Resurrection, It Does a Body Good!

April 9, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment


In his book, The Historical Jesus, John Dominic Crossan says of Jesus’ resurrection, “Nobody knew what had happened to Jesus’ body.”[1]  Crossan is well known for asserting that Jesus’ resurrection was not a bodily resurrection, but a series of mystical visions experienced by and subsequently promoted by early Christians.  As for the fate of Jesus’ body after death, Crossan believes it was thrown in a shallow grave where it was quickly scavenged by wild animals.[2]  And Crossan is not alone in his belief.  Incredulous at the notion that a dead person can physically rise, many post-Enlightenment thinkers and theologians will speak of Christ’s resurrection as one that took place merely in the minds or hearts of His earliest followers.

The biblical account of Christ’s resurrection is not nearly so scientifically sterilized as Crossan and others make it out to be.  Whatever these people may believe about Christ’s fate after His crucifixion, the biblical authors believed that Christ rose bodily.  Indeed, this is Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 15:

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep…So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:20, 42-43)

Paul’s argues that Christ’s bodily resurrection is the first resurrection in a long line of bodily resurrections that will come on the Last Day.  The bodies of believers, once perishable, will be raised imperishable.  The bodies of believers, born into the dishonor of sin, will be raised into the glory of perfection.  The bodies of believers, formerly weakened by the Fall, will be raised in eternal power.  The resurrection, Paul says, is bodily.  And not just Christ’s resurrection is bodily, our resurrections are too.

Jesus Himself speaks to the corporal nature of His resurrection when He appears to His disciples:

While they were still talking about this, Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43)

Jesus will not have His resurrection mistaken by His disciples for a measly apparition.  This is why He invites His disciples to look at and touch His hands and His feat.  This is why He eats a piece of fish.  Jesus has risen bodily.

So why is this even important?  Why make such hay out of whether or not Jesus rose bodily?  Three reasons come to mind.  First, the bodily resurrection of Christ is the linchpin of our faith.  To deny this is to lose everything.  As the apostle Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).  To deny the resurrection of Christ is to deny all of Christ and His work.  There can be no compromise on His resurrection.  Second, the bodily resurrection of Christ affirms the goodness of God’s creation.  God created bodies.  And He cares about bodies.  Christ’s resurrection is proof of this.  For God could not stand by to see His Son’s body wrecked and ruined by a cross.  And God will not stand by to see our bodies and wrecked and ruined by sin.  And this leads to the third reason Jesus’ bodily resurrection is so important.  The bodily resurrection of Christ is a promise our bodily resurrections on the Last Day.  The fact of the matter is this:  our God is just getting going when it comes to resurrections.  One day, graves will be emptied, death will be defeated, and the redeemed of the Lord will cry,  “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55).  What a glorious day this will be.  And this is why I believe in the resurrection of Jesus’ body and in the resurrection of mine.  For such a resurrection is the hope and promise of life everlasting.


[1] John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus (San Francisco:  HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 394.

[2] John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (San Francisco, HarperSanFrancisco, 1994), 160.

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Holy Week ABC Extra – Our Plans and God’s Purpose

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Rev. Kevin Jennings  |  April 9, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Hi, Zach! Again, good article.

    This dismissal of Jesus’ resurrection has been going on since the Jewish leaders bribed the soldiers to tell that Jesus’ followers had stolen His body. Being a former Marine who would have stood that kind of duty, I’m not sure what kind of soldier would want to say he was overpowered by a bunch of cowardly fishermen.

    Be that as it may, I think Paul Maier in his book “In the Fullness of Time” gives a very compelling argument for Jesus’ resurrection. No body has ever been produced in two thousand years, you can’t get the kind of identical eye witness accounts from so many different people, and did I mention that the body of Jesus was never produced?

    What I see evident in the arguments of Crossan and others is that there can be no bodily resurrection because they do not want there to be a bodily resurrection. It goes against their sensibilities and what they argue to happen. Maier, on the other hand, simply states what the Biblical accounts state from a historical point of view.

    God bless!
    Kevin

    Reply

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