Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. . . . Jesus replied . . . “Now about the dead rising–have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the account of the burning bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
(Mark 12:18, 24, 26-27)
Many Christians think that the spiritual is more important than the physical–that prayer, evangelism, worship, giving to Christian causes, and encountering God matter more than caring for our physical selves or for the created world. Doing church work, we may think, is more important than our job as an accountant, store clerk, salesperson, or truck driver. Reading the Bible, we might think, is more important than other reading we can do to learn about the world and people that God created.
of the reason for this is due to the misimpression we have about what happens after we die. Many think we will live forever as spiritual beings in heaven. This notion is perpetuated by many hymns about flying away from our physical existence and going to Gloryland. But that is not actually what the Bible teaches. The concept held by the Pharisees and others, and affirmed by Jesus in contrast to the Sadducees, was that our final destiny involves living in a transformed physical existence on a new earth (Isa 66:22)
Jesus, we believe as Christians, was raised bodily. His physical body was gone from the tomb. He has a resurrected body that is somewhere else. He didn’t turn into a merely spiritual being after his death, like a ghost. If his body didn’t rise, then he didn’t actually conquer death. But if his body did rise, then we also can participate in this victory with our raised physical bodies. As the Easter hymn affirms, “Made like him, like him we rise.” Similarly Paul says, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Co 15:20). We will have transformed bodies like him.
“But,” Paul goes on to say, “someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:35). It will be physical, but not exactly like our bodies now which die and decay. Rather they will be some new type of physical body, much like Jesus’s resurrection body that lives forever (1 Corinthians 15:42; Philippians 3:21). That is how death is conquered. We will have bodies that won’t die. The difference will be like the difference between a seed buried in the ground and the plant that rises from it (1 Corinthians 15:36-38).
What this means is that our physical bodies matter. What we do with them matters. What we do with, and in, God’s physical creation matters. Everything matters–gardening, education, play, health, sharing meals, prison conditions, poetry, real estate deals, laughter, stamp collecting, basketball, paintings. These are all worthy matters for our time and effort, for they will go with us into the new heaven and new earth.
the Irish poet Evangeline Paterson wrote, “I was brought up in a Christian environment where, because God had to be given pre-eminence, nothing else was allowed to be important. I have broken through to the position that because God exists, everything has significance.”
In the New Earth, somehow, everything we do here, whether completely successful or not, whether temporary or lasting, will also be transformed and join us in our resurrected lives. When we are tempted to wonder if it really matters what we are doing here on this planet for a few short decades–to wonder whether our work has any lasting value–we can remember that because of Christ, the seed of our life and all we do will become a glorious tree.
Each Wednesday until Easter I am posting a Lenten reflection, excerpted and adapted from Mark Through Old Testament Eyes. Used by permission of the publisher.
photo credit: 4givin, pixabay.com