CHRIST IS RISEN!
Oh, that we could celebrate together in the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection! Today is the defining day of our faith–the day Jesus stands victorious. The day He steps out of a tomb, awake and alive. The day He begins making His resurrected self known to the people who love Him best.
All that He said would happen has taken place–betrayal, arrest, beatings, death, burial, and three days in the tomb. Now, Jesus as Messiah, Savior, and King lives! And, He’s ready to do more Kingdom work.
When Jesus began His ministry, He brought the Kingdom of God to earth. He, the walking Tabernacle, lived among us and modeled for us this “already” component of kingdom life. But, there’s also a “not yet” element to His kingdom–the one we inherit upon death. For more details on this, we leap ahead into the New Testament and ask Paul to give the details. Take your time. Take it in:
What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.1 Corinthians 15:50-58, NRSV
Paul says our bodies, as they are, cannot inherit the not-yet-kingdom. We’re simply too broken, too imperfect. To illustrate this idea of how our bodies and eternity interact, let’s look back at the time Adam and Eve sinned.
“At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.”Genesis 3:7, NLT
An old belief, going back to the fourth century, states that the bodies Adam and Eve had before sin were not like the ones we have now; rather, they glowed with the glory of God. In other words, they “wore” garments of light, reflecting their perfection and oneness with God. But the light disappeared the instant they chose to go against God (christianity.stackexchange). This idea may be foreign to us today, but the bodily brilliance of Adam and Eve’s pre-fall bodies resembles other moments of holy-glowing humans like Moses (Exodus 34:35) and Jesus (Matthew 17:2). Then there are the prophecies that say the righteous will shine like the sun and stars (Matthew 13:43; Daniel 12:3).
This Garden glory-glow theory says that the light goes out because these first humans lose their righteousness, their right standing with God. As a result, shame enters and humans no longer get to live with God. For our purposes, I think it’s good to consider this bodily transformation that occurred in the beginning because the reverse happens in the end.
And Jesus demonstrates this change for us.
If you imagine the resurrected Jesus as a vaporous ghost, flying through walls like Casper–as I once did–you would be incorrect. I’ll never forget that light-bulb-moment as I read these words, spoken by Jesus after His resurrection:
“Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”Luke 24:39, NKJV
Resurrected Jesus is not a spirit. He’s flesh and blood. He walks and talks (Luke 24:13–30), breathes and eats (Acts 10:40-41), and can be touched (John 20:27). Yes, His body is new, different, and unique from our earthly bodies–mysteriously appearing in locked rooms (John 20:19), while suddenly disappearing from others (Luke 24:31). But, it’s a body.
The New Testament gives us further distinctions about this resurrection transformation so that we get an idea of what our bodies will be like after we die and come alive in Christ. John tells us in his letter that “we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, NIV). We will be like Him. Our resurrected bodies will look and function just as His. Made new. Made whole. A glorified, fleshy body that will never fade or fail.
And it’s in these resurrected, holy bodies that we will live out eternity. In our place of inheritance, our bodies will have become as imperishable as God’s Kingdom.
Back to 1 Corinthians 15. After explaining this imperishable body quality, Paul’s address turns locker-room-victory-speech more quoted than anything Knute Rockne ever said:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?” (v.54-55)
Sorry, Paul, but I’d always thought you were quoting David here. But it turns out that Paul takes a little of Isaiah (25:8) and a paraphrase of Hosea (13:14) to mold this beauty of an anthem. Poets and songwriters have had a field day with its victorious cry because it’s THE game-changing, life-transforming triumph of all time.
Jesus. Defeats. Death.
The grave couldn’t contain Him. Death couldn’t hold Him. Satan thought he’d finally won, but death went down. Jesus’ resurrection is proof of His Sonship, His authority and power and glory. And we get to be part of it all.
“Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!!” (v.57)
Of course, there’s more to this story of our resurrected, imperishable selves. The prophets hint at it. Jesus spoke a little of it, but as John said, we just don’t know much about it (1 John 3:2). Though in his later revelation, we do get a little view of life in our eternal inheritance. It’s bright with light (Rev. 21:23). It flows with life-giving water (Rev. 22:1). It’s packed with plenty of fruit (Rev. 22:2). We’ll never thirst or hunger. There’s no more death. No more mourning or crying or pain (Rev. 21:4). It’s heavenly!
Eden is restored. Once again humanity gets to live in the physical presence of our Creator and Savior. And, something tells me we’ll be glowing.
Our Lenten journey through the Sermon on the Mount prepares us for kingdom life now, but it all stems from this place of victory. What looks like defeat on Good Friday turns into a beautiful fulfillment of the whole of Scripture on Sunday. Messiah conquers sin and death, once and for all, for every person of every nation!
So, for us to live in defeat–be it the defeat of fear or bad habits, of grief or poor choices–is to miss the power and purpose of the Resurrection. Today is the day we celebrate the greatest victory on record, and its power flows like the River of Life. From heaven’s throne room to earth today, its holy waters cascade down to bring us life–healed life, whole life, holy life. And, friends, this is how we can step out into the world as it is and live for God’s kingdom now. No matter what we feel or face, no matter what work Jesus calls us to, His death and resurrection are enough to help us press on and overcome (Romans 8:37).
“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”1 Corinthians 15:58
Amen–let it be so!
- I would so love to hear how this Lenten journey has impacted your life, your faith. Your comments encourage others!
- Our LENTEN PRACTICE for this week: Feast on the Word by picking up the habit of reading Scripture every single day – not for study but for soaking, that practice of allowing the Word to seep into your very being, transforming you from the inside-out. One way to do this is by reading smaller passages, which is the goal of Reading the Gospels in a Year at Read-Scripture.com. We’re in Matthew, so it’s a great time to jump in.
- I added one more song to our Spotify Playlist. The “Death, where is your sting” lyrics demanded to be sung some more. Sing along with Shane & Shane, “O Praise the Name,” as LOUD AS YOU CAN.
- This Lent series on the Sermon on the Mount is a collaboration with New Covenant UMC, so if you’d like to watch their sermons, you can check out their Facebook page each week at any time. Or you can catch the sermons live at either 8:30am or 11:00am on Sundays on their website.
- We’ll pick up next week on a second series on Dwell. I can’t wait to enter into a season of dwelling, of abiding in Christ with you.
Featured photo from Godisreal.today.