The resurrection chapters are full of hints of the quality of the resurrected body. Jesus eats. He has a body with wounds that can be touched. He breathes, he speaks, he walks, and in many ways he is the same as he always was. And yet he can be present in a room without coming in the door. After vanishing from the sight of the disciples in Emmaus, they run to Jerusalem—where he has already been and appeared to Peter. Reflecting on these testimonies to Jesus’ resurrected life, we can get some idea of what our own resurrected life will be. We will still have our bodies, but in some ways they will no longer be limited as they now are. I have thought, in particular, that in the resurrection we will be able to have friendship that is true and deep with all the friends of Jesus—no longer limited by time and space as friendships are today.
Lately a new dimension on this has impressed itself upon me, and it comes from thinking about what’s wrong with the immortality project that is funded by many of the Titans of Silicon Valley. That project aims to change our bodies so that they do not decay and die.
But if human life had no end, we would have many problems. How could there be any more babies? If no one dies, there would be a big question mark over bringing new people into the world. And if human life did not end, there would never be middle age. We would not have anything to pass on. And so forth. (I recommend Gilbert Meilaender’s Should We Live Forever? as a concise and clear setting forth of the ethics involved.)
The good news is that our lives do end—we are mortal. Which means each of us will have a story, since a story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. But here’s the Christian twist to this thought. When God raises us from the dead, it will not be to continue on our previous life. It will be, first, a gift: God will show us what the meaning of our life really is. None of us knows what our lives really mean! This is the gift of God’s Spirit to us, because the Spirit searches our hearts and knows us all the way down, knows us far better than we know ourselves.
And then, in the resurrection, God having shown us what our lives truly were, will open up his own Being as the place for a transformed kind of life. This goes beyond words and is beyond our grasp. But it is not as if death is an unfortunate moment, like surgery, nor is it a happy moment, like getting a diploma. Death is the finishing. A friend recently pointed me to Jesus’ last words from the cross, in Saint John: “It is finished.”
What follows is promised to be a gift, not a resumption of life, but a transformation of this life into the heart of God himself.
Out & About. My next preachment will be at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas on Sunday, August 13, at 9 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.
The next “Good Books & Good Talk” seminar will be at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on Sunday, September 10, at 5 p.m. We will discuss Christopher Beha’s The Index of Self-Destructive Acts.
On the Web. This column draws on a point I made in a sermon at All Souls’ Church, Oklahoma City, on July 16. You will be able to listen to it here: https://allsoulsokc.com/sermons