[I] Believe In The Resurrection Of The Body
April 22, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Christ Appeared Bodily
1. I hate stories that are characteristically inconsistent. So, a passage like today's gospel reading is in a sense one of my least favorite passages. [The passage] that is written here seems inconsistent [to me] as hard as [I may try] to think it through.
2. "When they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood in their midst and said, 'May you have peace!'," (verse thirty-six). Evidently he had come in without knocking. The way it is written is that he appeared in their midst suddenly like a ghost. So, everyone thought they were seeing a ghost. There is the story just before [this one] where the figure of Jesus suddenly "becomes invisible," (verse thirty-one). It is the passage that we read last week. Thus, the risen Jesus is suddenly disappearing and reappearing. Nevertheless, Jesus says the following. "Look at my hands and feet. It is surely me. Touch and look carefully. A ghost does not have flesh or bone, but as you can see, I have that."
3. Any way you look at [this], it is strange. If a ghost, I might still understand it. Even though he is appearing and vanishing, I am not complaining [about that so much]. But, since he does have flesh and bone, I don't want him to be vanishing and appearing all of a sudden. Don't you feel that way? Then kind of worse [for me], Jesus deliberately says, "Do you have any food here?" And then it has that "In front of them he ate" the grilled fish he was presented. Since he is going about suddenly appearing and then disappearing, I would want him to just stop eating grilled fish. That's what's going on with me. If Jesus is going to turn invisible again at this point, what will become of the fish he ate? Will even the grilled fish vanish [into thin air]?
4. For two thousand years in a dead serious manner, the Christian church has been passing on this "strange story" which is inconsistent with reason. It is not merely a story of where "It might make sense or it might not, but since I've actually seen it, I gotta say it and that's that." If the story was of that degree, I would suppose it ought to have disappeared in the next generation that had not actually seen it or maybe the next generation [after] that. But, that's not how it went, the reason that it has been passed on for numbers of generations is that this is a story which teaches something very important that has to do with our salvation. We must take in its message.
5. The risen Jesus did clearly put a particular emphasis on the fact that I "am not a ghost." He was particular in saying that [I am] not a spirit, "I have a body." He was quite particular about it. That's why he ate a fish and even gave a demonstration. This particular emphasis of Jesus would continue to be a particular emphasis of the church afterwards as well. The church afterwards expressed this emphasis as follows. "I believe in the resurrection of the body." -- I'm sure you know it. It is a statement that we find in The Apostles' Creed. The church doesn't have its eyes on a hope that transcends death by saying, "Though the physical body be destroyed, the soul is eternally indestructible." It has had a dogged emphatic insistence upon "the resurrection of the body from the dead." Therefore, for as long as two thousand years it has been passing on the fact that Jesus has bodily risen from the dead.
A Body For Loving
6. So why is the fact of there being "a resurrection of the body from the dead" so important? In order to understand it, we need to consider what "the body" is for in the first place. God is the one who has given us bodies. What does [this] God who has given us bodies demand from [these] lives of ours as we live with our bodies?! According to the scriptures, God's demands are summarized in two commands. First, "Love the Lord your God serving with all your hear, with all your mind, with all your feelings, and with all your strength." And second, "Love your neighbor the same way you love yourself." We are to love God. We are to love people. [Our] bodies are for that purpose.
7. [I think] Jesus spoke on that more and showed us that more than anything else. The only son of God did not come into this world as a bodiless ghost. He was born into this world as a human being having the same body as us. Furthermore, with his body he loved God the Father and he loved people. For Jesus, such a thing as "abstract love" does not exist. Jesus loved with his very body, in his physicality, and not metaphysically.* For Jesus the acts of loving were specifically bodily, the touching of a person with his hands, the sharing of a meal with someone, the shedding of tears for a friend, -- and also the receiving of the whip with his body in order to save us, the shedding of his blood from his body on our behalf, the enduring of pain in his body and then going so far as the act of dying with his body hung upon the cross.
8. The body is for loving. That's what Jesus showed us. The body is for loving with specific deeds. [God] has given us that kind of body. [God] has given us lives to live with that kind of body. There is a preciousness, a sacredness in the life that we live with our bodies. It is in our lives when we live in meaningful relationship with God with our bodies, when we live in meaningful relationships with others with our bodies. All through out life, the one activity repeated most is probably the act of "eating." Please give some thought to your own actions regarding those you eat with. For some it may be a simple replenishment of nutrients. But, truth be told, it is a precious and sacred activity, which we perform with our bodies that God gave us for the purpose of loving, it is contact with our bodies with the God who has given us food, and with our bodies we are contacting with the other people who are sharing the blessings [of God]. That's what it means to live with a body. For that very reason the hope of the kingdom of God is expressed as "I believe in the resurrection of the body."
Everything Is Granted Life
9. But, not everyone of you see the body that way and look at life like that. Indeed, according to the Greek way of thinking which was dominant at the time this gospel was written, it would be the exact opposite to that. The body was just considered to be like a prison which enclosed the soul or the spirit. Since the interval when one was alive in the body was the period in which the soul was enclosed in prison, it had fundamentally no value. Therefore, there was hope in the act of dying. Death was considered to be no more than the release of the soul from its prison.
10. This type of thinking has, from that even, even gotten into the church. Thus, we'll be with people out in society and say, "I believe in the immortality of the soul," and we're likely to feel that's good enough. Then what happens? This world visible to the eye will be destroyed any how. Even this body visible to the eye will be destroyed any how, and we're much better off being destroyed, any way. Therefore, these lives in which [our] bodies have lived essentially don't really have any significance. It is only the soul which throws off the body that is truly of any value. It is only the eternal soul and the eternal world invisible to the eye [that has any value]. That's how one starts to thinking. Therefore, it leads to a believer who does not understand the value of living with his or her body. And not valuing one's own life, not valuing relationships with this world, not valuing fellowship with one's neighbors, one ends up becoming a believer who cannot find any hope except to say good riddance to this ole' world and just dies. That kind of temptation is an ever familiar problem.
11. Thus, the church has always and ever put a particular emphasis on "I believe in the resurrection of the body." Our salvation is not a ghost like situation, of being separated from the body, of having lost its body. Jesus defeated death but he wasn't showing us that kind of figure. That's not what he was showing us, he was showing us a figure where the "body that loves God and loves neighbor" has risen from the dead. That's the kind of statement the church has been declaring. Did not the risen Jesus, in fact, say, "Look at my hands and my feet?" [He said it] because of the scars from the nails, which meant that "His body, which had hung on the cross and died, had risen from the dead." He had lived loving God and loving people, and ultimately he even hung upon a cross, and that body of his was truly raised from the dead. That was the figure of the kingdom of God. The disciples saw that figure. The church has been telling it [ever since].
12. So this is the way that Jesus has shown us what the hope which goes beyond death is. We are moving to where everything which we have done with our bodies lives, where everything which we have done with our bodies finishes to perfection, where love finishes to perfection. Everything with which our bodies have to do lives at that place. Even suffering lives [there]. [The acts when] we have shed tears even live [there]. [The times when] we have had hard feelings even live [there]. What we have regretted also lives there. There may be people who are suffering with illnesses for years and years and years. When their lives are over, will it all come to naught, will everything when they were sick vanish and end as if it had no meaning to it? No, I would say not. The fact they had kept suffering in sickness will also live because "that body" which has endured through its sicknesses will be resurrected in the kingdom of God. Everything lives. Nothing will fall to the earth in vain, not one thing. As for Jesus, will not the fact that he hung upon a cross even live? Will not even the nail prints from the cross shine in glory? Everything will live and we will be changed into a glorious figure. We are moving to that.
Being Forgiven Of Sin
13. Yet, some people think, "But isn't there a difference between us and Jesus?" Jesus lived loving God and loving people with his body. Therefore, the statement "the resurrection of the body" fits Jesus fine. But, when it comes to us, it's another story.
14. We certainly have not always used the bodies that we're given for the purpose of loving [others] in that way. Instead, haven't we sinned with these bodies? Haven't we sinned both against God and against others with these bodies? Because we're like that, [shouldn't] we be more thankful to become like a bodiless ghost, rather than of "a body of the resurrection from the dead?" Wouldn't we be happier with everything our bodies and our lives had to do with our bodies all turned to nothing? Wouldn't I be happier if I could have the life that I have had with my body turn into nothing? How would that be? What do you all think about that?
15. But, when we read today's passage of scripture, we're told that God does not want to make our lives "turn back to nothing." He does not want to make what we have lived with our bodies null and void. Even though it may be lives which [we] have lived with bodies against both God and humanity, it is [all] precious in the eyes of God. That's why God is insistent when it comes to "the resurrection of the body." That's why [God] caused the body of Jesus to be raised from the dead. And he is willing to grant to us as well "the resurrection of the body." Even though he did crucify his only son for the atonement of sin and he did grant us forgiveness of sin in that manner, he was still willing to grant to us "the resurrection of the body."
16. "Look at my hands and my feet. It is surely me." That's what Jesus said to them. He had the scars from the nails in his hands and feet which they saw. Jesus became the one with the scars from the wounds in his hands and feet for ever. There will be scars on the limbs of Jesus whom we will soon meet face to face. When we take a look at those scars of his, we will see, in the truest sense, why we are given the resurrection of the body, why we are in the kingdom of God with a body in which we are raised from the dead. At that time we will look back over our lives as persons pardoned from sin and everything will have meaning and not be in vain, and we will definitely realize it again, that everything will be granted life.
* There is a play on words in the Japanese. "Gutai-teki" refers to a concrete and specific activity in the world of reality we live and breathe in. The "tai" kanji is emphasized and alone is the same kanji for "body."