THE REALITY OF THE RESURRECTION

In 1John 1:1 we read: ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim to you concerning the Word of life.’

We might be excused for thinking that John is here referring only to the life of Jesus, and that this hearing, seeing, close examination and touching occurred only up until the point of Jesus’ death. But John in his letter repeatedly refers to Jesus as someone still alive and active, and of the essential and intimate connection between Jesus Christ and life, indeed, eternal life.

This hearing, seeing, examining and touching extends beyond the death of Christ to the apostles’ meetings with the resurrected Jesus. It points us to the reality of the resurrection body of Christ – a real, human body, audible, visible and tangible.

Was John remembering here those meetings in the upper room? There Jesus said to them ‘Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have’ [Luke 24:39], and to Thomas ‘Put our finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe’ [John 20:28].

This was no phantom resurrection.
This Jesus was no spirit, no ghost, no apparition.

He stood there among them with his real, tangible body. It still had the scars of crucifixion upon it. It still had the wound from the spear. When they felt it it was real flesh – with real muscle, real bones, with real blood coursing through its arteries and veins. For they not only saw it, they touched it, and in touching it discerned its physical reality.  This close examination, this discernment, is the meaning of the words translated ‘looked at’ in 1John 1:1 [NIV] and (the second) ‘see’ in Luke 24:39.

Yet it was so incredible, so unexpected, so foolish a thing to believe, so hard a thing to believe.  Dead men stay dead. Dead men don’t return to life. Their joy, their amazement, their hope, fight with the sheer impossibility of it [Luke 24:41]. Seeing their struggle to believe in the reality of his body, and wanting them to be fully convinced, he asked them if they had anything there to eat, and, being handed a piece of cooked fish, ‘he took it and ate it in their presence’ [Luke 24:43].

Of this real resurrection the apostles are witnesses [Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8, 21-12; 4:33]. They had seen the real resurrected body of Jesus. They had felt it with their own hands. Their doubts had been turned to belief. Their fear had been turned to faith.

Without this real resurrection there was no good news for the disciples. They would have slunk quietly back into their former ordinary lives, discouraged, disillusioned, despondent. Totally tight-lipped about this deceiving and disappointing Jesus whom death had claimed as it does all men.

But because they had seen and touched the resurrected Jesus, in his real, physical body, the gospel was not silenced. Because they saw and touched the real, physical resurrected Jesus they could not keep quiet about him. Because of their witness to the real resurrection the good news spread to the nations.

Because of their witness the good news spread to us.

Jesus describes our position this way: ‘blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’ [John 20:29].

Peter puts it like this: ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead … Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls’ [1Peter 1:3,8,9].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2010