Eastertide ~ Week 3

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Christ Is Risen!

Eastertide ~ Week 3

There is debate over what kind of body Jesus had after he was raised from the dead. Was his body immaterial? Was it physical? He passed through closed doors and seemed to appear out of nowhere. At different times Jesus’ followers do not recognize him. (Of course, none of them expected him to be alive after the events of his crucifixion.) What did he look like? How was his resurrected body different than his pre-crucifixion body?

It’s not easy to describe what Jesus’ resurrected body was like. However, John’s Gospel does give us some hints. In addition to what I mentioned above, Jesus is someone the disciples can touch. He is physically present with them. (See I John 1) Thomas could have, and may have actually, touched the wounds that Jesus received on the cross. (John 20) In the last chapter of John, Jesus is with Peter, eating fish. What’s the point of describing Jesus as eating?

N.T. Wright highlights that the body Jesus had after he rose again was very much a physical body but more than merely physical. His body had all the positive attributes of human bodies but none of the flaws of corruption. Jesus’ body was/is physical and eternal. Jesus’ body is material and incorruptible. Jesus’ body was very much human but, at the same time, glorified. In Wright’s very useful description, Jesus body was transphysical. It was physical but more than.

I Corinthians 15 points out that the kind of body Jesus has after the resurrection, is what our bodies will be like after the resurrection. Our hope is not simply that we will go to heaven instead of hell but that we will be raised up in a way similar to the way Jesus was raised. We will be like him. This doesn’t mean that our humanity is obliterated because Jesus retains his. Nor does it mean that the bodies we have now will be completely done away with. But, they will be changed from perishable to imperishable, from corruptible to incorruptible, from temporary to eternal, from earthly to spiritual. Doesn’t this imply that they will be immaterial? Will we be Spirits only? Weren’t Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection simply “spiritual”?

39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

No. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” The natural body is “sourced” on earth and the spiritual body is “sourced” from heaven. The source of life for the physical body was earth but the source of life, the animating power of the spiritual body, is from heaven. One belongs to the other. The natural is overwhelmed with the spiritual but this does not mean that the physical ceases to exist. It is changed, it is transformed. As N.T. Wright says, it is trans-physical.

This week’s collect highlights Jesus’ resurrected body as both physical and spiritual, as human but imperishable/incorruptible. Jesus eats bread with the disciples and, at the same time, is the bread that comes down from heaven. Thanks be to God!

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Paul Hill