Jesus’ resurrection: does matter matter?

Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!
He Is Risen!Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia!

Church-goers of all shapes and sizes came out of the woodwork today to go to church. Easter brings them in as if the church was giving away free money! Most of these churches spend their Easter morning celebrating the resurrection of Jesus with songs, sermons and prayers. However, in blog conversations around the Internet and in some theology classes, a question arises around holy week: Did Jesus rise bodily from the dead?

It is an important question to pursue. Does it matter whether or not Jesus’ spirit AND body was resurrected on the third day? What would be missing from our theology if we say that Jesus’ resurrection was only His spirit? If that were the case, then is God any less victorious over death? Doesn’t First Corinthians say that the body we have on earth is going to be replaced by a glorious new immortal body? Perhaps Jesus was given his spiritual body and left the mortal body behind!

Doubting Thomas is a friend to those who wonder about these things. He didn’t just question the resurrection of Jesus, he refused to believe that Jesus was raised physically or spiritually. His doubt was firm. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe,” he said. It was the physical presence and touch of Jesus that Thomas wanted, not some trumped up fable about a semi-divine Messiah who was now floating around in the sky like a slain martyr.

When Jesus stood before Thomas after his resurrection, it was not a ghostly vision in a half-lit room. Thomas touched the hands and side of Jesus and fell down proclaiming him as his Lord and God. We can’t miss what happened here. Thomas touched Jesus!

If we make the resurrection more “believable” by removing the body of Jesus from the story but not the tomb, we remove an important part of Easter’s message: matter matters to God.

We are spirit, soul, and body, each enmeshed in the other and in need of transformation from God right now. Jesus wanted Thomas to touch him because he wanted Thomas (and us) to realize how real Jesus was for him in the physical world. Then Jesus’ next words bring hope to the rest of us, who have not been able to put our fingers in the mark of the nails:

“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

We have not seen those nail holes, but we believe that God is active in his desire to see his work happen in all of our aspects. One day our metamorphosis will be complete. We will be completely transformed – not replaced! God will take what we are now and will leave nothing behind as “this mortal body must put on immortality.”

Until then, we learn what it is like to follow a risen Savior, in the context of real life lived spiritually, soulishly, and bodily, just as we will when our transformation is complete.

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