“Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’”
Christian orthodoxy teaches that our human bodies are a special creation, intended to be treated with respect because they are dedicated to God to serve as temples for the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:15). Jesus modeled this for us and referred to himself as a temple that would be destroyed and would be raised up in three days (John 2:19). Each Easter Sunday, Scripture reminds us that Jesus was raised from his grave in a transformed, immortal body – and that Mary Magdalene, along with all the other disciples, saw him in the flesh, in his recognizable humanity.
Many Christians today misunderstand the bodily resurrection of Jesus and our own subsequent resurrections. They’ve come to embrace the old Gnostic heresy that the body is an evil prison to be escaped. While they may understand that their spirits have been “born again from above,” there is a pervasive idea that Sin has attached itself to our bodies in such a way that cannot be redeemed in our own future resurrections, and thus must need to be somehow exchanged for something “pure.” They think that we will get new bodies that will have had nothing to do with the earthly bodies which were tainted by Sin. But St. Gregory of Nazianzus pointed out, “For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved.” In assuming our common human frailty, Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection is effective in healing and raising not only our spirits, but also the elements of our corporeal temples.
Christ ascended to heaven not as an ethereal spirit, but in the flesh, and still retains his humanity as he reigns in Heaven. Our spirits may be separated from our bodies – and present with the Lord - at the point of death, but our hope remains that in the resurrection our bodies will not be replaced, but rather, restored to wholeness. As John Calvin points out, Paul wrote in I Cor. 15:53, “’For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable and this mortal nature must put on immortality.’ If God made new bodies, where would this change of quality appear?” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.25.7).
As Jesus in the Virgin’s womb was God incarnate, so humans, growing in their mothers’ wombs, are being created with the same hearts that will believe God raised Jesus from the dead, the same mouths that will profess that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), the same knees that will bow in his presence (Philippians 2:10), and the very flesh in which they will rise to eternal life! (I Cor. 15:52-53). How much more should these eternal beings be protected, that they might house the Holy Spirit and praise God earth and throughout all eternity!
“He who raised Christ from the dead will give life also to your mortal bodies.”