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The Resurrection Body of Christ

A Sermon in Luke 24:36 -48

Continuity and Contrast is what we read about in today’s Gospel.  Continuity and contrast are really what the human experience amounts to; throughout our lives much of our being stays intact whilst some of it changes. Our identities remain intact, but the form that that identity takes can change significantly.

For example, I am the same individual soul that was once an infant, but it would be difficult for you to recognise the me of now, from a picture of me then, as a baby; my body will change further as I progress through middle age and then enter into old age; yet, I will remain the same soul that was brought into the world in 1982.

There is a continuity to me, to myself.

In contrast, something inside me changed the day I began to consider what God had done, and had always been doing, in my life. That contrast informed my identity. Continuity and contrast are universal to all, so it seems obvious that they are reflected in the bible.

The gospel reading from Luke has some particularly significant points of continuity. The last words of Jesus, as recorded by Luke are related to His command to repentance and forgiveness of sins, very much reflective of Jesus’ first words as recorded by Mark: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.

‘The time is fulfilled; the Kingdom of God is at hand’ – is a further continuity found in Luke 24. Jesus says in v 44 “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Jesus reference to the Law, the prophets and the writings is the Jewish way of saying the Old Testament. Jesus reminds the disciples that the Old Testament always pointed forward to the 1st advent of Christ. Jesus, with these words affirms the continuity of the entire biblical story.

In Christ the Old Testament is fulfilled, in His death on the cross the Kingdom of God is inaugurated on Earth. The resurrection of Christ is an event of such cosmic significance that it brings us, the Church, the people of the New Covenant, into a whole new phase of redemption.

But note the identity of Christ has not changed though: the first words he speaks to the eleven disciples is ‘Peace be upon you’. He is the same Christ that he was before his execution, but we must also note that there is something different about his appearance: In his other post resurrection appearances people first fail to recognise him; Mary Magdalane mistakes him for the Gardener, the disciples on the road to Emmaus don’t figure him out until he breaks bread with them. Theologians have puzzled over this for a long time, but perhaps the difference in appearance is best explained simply as the difference between a man who has lived a life of suffering, hardship, and grief; to the contrast of one whose body is now restored to a full youthful appearance and perfect health?

When we try to understand the resurrection, we must look to the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. He tells us: ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’

How so?

Christ’s atoning work on the cross was for our redemption; the passage in Luke highlights the significance of the resurrection body:

When Christ redeemed us he did not just redeem our souls, he redeemed us as a whole person.

The resurrection body is the final step in the application of our redemption; it is called the doctrine of Glorification. It in hinted at in the OT – Job 19:25-27 but with the Gospel it arrives to us as an assurance.

It will happen when Christ returns, when he raises from the dead the bodies of all believers, for all time who have died, He will reunite us with our souls and change the bodies of all believers who remain alive, giving us perfect resurrection bodies like his own. That is the power of the resurrection, that is the foundation of the Christian hope and faith we have in God.

Paul describes the resurrection body in a series of four contrasts to our current bodies: i) perishable v imperishable; ii) what is sown in dishonour, is raised in Glory; iii) what is sown in weakness, is raised in power; iv) sown a physical body, raised a spiritual body.

But we must be clear by what he means when he says a spiritual body. The Greek reads: Speiretai soma psychikon, egeiretai soma pneumatikon. The soma pnumatikon is the spiritual body; but Paul does not mean it in the dualistic sense of spiritual versus material.  He means a body possessed by the spirit; a body constituted by the Holy Spirit.

That is the greater contrast that St. Augustine explored over 1600 years ago. He believed that in this world our spirit serves our body. Matters of the flesh concern us, the earthly things, the everyday human things that stem from a native infirmity and a misguided will that leads us to sin.  Jesus calls us to repentance and tells us that it is our body that should serve the spirit. Augustine writes: when the flesh serves the spirit, it will justly be called spiritual. Not that it is converted into spirit, as some fancy from the words, but what I mean is ‘It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption,’ what was once a natural body will become a spiritual body.

Jesus’ post resurrection appearance to the disciples affirms this. He does not appear as a ghost or as some ephemeral entity, he says: See My Hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you plainly see that I have. Jesus is the first fruits of a new kind of human life, a life in which the body is made perfect, no longer subject to weakness aging and death. Whereas our individual scars on our bodies tell our individual stories, the scars on Christ’s body tell the story of all mankind.

 Jesus’ resurrection body affirms the goodness of the material world, it gently reminds us not only to look to a future time but to recognise the creation as it is now.

Jesus’ resurrection body ensures us of our regeneration. (1 peter 1:3) he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Jesus’ resurrection body ensures us of our justification before God, that is the declaration of not guilty in the eyes of God. Rom 4:25 Paul says Jesus was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Christ’s bodily resurrection lays out the following ethical teachings for the Christian now:

Because Christ was raised from the dead, we too will be raised from the dead; this means we must steadfastly continue in the Lord’s work.

Rom 6:11, do not let sin reign in your mortal body. Each of us has a moral obligation to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ.

Col 3:1-4 reads If then you have been raised with Christ seek the things that are above, Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ. When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in Glory.

Or more simply put, as we heard in 1st John this morning: when he is revealed we will be like him.

In the resurrection, Christ was truly revealed.







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