Our time of mourning and repentance is over. Easter is upon us. During Lent we spent 40 days focusing on what hinders us from Jesus. We fasted, prayed, gave up, repented, and cried out to the Lord. We asked God to create in us a new heart and spirit. One that is not fashioned out of stone, but out of His own. Now we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We turn our eyes not toward the cross, but toward an empty tomb. Jesus has conquered the grave! He has turned our mourning into joy!
Consider this thought that I read this week, “The burst of praise and resurrection joy of Easter permeates the entire period from Easter morning through Pentecost. This is known as the Great Fifty Days. While Easter is the Sunday of all Sundays, gathering up and transfiguring the narrative of Holy Week, and indeed the whole history of God’s mighty works, the resurrection courses through the days and weeks of the Easter Season as a never-ending day – a prolonged and sustained Lord’s Day.”(1) In other words, Easter Sunday is the climax of the Church Calendar, but also the climax day of our lives.
When we encounter the resurrection of Jesus Christ we encounter the transformation of everything we have ever known or will ever know. We encounter the risen Lord! The world tells us there is no life after death, at least no physical life. The world tells us of a false reality where our souls might live, but not our bodies. However, the tomb is empty! Jesus’ body is not there! Jesus did not raise spiritually but was raised bodily!
John 20 testifies to this bodily resurrection like this, “Jesus came and stood among them. He said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with joy.” You see, Jesus showed His disciples His body. It still contained His nail scared hands and His spear pierced side. He was standing before them completely alive, spiritually and physically! This is the cause of great joy because if it was just His spirit that they saw this would be nothing new. Believing in a spiritual existence after death was the common belief and it still is.
Personally, I have never understood how we can find comfort in just a spiritual existence. True, we dress up this belief with the dichotomy of heaven and hell; our spirits will either be in heaven and complete peace or hell and complete torture. How is this comforting? How is this extraordinary? For me this kind of faith is nothing spectacular. It is nothing that can truly bring me joy that can get me through all the hard and depressing times in my life. In other words, there is nothing great about a spiritual resurrection. For me it kind of shows that God is not all powerful. If He can’t even bring my physical body into His everlasting life then what else can’t He do? An existence without the body is a lazy existence.
When we hear that God loves us, we must question this teaching if the body is left out. Sure, He loves our souls, but not the body that He gave us. Which means that He does not love all of me. If He does not love all of me, then why would God ask us to love Him with our mind, soul, body and being? Why do we not just love Him with our souls? This is not Good News. Jesus really did not do anything if we remove the body from salvation.
This is the main problem with Christianity today. We have stopped believing in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I know this because we do not see salvation that includes the body. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a nice story, but all we care about is going to Heaven so that we can avoid hell. How sad is this “good news.” All other religions have a spiritual salvation, Christianity is unique because Jesus did not just save our souls, but He saved our bodies. He saved ALL His Creation, not just a part of it! This is why the Resurrection is essential in our lives. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says that without the physical resurrection our faith is useless; it means nothing.
This Easter Season I ask you to truly look at your faith and what it believes. Does it include a bodily resurrection? Have you truly looked into the tomb and seen it empty or does Jesus’ body still reside there? Does your faith truly believe that God can and does the extraordinary, or is it a faith like all the rest? Jesus wants you to believe in Him. He begs you to believe in Him. However, He also asks you to see His hands and sides. Put your fingers in them. See where they nailed and pierced Him. See that He is still flesh and bone. He is still the Incarnate God who is both Divine and Human. See that He is completely alive!!!
(1) Hickman, Saliers, Stookey, & White, The New Handbook of the Christian Year, 1992