There are times when I hear about something I’ve known for years, and it strikes me as brand new. That’s how it felt at Easter when I read again about the resurrection of Christ.
It struck me that I need to be regularly reminded that Christ rose bodily from the dead and that He is currently in that body at the right hand of the Father. It also struck me what a very different reality this is from a scenario in which Christ is thought to occupy that place in spirit alone, without a body.
Scripture teaches that human bodies are good because they bear the image of God. In our culture, human bodies are increasingly viewed primarily as parts of tissue that are easily altered, manipulated and in some cases disposed of. While our culture appears to be obsessed with the improvement and enhancement of bodies, many people feel detached from their own bodies, and in some cases, even loathe them.
When the Apostle Paul used the human body as the metaphor for the Church in I Corinthians 12, he wrote to a people whom he assumed treasured and protected their bodies. That many of them might dislike their bodies, and even be tempted to harm themselves, is not something that would have been conceived of. “Now you are the Body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (verse 27, NIV). This metaphor would not have communicated to a people that doubted the dignity and usefulness of their bodies.
For Christians, Christ’s bodily resurrection means that our bodies have dignity both here on earth and in our glorified state. We don’t know what our glorified bodies will consist of, but we do know they will be connected somehow to our current body, because of the emphasis on our bodily resurrection. The fact that Christ sits at the right hand of the Father in his resurrected human body matters to us as individuals because Scripture promises that someday, we will be changed, and we will be “like Him.”
I’d never considered the extent to which my warped view of my own physical body can distort how I view the Church. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2, “His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” This is the image we are given of the Church: one body, many parts, no hostility.
If Christ’s resurrected body gives our physical bodies dignity and meaning, it does the same thing for the Body of Christ. The Church is more than a band of travelers temporarily thrown together and instructed to get along with each other in this world. It is a worldwide communion of saints extending backward and forward in time, subservient to Christ, mysteriously and wonderfully given a role in God’s plan for the redemption of the world.
And, the Church, just like our physical bodies, will not be thrown away. Once God’s mission is accomplished, there is still a place for us with Him. And this very good news is not a truth that can be held privately. It necessarily requires a community, a body. We are compelled to share the news of resurrection with others, like the first witnesses to the empty tomb.
Christy Chappell is InterVarsity’s Associate Director of Communications