by Rev. Terry Cripe
When was the last time you gathered with family and friends to celebrate the Russian Revolution or the signing of the Magna Carta? Those events, along with many others, don’t seem to have much relevance for most of us.
But what about Easter? Christians don’t gather on that day simply to commemorate an event that took place nearly 2,000 years ago. Jesus promised, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
So, why resurrect the body anyway? Why couldn’t we live as eternal spirits?
We will be raised with bodies because God created us to be body and soul. Without a body, you aren’t you! God thought enough of the body to have His Son take on human flesh and blood to live among us. The body is not inherently evil, nor is it only “temporary housing” for this life. It is essential to who we are.
So, what should we Christians anticipate for ourselves on the day of resurrection? Paul told the Romans, “For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Rom. 6:5). What kind of resurrection is a resurrection like His?
John’s Gospel tells us that on Easter morning in the garden, Mary Magdalene “turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus” (John 20:14). In a later appearance on the shore of Galilee, when Jesus welcomed the disciples back from fishing, John writes, “Now none of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are You?’ They knew it was the Lord” (John 21:12).
Why make that comment? Beforehand, while they were still in the boat, the disciples didn’t realize that the man standing on the shore was Jesus. How could that be? They had lived with Him for nearly three years! Some explain that the disciples in the boat and Mary Magdalene in the garden couldn’t see clearly because the light was still dim.
Or what about the disciples on their way to Emmaus who didn’t realize it was Jesus, even though they had walked with Him about seven miles? It wasn’t until they sat at table with Him that their “eyes were opened and they recognized Him” (Luke 24:31). St. Paul solves these puzzles when he wrote to the Corinthians: “And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain” (1 Cor. 15:37). The wheat seed that goes into the ground does not look like the plant that rises from the ground.
Paul then illustrates the contrast between a body that is buried and a body that is resurrected. I can’t help but think he has Jesus’ body in mind as the model. Paul says that a body is buried perishable. It is buried in dishonor. It is buried in weakness. It is put into the ground a natural body. Certainly the crucified body of Jesus was buried perishable; the women came Sunday morning to dress it with spices. His body was buried in dishonor for “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal. 3:13). It was buried in weakness, pierced with nails and a spear, beaten and scourged prior to the crucifixion. And it was buried a natural body.
But what about the state of a resurrected body? Paul uses these words and phrases, and they certainly apply to Jesus’ body on Easter morning: “imperishable,” “raised in glory,” “raised in power,” and “spiritual.” What went into the ground was not the same as that which came out of the ground.
So it will be for our resurrection. The resurrected you will be imperishable because Jesus will destroy sin and death forever. We some times look at a person’s weather beaten face and conclude, “She must have had a rough life!” Dads sometimes claim it was the children’s wild teen age years that caused their hair loss. In one way or another, life has taken its toll on the body to such a degree that to see one without those effects will be surprising.
And yet the resurrected you will be raised in glory and power because you will then participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). You will possess a spiritual body, one suitable for life in the new heaven and earth.
On Easter Sunday, then, we Christians gather to thank and praise the resurrected Lord for a very amazing gift: a future resurrection like His own. The risen Christ is the sneak preview of what is to come for all who have been baptized into His death and live in faith. Let that promise make your every Easter a happy Easter!
> “Christ’s resurrection is both the cause and the guarantee of the Christian’s resurrection” (The End Times, LCMS CTCR, 1989).
About the Author: Rev. Terry Cripe is president of the LCMS Ohio District.