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One of my most haunting memories is a visit to a church in Rwanda after the genocide. The bones of hundreds of Tutsi people lay on the floor where they had been killed. I was overwhelmed by the horror of decayed bodies reduced to bones in a place of worship. Standing before death, in any form, we ask profound and searching questions.
Paul begins this section with two questions posed by an imaginary interrogator. How will the dead be raised? What kind of bodies will they have? The response builds up to an emotional and theological peak in the final verses.
Paul begins with the example of seeds that bear no resemblance to the final plants (vv 36-38). By analogy, the bodies of those raised from the dead will be dramatically different than the former appearance of these people. He then draws attention to the diversity of bodies in the natural order where there are no limits to God’s creativity (vv 39-40). In a moving manner he compares the physical body with its weaknesses to the spiritual body associated with the resurrection from the dead (vv 42-49).
The apostle’s following words (vv 50-55) are best appreciated when they are read slowly and in an audible voice (as he intended within the Corinthian house churches). “We will all be changed.” “The dead will be raised.” “Our frail bodies will put on immortality.” “Death is swallowed up in victory.” This message has given comfort and hope to believers around the world in times of sorrow.
Paul concludes by stating that Jesus Christ overcomes death’s sting connected with sin and the law’s condemnation. A confident faith in resurrection life after death produces a steadfast dedication to serve God. Every effort and sacrifice has meaning in the work of his kingdom.
Father God, we long for your Spirit to whisper words of comfort and hope into our hearts during times of sorrow and loss. We hold fast to our hope in resurrection life after death. In the name of Jesus. Amen.