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Bad News for Grave Robbers

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In 1852 a 36-year old slave was purchased for $700 (a considerable amount in those days) off an auction block in Charleston, South Carolina.  His buyer was the Medical College of Georgia, and his mission was morbid but simple:  to provide the medical school with fresh cadavers. 

His real name was Grandison Harris.  But the doctors called him Resurrection Man because he was so good at robbing the local black cemetery and bringing the bodies back to the medical school. 

According to an eyewitness, he would go to the cemetery late at night.  Quickly he would dig down to the upper end of the box, smash it with an ax, reach in with his long powerful arms and draw the body out.  He would then put the cadaver in a big sack, place it in a cart and then – after restoring the grave to good order – carry the body back to the school. 

Grandison Harris wasn’t a true Resurrection man.  He didn’t bring the dead back to life.  In fact, Grandison was nothing more than a glorified grave robber.  The closest he ever came to witnessing a resurrection was when he took a break one night after completing a job.  He parked his loaded wagon in an alley and went inside a saloon to get a drink.

Two medical students had been watching Harris, and when he disappeared they removed the body from his sack and hid it.  Then one of them climbed into the sack.  When Grandison returned to his wagon, the student moaned: 

“Grandison … Grandison … I’m cold.  Buy me a drink!” 

The results were predictable!  About the same as the soldiers and disciples who found an empty tomb that first Easter Sunday morning, confused and scared witless. 

The authorities had an explanation:  grave robbers did it!  The disciples dun it, they said.  The chief priests and elders of Jerusalem gave a large sum of money to the guards to who had witnessed the resurrection and insisted that they spread the story:  “His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep”  (Matt 28:13).  But the resurrection of Jesus Christ was anything but the work of grave robbers.  In fact, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a bad day for grave-robbers.  Because nothing bothers a grave robber more than an empty tomb.  For as it it written in (Psa 16:10 KJV)  "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption."

The empty tomb is bad news for grave robbers but good new for you and I.  Why?  Because the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the guarantee of our own resurrection.  Our text represents a portion of Paul’s discussion regarding the relationship between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the general resurrection of the dead at the second coming of Jesus “Christ.  It seems as though some within the Corinthian community denied the existence of the general resurrection.  Paul states that “some say that there is no resurrection of the dead.” 

The same problem exists in church communities today.  There are some “good church folk” who dismiss the resurrection as old wives tales, and fables.  There are some who have intellectualized their way to a faithless existence.  There are some who relegate this type of stuff to the folklore characteristic of the dark ages of mankind.  It was good for them back then but, it’s not the kinda stuff any rational, thinking, human being  would believe. 

I respond to them as the apostle Paul responded to the Church in Corinth.  (1 Cor 15:17-19 KJV)  "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. {18} Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. {19} If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." 

But in verse 20, Paul begins a series of glorious and vitally important affirmations.  He says (1 Cor 15:20 KJV)  "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." 

I.                   Christ has been raised from the dead! 

a.       Raisedto arouse from sleep, recall dead to life.  (word pictures building being erected, in old days had a raising, nail wood together form walls, then all men work together raise, or erect the walls).  The wall don’t erect themselves … raised by someone else’s power … Christ didn’t just get up … God raised him up! 

                                                   i.      Dynamic work – raised him up fr. Grave, continued to elevate him, until seated at his right hand. 

                                                 ii.      Mighty work – power fr. Source outside Christ

b.      Firstfruits – them that are asleep … Paul draws upon OT  imagery of harvest … (Lev 23:10 KJV)  "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest:"  The first sheaf is a taste and a guarantee of the full harvest that is yet to come.  Christ is a taste and a guarantee of the full harvest of the resurrection that is yet to come.  God not only raised up Christ… he is going to raise up every born again believer that has been washed in the blood of the lamb.  Why?  Because of the second affirmation, in Christ, all will be made alive!

II.                 In Christ all will be made alive!   

a.       Death came through Adam.  God told him in the garden of Eden, (Gen 2:17 KJV)  "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."

                                                   i.      When Adam & Eve ate forbidden fruit …

III.               Life comes through another man! 

IV.              Your eternal destiny will be determined by a man!

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