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Resurrection, Part 1

 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again. Luke 18:33

For Christians, the reference point for resurrection is found in the story of Jesus, as recorded in the Bible. Throughout the Gospels, he predicts that he will be killed and, on the third day, resurrected. Near the end of each Gospel, that is exactly what happens. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus is said to have brought dead people back to life, as in the story of Lazarus (John 11) and the son of the woman from Nain (Luke 7:11-17). Interestingly, it appears that even Jesus’ closest followers did not believe his resurrection narrative. They were clueless when they found his empty tomb on the morning of the third day after his death, suspecting that someone had stolen his body.

It was only after Jesus began making post-death appearances that his disciples believed that he had, indeed, been resurrected. The biblical record, however, indicates that Jesus was not resurrected into the same form he had when he was Jesus of Nazareth. Although he retained some remnants of his former body, like the holes in his feet, hands, and side (John 20:26-29), he was consistently not recognized until he spoke, and sometimes not even then. Mary Magdalene was the first to see his resurrected form as she visited the tomb on the morning of the third day. She mistook Jesus for the gardener (John 20:14-16), not recognizing him until he spoke her name. On another occasion, Jesus was standing on the beach of the Sea of Tiberias in the morning as seven of his disciples were returning from a night of fishing (John 21:1-14). Again, he was seen, but not recognized until he spoke. Even then, there was doubt. Jesus walked and talked with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, completely unrecognized until he broke and blessed bread with them at the evening meal (Luke 24:13-35). Even the most faithful among us must wonder how it was that those closest to Jesus did not recognize his resurrected form until he spoke or did something that indicated his identity.

The resurrected body of Jesus could pass through locked doors (John 20:19-21), although his new body could apparently be touched (Luke 24:38-40). Following a meal on the day of the walk to Emmaus, Jesus suddenly vanished from his disciples’ sight (Luke 24:30-31), as if into thin air. It is clear, if the biblical record is to be believed, that Jesus was resurrected into something other than a typical human form. It is also clear that Jesus’ resurrected form retained some similarities to his pre-death body. His scars remained, his voice was recognized by some, but his presence, once attended to, was clearly recognizable.

After appearing off and on for 40 days, Jesus’ resurrected body was “taken up into heaven” (Mark 16:1). Jesus told his disciples that God would send the Holy Spirit after his death to “teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). So, even Jesus’ resurrected form did not remain an obvious part of earthly life for long. Rather, Jesus was (and is) present with them (and us) through the Holy Spirit, meaning in the spiritual, or non-physical realm.

I believe the story of Jesus’ resurrection is our story, too. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man 78 times in the Gospels, usually in the third person. Others often referred to Jesus as the Son of God, but Jesus referred to himself as an enlightened human. Once he awakened to his oneness with God, he assumed his status as fully God and fully human. The somewhat nebulous term, Son of Man, refers to a human who has been reborn to become Christ-like. Such a rebirth unites our physical and spiritual natures. Jesus was 100% spirit and 100% human, as are we. This reuniting, or rebirth, is an awakening to a reality that is already present in all of us. Only after we awaken to it, however, can we consciously act from both our spiritual and human centers, as Jesus did, and become true followers of Christ. And once we have awakened to the spiritual side of our nature, we know that our spiritual nature – our core essence – is eternal and not dependent upon an earthly body.

Jesus not only set the example for us to follow in this life, Jesus also gave us a glimpse of the afterlife, too, not the least of which was the insight that earthly death is not the end. To be continued…

This is the 6th in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.

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