Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter Sunday, Shaftesbury

We gather here today because of an event that happened 2000 years ago: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
As a historical event, His Resurrection is important to us because it proved everything he ever said or claimed: He said He was God, he said he had the power to lay down His life and take it up again, He would rise from the dead, and He did.
But His Resurrection is also vitally important for us because it shows us what His Resurrected body was like, and thus what our bodies will be like if we are fit to join Him in Heaven. And in order to illustrate that I want to point out what His body was like and what it was NOT like -because the events recorded in the gospels show this for us.

Now, there is a certain fashionable notion that Jesus’s resurrection was just ‘spiritual’. This was behind all the talk in the 1980s of the Anglican Bishop of Durham denying the PHYSICAL reality of Christ’s Resurrection. Such people mock the idea that He was a ‘resuscitated corpse‘. But, in fact, this has never been what Christian believed.
Let me make a comparison with Lazarus: Lazarus was raised by Jesus, from true death back to true life. But he was raised with a normal body like you or me, he grew old, and eventually he died again.
The Lord Jesus, however, when He rose from the dead, was also raised from true death to true life, but to a new BETTER body. The kind of body we’ll have in Heaven.
Think of some of the powers that Jesus’s resurrected body had: He no longer bled or suffered, so that He could show His wounds to Thomas, the holes in His hands and His feet, but He no longer bled or had pain; He could pass through walls, as when He suddenly entered the locked Upper Room where they were; He could instantaneously travel immense physical distances, as when He moved from being with the two men on the road to Emmaus to appear to Simon Peter(Lk 24:33-34). These are not things that a normal body can do.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that the Resurrected body of Jesus was just a phantom, just a ghost.
One way we can say that He wasn’t just a ghost is to point out that the tomb was Empty –the ‘old’ body was gone because it had been transformed, re-made, into the new resurrected body. When people talk about what they call ‘ghosts’ appearing, no-one claims that the body is gone -such fantasies are said to be pure spirit. Whereas, the Apostles were very emphatic about the Empty Tomb, and this shows us that they didn’t think the Resurrection was just a ‘spiritual’ thing - they didn’t think Jesus was just some kind of ghost.
And, we know He wasn‘t just a ghost because He did things that ghosts are not supposed to be able to do: He ate, and drank (Lk 24:43); He told His apostles to touch Him and put their fingers in the holes in His hands, and feet, and side.

So, my point is: Jesus’s resurrected body was a material thing, BUT, it is not the same type of body you and I now have. This is important to us because it shows us that the heavenly bodies we will rise with (if we rise to glory) will also be transformed and glorified. Our bodies will be TRUE bodies, truly material, but they will also be transformed and ‘improved’, glorified, without the limitations and sufferings that we know in this life. And this is an important point for us to grasp in thinking about the Lord’s Resurrection.

It is also important, as we recall this Easter Day, because the PHYSICAL nature of Christ’s resurrection, with His new powers and yet still physical manifestations, shows us that the Resurrection of Jesus was a real DEFINITE thing, not just some vague ‘spiritual’ reality. It was definite and physical, an event in time and space, an event that left the Tomb empty, and an event worthy in putting our faith in today.

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