Tag Archives: resurrection

Metamorphosis

Just a thought I had as I was ruminating on these words of Jesus: “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which people may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever.” (John 6:49-51a).

I’m gonna throw this thought out there; if you like it, you can take it, and if you don’t, you can send it right back:

I’ve wondered before about the possibility of there being death prior to the “fall” of humans–possibly even death as a part of the created order.  I’ve considered this from a somewhat scientific angle (so far as my limited scientific capacity allowed), but not from a theological or ontological angle.  (This is all speculative, of course.)

What if death was originally meant to be a sort of metamorphosis in the process of creation and that, prior to the fall, humans would naturally come out on the other side of death in a sort of resurrection into the final form of the physical life?  That is, what if creation (or human development specifically) is not complete until a human had passed through death into new life?  This came to mind as I was reading this passage because while Jesus promises eternal life (“not die,” “will live forever”), his disciples still died.  People of faith around the world die natural deaths every day.  It’s a question I’ve had for a while.

Today, however, it occurred to me that Jesus’ death was necessary in order for him to enter into the eternal life.  That doesn’t sound very profound, but listen:  Jesus’ resurrected body is completely physical, but in a way which we have not experienced.  He eats and drinks and can be touched, but evidently he also walks through walls.  Could the transition between our physicality and “resurrected physicality” be made without dying?

Going back to the result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in Genesis 3, then, this idea would mean that the result of this disobedience was not death in itself but a specifically permanent death–that is, death which is not passed through, but one which is permanent, without resurrection into a new physical reality.

Interesting idea.  But possibly crazy.

What do you say on Easter Sunday?

I’m sitting at the desk in my (temporary) office at the church.  It’s messy.  I should clean it.  That would also clear out my head, I suspect.

I’m trying to work on the sermon for Easter Sunday, but the words aren’t coming.  Words seem to pop in my head just before I put head to pillow and I try to scribble some notes then, but by morning the inspiration–both in terms of ideas and ability to write–is gone.

What can I say on Easter Sunday?

“He is risen.”  For some that’s all that needs to be said.  For others, those three words may make no sense at all.  Who is risen?  And what do you mean by “risen”?  And what difference does it make?  What are you all getting so excited about?

“He is risen.”  If I speak veeeeeery slooooowly, perhaps I can stretch those three words into a twenty minute sermon.

What can I say on Easter Sunday that hasn’t been said before?

That’s the point, I guess.  Sundays are not about original material–learning something new–but about remembering (and worship, but even in worship we remember).  Easter Sunday is no exception.  Sure, we may each put our own unique spin on it, reveal some detail or angle that hasn’t been mentioned before–or probably has been mentioned, but long since forgotten.  But it’s the same story we tell.

And in remembering we are refreshed and renewed.

He died.  He was buried.  On the third day he was raised from the dead.

Seems like such a crazy thing to say in our day.  “Jesus isn’t dead; he’s alive.”  We are such an arrogant bunch, we 21st century-ers.  Those 1st century men were a little loopy–they would believe anything.  ‘Chronological snobbery’ is what C.S. Lewis apparently called it.

I don’t think we have it together anymore than they did back then.  These days some believe and some don’t.  In those days, some believed and some didn’t.

“People don’t rise from the dead.”  Well, that’s the point, isn’t it?  If rising from the dead were the norm, Jesus wouldn’t have been all that special.  “Jesus rose from the dead?  Big deal.  So did my Aunt Lillian.”

Of course, it’s because people rising from the dead is unusual that we have to ask some serious questions about the claim the church makes.  Are we all nuts?  Is what we have here a 2,000 year history of nutcases?  Some would think so.

Ah–but look at me: here I am sermonizing on my blog.  I better reserve something for Sunday morning.

Well, this clears up a few things…

…about the resurrection.

You’d think they would have told me this in Bible college.  I must have taken the wrong courses.  I was leafing through some books on the shelf tonight, instead of doing my homework.  One of those books was John Stott’s Basic Christianity.  I happened to notice a heading which read, “The graveclothes were undisturbed”, and was intrigued enough to keep reading.  This is the lightbulb moment:

Now supposing we had been present in the sepulchre when resurrection of Jesus actually took place.  What should we have seen?  Should we have seen Jesus begin to move, and then yawn and stretch and get up?  No.  We do not believe that he returned to this life.  His was a resurrection, not a resuscitation.  We believe that he passed miraculously from death into an altogether new sphere of existence.  What then should we have seen, has we been there?  We should have noticed that the body has disappeared.  It would have ‘vaporized’, being transmuted into something new and different and wonderful.  (p. 52-3)

I’m a bit reluctant to admit this, given the fact that I grew up the son of a preacher-man, in a Christian school system, 2 years of Bible college, lots of theological reading and writing, and now in the employ of a church, including in the capacity as occasional preacher, and future seminarian, but my idea of the bodily resurrection of Christ (the orthodox position) has always been precisely what Dr. Stott initially describes: Jesus beginning “to move, and then yawn and stretch and get up”.  The pictures I saw in film adaptations of the Gospels, in which the cloth wrapping of Jesus’ body just deflated, seemed to me at the time (years ago) to be too reminiscent of a belief in a spiritual resurrection, rather than a bodily resurrection, and didn’t really give me any clues in this direction.  I suspect most Christians had the same idea as I did.

The unhappy result has been misunderstanding the difference between resurrection and resuscitation, which has come up in discussions on this very blog (I had always imagined resuscitation being what happens to someone who has passed out); wondering how on earth a bodily resurrected person could pass through doors (as in when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room) but also be physically touched by Thomas (the doubter), and some related difficulty in understanding the difference between N.T. Wright’s view of the resurrection and Marcus Borg’s in Jesus: Two Visions; and, later, questions about what Paul is getting at with this talk of “transformed” bodies; etc.

So, a toast to John Stott, for clearing things up a little.  This was probably a “fullness of time” moment—all my previous experience and reading (including much N.T. Wright) was probably a necessary precurser, in a sense, to this moment.  Weird how that works sometimes.

(This isn’t make-it-or-break-it Christianity here, but an important understanding nonetheless.)