07 Apr Words of Grace – John Stott “The Resurrection of the Body”
“The Lord Jesus Christ . . . will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21
Christ’s conquest of death also indicates the nature of resurrection. Firstly, the risen Lord was not a resuscitated corpse. We do not believe that our bodies will be miraculously reconstituted out of the identical material particles of which they are at present composed. Jesus performed three resuscitations during his ministry, restoring to this life the son of the widow of Nain, Jairus’s daughter, and Lazarus. One understands the sympathy that C. S. Lewis expressed for Lazarus. “To be brought back,” he wrote, “and have all one’s dying to do again was rather hard.” But Jesus’s resurrection was not a resuscitation. He was raised to an altogether new plane of existence in which he was no longer mortal but “alive forever and ever” (Rev. 1:18).
Secondly, our Christian hope of resurrection is not merely the survival of the soul. As Jesus himself said, “It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). So the risen Lord was neither a revived corpse nor an immaterial ghost. Instead, he was raised from death and simultaneously changed into a new vehicle for his personality. Moreover, our resurrection body will be like his, and his was a remarkable combination of continuity and discontinuity. One the one hand, there was a clear link between his two bodies. The scars were still there in his hands, feet, and side, and Mary Magdalene recognized his voice. On the other hand, his body passed through the grave clothes, out of the sealed tomb, and through locked doors. So it evidently had new and undreamed-of powers.
The apostle Paul illustrated this combination from the relation between seeds and flowers. The continuity ensures that each seed produces its own flower. But the discontinuity is more striking, since out of a plain and even ugly little seed will spring a fragrant, colorful, and elegant flower. “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:42). To sum up, what we are looking forward to is neither a resuscitation (in which we are raised but not changed) nor a survival (in which we are changed into a ghost but not raised bodily) but a resurrection (in which we are both raised and changed, transfigured and glorified simultaneously).
For further reading: 1 Corinthians 15:35-38
John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006),p. 284.