Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Have you "seen" the resurrected Jesus?

Yes, the word “seen” is in quotes because there are only a few mortal eyes that have actually or personally seen the resurrected Jesus Christ. Among these few are Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, James, the remaining apostles, Stephen, five hundred brethren at once and Paul. Most likely, even more were eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ’s life after death. Some of these eyewitnesses have their report recorded in the Holy Scriptures. Even those believers who saw the resurrected Jesus required a divine and miraculous act initiated by Jesus Christ for them to see Him. In each report it is the resurrected Christ who initiates and enables the appearance.

Another reason for putting the word “seen” in quotes is that any knowledge about Jesus Christ’s resurrection from death comes to us today only by revelation from God. This divine revelation and truth is a person, Jesus. Without God having graciously approached mankind with this revealed knowledge in the person of Jesus Christ, we humans couldn’t observe or deduce it. This “seeing” the resurrected Christ is knowledge that comes to us by faith. Even this faith is a gift freely given to us by the Holy Spirit who is sent by the Father and Son. God is One Being, Three Persons.

So, let’s understand who Jesus Christ was, is and is to come. The Apostle John’s faithful witness in the Holy Scriptures tells us that even before time was created, the Word was with God and was God and in the appointed time became flesh. This is why Matthew records that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. The Father sent His Eternal Son to be conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary. We see the Most High triune God, dwelling in the highest heaven coming to be with us in person. The eternal and invisible triune God comes into our created and temporal world and makes Himself visible in the person of Jesus Christ.

In His Divinity, Jesus Christ is the eternal Father’s Son in the Spirit in His immutable, perichoretic [1] relationship of love in the Holy Trinity. In His humanity, He is the son of Mary who is of the royal lineage of Israel’s king David. His Divinity and humanity are seen together in the whole person of Jesus Christ.

Yes, the fullness of the Godhead is seen in Jesus Christ, veiled in a human body that assumed our sinful human nature. He became sin in mankind’s place, yet, being completely without sin Himself. He obeyed and loved the Father perfectly in the Holy Spirit. This means that the triune God stood in for all of humanity and loves mankind more than Himself, suffering the consequence of sin, which is death, before allowing His beloved mankind to become extinct by death.

In the four gospels we read that Jesus Christ announced to His disciples that He would be put to death by His own lawless people and the godless gentiles, and would rise again on the third day. We see Jesus publicly nailed to the cross for the entire world to see. We see Him suffering in His human body the wrath and anger of a God-rejecting mankind and remaining the divine Son of God in whom the Father and Holy Spirit dwells in His whole person. We see Him submitting His last breath to the Father in complete trust.

Next, we see His dead body buried in a tomb and a huge stone rolled in front of it.

As we know from the Holy Scriptures, that is not the end of the story. On the third day, Jesus Christ appears to His believers after His resurrection. Therefore, you can clearly see two distinct periods in Jesus Christ’s mission of love in this world. The first period includes His conception, birth, growing up, baptism, ministry, betrayal, suffering and crucifixion, death and burial, spanning about thirty-three years. Then the second period, which encompasses the short period of forty days after His resurrection, right up to His ascension. So, first you see the Father’s Son in the Spirit veiled in a corruptible, weak, natural human body. Then, after death, secondly, you see the Father’s Son in the Spirit resurrected and clothed in an incorruptible, powerful and spiritual human body. Nonetheless, and this is all-important, it is a new human body He is resurrected in. When He appears suddenly in the middle of the room where His believers are gathered, Luke, the physician, records that Jesus tells them to touch Him. He tells them that He isn’t some bodiless ghost or spirit but has flesh and bones. He even ate broiled fish and honeycomb with them. He can also appear and disappear as the believers on the way to Emmaus reported. After forty days His believers saw Him ascend bodily into heaven. What incredible properties Jesus Christ’s new, resurrection body consists of!

We also see that Jesus is incarnated irreversibly for all time for mankind’s inclusion in the everlasting life of love in the one triune God. His whole Person is for all eternity Son of God and Son of Man. Therefore, He is mankind’s mediator and high priest, as the book of Hebrews proclaims. He is both divine Son and glorious brother to all mankind who intercedes, prays and worships the Father for all mankind. So, when we pray, praise and worship in our inadequate way, we participate and are joining in with the worship leader, Jesus Christ. He takes our imperfect prayers, praise and worship and perfects it in His prayers, praise and worship and presents them to the Father by the Holy Spirit.

In Romans we read that all of mankind is included in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection by God’s gracious action towards mankind. The triune God, who is love, has reconciled and made peace with all of mankind. All of mankind’s sin has been put to death in Jesus Christ’s death. And just as Jesus Christ’s death is vicarious for all of mankind, so is His resurrection and ascension. Mankind has been graciously approached by God and offered eternal life in Christ as a free gift. Our triune God of love decided long ago to adopt and include all of mankind in, by and through Jesus Christ. All of mankind may by grace participate in the love relationship with the three distinct Persons of the Holy Trinity now and forever.

Saint Paul tells us in 1st Corinthians 15 that there is an order in which this incorruptible, glorious resurrection life is given. Christ is the Firstborn or Forerunner who has been resurrected from the dead to be God and the new man in whom all of humanity has life. For a little while the resurrected and ascended Jesus Christ is out of sight at the right hand of the Father in heaven. So, we journey in this corruptible body, not by sight, but by the incorruptible faith, hope and love, so graciously given to us by the Holy Spirit belonging to the Father and Son.

In the same chapter Saint Paul tells us that death is right smack in the center of the transformation of our corruptible, dishonorable, weak and natural body and into our incorruptible, glorious, powerful and spiritual body. The divine Holy Spirit present in this body of ours is what forms and shapes our God-created body. Whether we are alive or have fallen asleep, at the resurrection of the dead, at the final revelation of Jesus Christ on the last day, we all will be graciously given an incorruptible, glorious, powerful and spiritual body. Our triune God of love will have shaped and formed our new glorious bodies in the likeness of Jesus Christ’s glorious body. In this way mankind will be able to enjoy and share in the everlasting love relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We can imagine how overjoyed the first believers were to see their Lord and God alive! This is what Thomas exclaimed after putting his fingers in Jesus’ hands and his hand in Jesus’ side. These believers saw and witnessed what our God and resurrected, incorruptible, glorious brother looks like. Here was Jesus Christ, our God and man, who had overcome death for all mankind. This was, is and remains good news! These eyewitnesses excitedly told the whole world around them that mankind doesn’t just eat, drink and then die tomorrow, that death isn’t the end. They proclaimed that God loves mankind and there is a sure hope of the resurrection of the dead in Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God and glorious Son of Man.

By His resurrection, Jesus Christ also destroyed the power and dominion the devil held over death. At the last day, at the revelation of Jesus Christ in glory, the last enemy of God will be vanquished, which is death, since God is life everlasting and is lovingly sharing it with mankind. Nothing that opposes or is an enemy of our triune God is allowed.

Okay, the question needs to be asked again: Have you “seen” the resurrected Christ? If you have answered this question with “yes,” then participate in expressing gratitude to our triune God in talking or singing to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and loving everyone around you with the love that the Trinity is, and thereby letting other people “see” the crucified and resurrected Christ living in you.

[1] the word “perichoretic” has its roots in the Greek word “perichoresis,” which describes how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit mutually indwell each other and cleave to each other while remaining three distinct Persons, One Being of divine love, light and life.

1 comment:

  1. Keep spreading the REALLY good news! It is so comforting to know that through and in Jesus everything has already been accomplished that is necesary for the salvation of the entire world. May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen us to live according to that truth.