Day 338: Death Defeated

Acts 17:1-15 Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia, and the Christians there were the recipients of Paul’s Epistles to the Thessalonians in the New Testament. The Jews who rejected Paul’s preaching in Thessalonica traveled to Beroea to make trouble for him there as well. The charges were similar to those against Christ, claiming that Paul and Silas were insurrectionists who supported a Messiah who would establish an earthly kingdom. The Jews of Beroea accepted Christ after examining the Old Testament Scriptures and determining that Christ had indeed fulfilled the prophecies.

Taken security: Jason paid security for himself and the others; which he would l0ose if Paul and Silas caused more disturbances. (CCC 594)

Ch 17:16-34 Ancient Greeks worshiped many gods, and so they had a different god for just about every need. The altar Agnostos Theos (“to an unknown god”) was erected in case there was a god of whom they were not aware. Paul used this monument to deliver a clever speech that planted the seed of faith among the pagans of Athens. He explained to them that the god they did not know was the one true God, whose son died for our sins and was raised from the dead. Knowledge and belief in the one true God of love rescues humanity from the tendency toward self-absorption that fosters the bondage of sin and unhealthy worldly attachments. (CCC 200, 2083, 2097, 2114)

Ch 17:18 Epicureanism was a philosophy that arose in the third century BC, which encouraged the enjoyment of simple pleasures, the avoidance of pain through right knowledge, and temperance, almost to the point of asceticism. By the time of Christ, it had already devolved nearly into hedonism. Epicureans were agnostics and believed that the gods, if they even existed, were aloof to human concerns. Stoic philosophers were pantheists who believed that virtue meant aligning one’s will to that of nature and accepting with serenity whatever fate came one’s way. Countless philosophies and theologies have developed over the centuries among people trying to solve the basic questions of existence such as the presence of divinity, the meaning of human life, and human relationships. Because of concupiscence, the human mind is often hindered in this search by disordered appetites and sensory distractions. (CCC 36-40)

Ch 17:19 Areopagus: Literally, “the hill of Ares,” the Greek god of war. The hill was commonly used for oration, worship, and meetings of the city’s elders.

Ch 17:24-31 Paul touched on themes that had been emphasized in past apostolic sermons.

Does not live in shrines made by man: This assertion resonated with Stephen’s final sermon before his death (cf. Acts 7:48-50).

The times of ignorance God overlooked: This exhortation to the people that God had tolerated their pagan ways throughout history but now demanded repentance and belief in the one true God. Paul and Barnabas had delivered a similar message to the pagas and Lystra (cf. Acts 14:14-17). (CCC 29, 2112)

Ch 17:26 Every nation of men: All of humanity is descended from Adam and Eve, in which the entire human race is united.

They should seek God: Although God made himself known more explicitly to Israel, persons of every nation have natural knowledge of God inscribed on their hearts and are naturally inclined to seek him. (CCC 28, 57, 287, 359-360)

Ch 17:28 In him we live and move and have our being: Paul here used a line that has been attributed to three different Greek poets-Epimenides, Aratus (Phaenomena, 5), and Cleanthes. Whatever the origin, Paul was appropriating the quote to describe the one God, who created human beings and maintains the world in orderly fashion. (CCC 32, 300, 2566)

Ch 17:30-33 The resurrection of the body was a very strange idea to the Greeks because they believed only in an immortal soul. The body was seen only as a material shell that confined the spirit during its lifetime on earth.

The man he has appointed: Christ will return to judge the living and the dead at the end of time. (CCC 679, 996)

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 The central truth of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead. His Resurrection is a historical fact witnessed by a vast number of people, including the Apostles, who saw the risen Lord after his Resurrection. Paul counted himself among the Apostles, although he was the last and “least” of the Apostles to have seen Christ. Most scholars believe Paul wrote this letter around AD 57-before the canonical Gospels were composed-so his description of the post-Resurrection appearances of Christ is the earliest recorded in Scripture and must derive from the oral tradition of the Church. Out of the oral tradition came an expression of the most important beliefs of Christianity, which eventually became the various creeds that we know today. (CCC 186, 639, 642, 652-659, 752, 857, 2008)

Ch 15:3 Paul handed on the oral tradition just as he had received it.

For our sins: The sole purpose of the Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ was our redemption.

On the third day: The timing of the Resurrection was important in order to fulfill a prophecy that the Messiah would not suffer corruption of the flesh (cf. Ps 16:9-10); at the time of Christ it was believed that the decay of the body began on the fourth day after death.

In accordance with the scriptures: The Resurrection of Christ fulfilled Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah as well as the predictions Christ made of himself during his public ministry. This fact is attested to in the Nicene Creed: Christ “rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (CCC 519, 601, 619, 624, 627)

Ch 15:5 He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve: Peter (Cephas) was singled out, both by Paul and by Christ in his post-Resurrection appearance, because he was appointed head of the Church. Also, part of Peter’s role was to strengthen the faith of the other Apostles, so his witness would have been of great inspiration and comfort to them. (CCC 552, 641)

Ch 15:12-19 There seems to have been some skepticism in the Corinthian Church regarding the resurrection of the dead. The Greeks believed that death released the soul from the body, and the Sadducees denied the resurrection altogether. Regardless of the source, Paul related that Christ’s Resurrection and his appearances in his glorified Body give evidence that our bodies too will be raised on the last day. (CCC 651, 666, 991, 996)

Ch 15:20-34 In rising from the dead, Christ revealed his victory over sin and death originally introduced into the world through the sin of Adam. For this reason, Christ is called the New Adam, for he destroyed sin and death and made possible the redemption of humanity. The effects of the Redemption are continuously imparted to humanity until the end of time. (CCC 411, 655)

Ch 15:20 Because he truly died, Christ was for a time in the abode of the dead, where the souls of those who had died before him awaited redemption. There he preached the Good News of salvation and led the souls of the just to Heaven, which became accessible through his Death and Resurrection. This is the meaning of the Apostles’ Creed when it says, “He descended into hell.” (CCC 632, 991)

Ch 15:24-28 By his Death and Resurrection, Christ reclaimed the kingship of peace, joy, truth, and love for everyone who accepts the race of the Redemption. This triumph will be completed at the end of the world when, as we affirm in the Nicene Creed, Christ “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Every sin and evil will be eradicated, including death. At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will reach its perfection. (CCC 130, 294, 1050-1060, 1322-1326, 2550)

Ch 15:33 Paul is quoting from a play called Thais written by the Greek dramatist Menander.

Ch 15:35-38 The resurrected body will not be an earthly body but a glorified one; it will not return to the same life it enjoyed on earth. At the resurrection our bodies will be transformed and will be reunited with our souls. The descriptions in Scripture of the Body of the risen Christ give us an idea as to the state of our own glorified bodies, which will exist without boundaries of time or space. The funeral liturgy of the Church commits the dead into the hands of God in the sure hope that they will rise again in glory. If we have lived faithfully in Christ, our efforts and travails in this life will be amply rewarded in the Kingdom of God. (CCC 504, 680, 999-1000, 1683, 2804)

Ch 15:45-47 Adam possessed the gift of life, given to him by the Creator; Christ, the New Adam, rose to new life and gives us all a share in his life. (CCC 364, 411, 1015-1017)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Thessalonica: Turning the World Upside Down

  • After enduring significant persecution, Paul moves on from Philippi to Thessalonica (Acts 17).

  • Here, the charge is made against Paul that “these men who have turned the world upside down have come here also … and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:6-7).

  • It is difficult for us to appreciate the threat Paul’s message posed.

  • By proclaiming Jesus as the “Christ,” Paul claimed that there was another king besides Caesar, which ran against the Roman grain as much as any claim could.

  • In the post-Enlightenment world, in which religion and politics are carefully separated, Paul is often viewed simply as a preacher who proclaimed a religious message about salvation.

  • But Paul was more herald than preacher, proclaiming the message of his king and thereby summoning his hearers to choose their loyalties and Lord.

  • Paul, in other words, announced the kingship of Jesus and claimed that his kingship must take precedence and priority.

  • How could this not be viewed with suspicion, if not as outright treason, by Rome?

  • Paul later writes to the often-persecuted Thessalonians that Timothy’s report of their faith and love comforts him (1 Thess 3:6-10), but he hopes to visit them to “supply what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thess 3:10).

  • What is lacking?

  • Hope, since they have faith and love already.

  • Indeed, just a couple of chapters later, Paul strengthens their hope when he addresses what will happen to “those who have fallen asleep” at the coming of the Lord Jesus.

  • Here, Paul uses the Greek term parousia, which has a general meaning of “arrival” or “coming.”

  • But parousia, in its ancient technical sense, also signified the coming of the emperor or king to a city for judgment.

  • If the city welcomed and greeted the emperor well and demonstrated its fidelity to his rule, the city would be blessed at his parousia.

  • But if the city did not greet the king, and if it failed to honor him and comply with his laws, it would be severely judged.

  • Paul takes this technical sense of parousia, which in the Roman world induced fear of displeasing or disobeying Caesar, and employs it to encourage the Christians that in the end the only parousia they need concern themselves with is the ultimate parousia of Jesus, when he comes in glory to judge the world.

  • Here again, Paul takes the language of lordship used for Caesar and applies it to Jesus. Jesus is the true king, of which Caesar is but a pale parody.

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

  • Ok so um…

  • Acts of the Apostles Ch 17 we have The Uproar in Thessalonica

  • What happens?

  • Isn’t it remarkable?

  • We keep saying this

  • As the Apostles' proclamation of Jesus bears fruit, there is ALWAYS that oppression that happens to them

  • BUT…

  • That oppression does not discourage them

  • This is so NECESSARY for us to be reminded of EVERY SINGLE DAY

  • We are reading about our brothers and sisters right now

  • In the Old Testament we were reading about our forefathers in so many ways

  • And yes, that’s maybe what is happening in Acts of the Apostles as well

  • But there is an element of where we are READING about the Age of the Church while we are LIVING in the Age of the Church

  • So what the Apostles and disciples of Jesus experienced, WE MUST EXPECT AS WELL

  • Not only the sufferings and persecutions

  • BUT…



  • So one of those pieces of of the pieces of fruits here in Thessalonica what did they say?

  • They dragged Jason out before the city authorities

  • They are going to persecute the Church

  • But they said, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…”

  • They have turned the world UPSIDE DOWN

  • You know, in our BATTLE


  • It is a BATTLE OF IDEAS as well

  • BUT…

  • Our BATTLE is with the CULTURE in so many ways

  • We live in a culture of DEATH

  • We live in a culture of MEANINGLESSNESS

  • We live in a culture where we are seeking pleasure constantly but NO ONE IS TRULY HAPPY

  • So we have a BATTLE with this culture

  • This is NOT a BATTLE of physical violence at all in any way, shape, or form



  • The spirit of the world vs. the Spirit of God


  • Our call as Christians is to live in a such a way that what they say about us is what they said about Paul and Jason and the other disciples


  • Am I living in such a way that if people saw how I lived they would say, “You are living upside down. You are living backwards. You’re living so differently than the rest of us. That’s why you’re so joyful. That’s why you’re so different. That’s why you take care of people who need to be taken care of.”

  • AND YET…

  • What is the great desire of SO MANY CHRISTIANS?



  • The truth is…

  • If I am like EVERYONE ELSE then I am NOT LIKE JESUS

  • If I am like EVERYONE ELSE then I am not LIVING LIKE A SAINT

  • If I am living like EVERYONE ELSE then there is no TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN if you’re just looking like the rest of the world

  • So let this word CONVICT YOU

  • The more and more I look like the world, the less and less God can really use me to turn the world upside down

  • God wants to

  • God wants to USE YOU as well

  • Paul goes on to Athens

  • He goes to the Areopagus

  • Mars Hill

  • Ares same god as Mars

  • They go there because, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”

  • So Paul has got some NEW information

  • He talks about Jesus

  • He talks about the Resurrection of the Body

  • This is one of the reasons why those at the Areopagus ridiculed Paul

  • They believed that human beings are NOT their body

  • They believed that we are spirits and our bodies are a cage

  • And when St. Paul talks about the Resurrection of the Body that would go directly against Greek thought

  • This is remarkable because in 1 Corinthians Ch 15 we have this MASSIVE PROCLAMATION by St. Paul

  • The Resurrection IS REAL



  • What a human being is a BODY-SOUL DUALITY

  • You are a BODIED-SOUL

  • OR

  • You are an ENSOULED-BODY


  • Just like St. Paul had to proclaim to the church in Corinth and the people of Athens…


  • The body you have is ACTUALLY YOUR BODY

  • The body you have is the RIGHT body

  • How is that COUNTERCULTURAL??

  • It was countercultural when St. Paul first said it

  • It was countercultural when the Church first declared it

  • And apparently, now in our day, it is once again COUNTERCULTURAL


  • As St. Paul went on to say, “If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain.”

  • There was a movement in Christianity over the last 50-150 years

  • This movement said that Jesus was only raised from the dead in the hearts of the disciples and that he didn’t really physically rise from the dead

  • And it wouldn’t even matter if Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead they would still be Christian

  • Well that would go directly AGAINST what St. Paul said today in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins”

  • 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

  • One of the realities, of course, it says here the LAST enemy to be destroyed is DEATH

  • At the end of Ch 15 we have that INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL PROCLAMATION

  • 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”

  • Here is Jesus who is the FIRST FRUITS of those who have fallen asleep

  • So what Jesus’ RESURRECTED BODY looked like is what OUR BODIES will share in

  • Jesus had a physical body that could be touched, could eat food

  • A physical body that could be in one place then be in another place

  • It had this alacrity

  • It had this movement

  • It could move through walls

  • It could do all these INCREDIBLE THINGS

  • St. Paul is saying, “All those things that were true about Jesus’ Resurrected Body will be true about YOUR resurrected body.”

  • The recreation

  • The redemption

  • The resurrection of the WORLD, in so many ways

  • That is the Christian belief

  • Heaven is NOT just a spiritual place


  • So your PHYSICAL BODY resurrected from the dead will need a PHYSICAL PLACE to abide


  • Which means what God has prepared for YOU

  • God will raise your body from the dead

  • Hopefully it is RAISED TO GLORY

  • Because that is clear in Scripture as well


  • Some to everlasting SHAME AND HORROR (Book of Daniel)

  • And some others to be an EVERLASTING SIGN OF GOD’S GLORY

  • To glorify God in your body for the REST OF ETERNITY

  • SO GOOD!!


  • OH MY GOSH!!


  • We no longer need to fear death

  • We no longer need to grieve like the rest

  • We do grieve because we LOVE people

  • When they are taken from us, then it is proper to weep

  • It is proper to grieve

  • BUT…

  • We do not grieve like those who have no hope

  • We grieve as those who know that DEATH IS NOT THE END

  • That is why death no longer has the sting that it used to have



  • Fr. Mike is praying that if we do not get to meet in this life, that we get to meet face to face in the Resurrected Flesh, in God’s Presence, in Heaven




Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and glory. We thank you so much. Thank you for your Word and thank you for making us into your children. Lord God, you are our Dad. And in Jesus Christ, your Son, our Brother, you have conquered death. And so we are able to say, with St. Paul, we are able to say with all Christians who have gone before us, ‘Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?’ Lord God, we do mourn, but we do not mourn like the rest. Every one of us is touched by suffering. Every one of our lives is touched by grief. Every part of our lives, in some way, is touched by loss. Yes, Lord, we cry. But we do not weep, we do not cry, we do not grieve like the rest. We do not weep in vain because we have not believed in vain. You have conquered death. And that we rise, we know this to be true. You have revealed it. You have declared it. You have proven it. You have demonstrated it. You have given it to us. And so, Lord God, we accept this. We accept the Resurrection of the Dead. We accept the new life that you have offered to us through our Baptism, through the grace that comes to us now by the Holy Spirit. And we say yes. Help us to grieve well. Help us to weep well. Help us to experience loss well. Be with us in our grief, Lord God. And be with us at the hour of our death. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”