“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). The restriction of hope to present things and personal plans is to hope in what is running out, and turned inevitably toward death. We may hope that things go well; we cannot reasonably hope that they will keep going. “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ” (1 Cor. 15:20-22). Our hope in Christ is a hope toward an eternal kingdom of peace and safety and love, a communion of the one God whose grace abounds in many beloved members.
And yet, if for a non-temporal and eternal life only we have hoped in Christ, we are no less to be pitied. For in fact Christ assumed our humanity so deeply that he rose bodily in time and space, and ascended to his Father without dropping the mantle of his humanity. He is forever what we are, just as we are, by grace and adoption, what he is.
On the first day of the week, the risen Lord appeared to the disciples. “He came and stood among them and said.” He came, he stood, he spoke. He was present, physical, audible. He showed his hands and his side. Thomas, who was absent, doubted. Jesus came again and said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side” (John 20:27). His greeting, “Peace be with you,” coupled with physical display, is directed toward this present age. His peaceable kingdom stretches into an infinite future, but it begins in body and blood, presence and voice.
This is not a point to pass over quickly in a time when, increasingly, at least in the mainline churches, faith is pushed to a more and more narrow dimension of personal and private life. Faith becomes an inner feeling, a personal search that is carefully walled off from one’s social sphere, to say nothing of the broader political landscape. Increasingly, faith is perceived as purely subjective (spiritual) and emptied of consequential meaning. What, then, can it possibly signify that Jesus had a body, suffered, and died? Why did he rise bodily and show his wounds?
Again and again, the physical reality — he stood there — of Jesus has been a theme requiring confessional statement. Consider: “Now, he suffered all these things for our sakes, that we might be saved. And He suffered truly, even as also he truly raised up himself, not as certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be Christians” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, cap. 2)
If Christian faith has nothing to do with this life or is restricted to a deeply private part of one’s emotional subjectivity, then it makes sense to deny or otherwise ignore the physical density of the Jesus who lived, died, and rose again.
The proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, however, concerns the whole of our humanity. The Christian, therefore, cares about “the world, the inhabited world, church, kingdom, throne, altar, council-chamber, law courts, schools, work-places, infants, boys, [girls], the grown, youths, men, [women], elderly, aged, decrepit, the possessed, weak-hearted, sick, prisoner, orphans, widows, foreigners, travelers, voyagers, with child, who give suck, in bitter bondage, in desolateness, overladen” (Lancelot Andrewes, Private Devotions). The Christian cares about the whole state of Christ’s Church and the world.
Look It Up: Read Ps. 150:4-6: a whirling dance and breathing praise.
Think About It: His body is your body.