Monday, 16 April 2018

I believe in the resurrection of the body

Zephaniah 3: 14-end (page 790 in our pew Bibles) The prophet foresees the restoration and salvation of Israel 
Acts 3: 12-19 (page 911 in our pew Bibles) Peter attributes the healing of a lame man not to himself but to the saving power of Jesus' name. Of course Jesus' actual Hebrew name Joshua means "God is salvation" The root of the word salvation is "salve" heal 
Luke 24: 36-48 (page 885 in our pew Bibles) As Jesus reveals here our future hope is "resurrection of the body" not a formless purely spiritual future.

It was very important for Luke to emphasise that Jesus’ resurrected body was very real.
“Touch me” he says “for a Spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have”
There are major points of continuity as well as discontinuity between the earthly and the risen Jesus but Luke is keen to show that Jesus is the fulfilment of old testament prophesy and not just a fluke. And because he is fully human he is the only example we have of someone "risen from the dead" with which to work
God’s restored creation, like the original creation, is physical and material.
The continuity and the discontinuity can perhaps be best described by St. Paul when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:42 of a rather ambiguous term “Spiritual bodies”. As Paul says also, “we see through a glass darkly”
But this is not just an unimportant academic question. What this means for us is important.
For it says to us that our future is an embodied, and personal one. Our resurrected selves are the whole of ourselves but a new perfected version of ourselves in a perfect re-creation. A new heaven and a new earth as Revelation puts it.
That personhood survives death is important. The Eastern notion of Nirvana has us all as individuals dissolving into the great soul, the one true reality that Is Brahma. Not so in Christianity.
If I were asked whether we would recognise ourselves or each other after death in this new heaven and new earth I would have to say yes. Of course, because Jesus is the prototype and despite some discontinuity he was very much recognisable.
It is important to understand also that there is no pain and suffering or death either. Although he certainly carried the scars of his crucifixion, so what happened on earth was not irradicated as though they had never happened but they were transformed and transcended.
As a sign or symbol of this ultimate re-creation, are the healings carried out by Jesus himself in the gospels and by his disciples in his name.
Names carry power in the Bible – they are seldom incidental.
All the Apostles heal people and Peter of course in today’s story in Acts  heals a lame man, but Peter is not claiming the power to heal himself. It is Jesus’ name that heals.
Jesus is a Greek translation of Jesus’ actual Jewish name of course which is Joshua. And Joshua means “God is salvation”. So the ultimate healer is God the Father, working through his Son, and invoked by Peter to heal and save people.
Salvation of course is not a fashionable word that is used over much except in a religious context. Which is why I find it helpful to think of the root word of salvation which is “to salve” or to heal.
Salvation means the great healing. Jesus came to heal us and set us free. Being made whole is another good way of describing it which is why all the physical healings that Jesus did during his ministry are signs and symbols of that great ultimate healing that awaits all of us in Christ.
It is a great healing and restoration written about and looked forward to by Zephaniah in our Old testament reading that prophesies the messiah;
As with all prophesy and in fact all things pertaining to us as human beings it is best to hear words like them as though they had been written with just you, in mind, so hear them spoken to you personally as I read God’s word to you….
"Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
The Lord has taken away the judgements against you;
He has cleared away your enemies
The king of Israel, The Lord is in your midst;
You shall never again fear evil."


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