash and the largest waves was considered the best dive bomber. In the midst of a particularly fierce attack on an “American destroyer” one of the mums who was sitting off to one side leapt up and screamed, “Oh nooo … !”
We stopped dead in our tracks as a fully clothed man went hurtling toward the pool and dived in. Other adults came running from all sides as the woman kept screaming, “He’s drowning! He’s drowning! He’s drowning!” I watched in horror, along with the other children, as the man who had dived in scooped the lifeless boy off the bottom of the pool and surfaced to the willing hands who hauled the limp body out of the pool and passed it to another man who then sprinted up toward the hotel.
It was a sickening sight. The boy’s limbs swung lifelessly as the crowd of adults surged behind in consternation. What added to my shock was the realisation that the adults appeared helpless and afraid. For the first time in my life I felt fragile and vulnerable. About ten minutes later my mother arrived and said, “Don’t worry lovey, everything is going to be all right.” It didn’t help much. I had seen the limp body and seen the fear in the adult’s eyes. Furthermore, an uncanny hush had settled over the resort.
A few hours later it was time for supper. The normal hubbub of conversation had been replaced by hushed tones or vacant stares at the plates of food. Everyone seemed to be acting like they were guilty of something. It was awful. Then a most amazing thing happened. The hotel manager strode into the dining room and excitedly announced, “He’s alive!”
It was unbelievable. Those two words electrified the room. People leapt to their feet and cheered. People laughed and rejoiced. Again and again, as if to confirm what they’d heard, people said to one another, “He’s alive! He’s alive! He’s alive!”
Years later I heard an even greater story. The story “of first importance”
1 Corinthians 15:3. It was the account of the resurrection. The reality that Jesus is not dead, He “has risen!” Luke 24:6. That “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time .. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to (Paul)” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
That’s something worth rejoicing over. In the story of the resurrection we have the deathless assurance that Christ is alive. He’s no longer a memory, but a presence; not a phantom, but a person; not a figure in time, but the timeless One who looks out for us every millisecond of the day. As Gloria and William Gaither sing:
God sent His Son,
They called Him Jesus,
He came to love, heal, and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Saviour lives.
Because He lives I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives all fear is gone;
Because I know He holds the future.
And life is worth the living just because He lives.