Easter garden tomb with stone rolled aside

Photo by Crunklygill
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I wanted to take a little break from series I’ve been running on soul restoration to reflect on Easter. My Christian writers’ group solicited thoughts from members for their web site, which I wanted to share with my own readers.

The iconic Easter image is that of an empty, cave-like tomb that once contained the crucified body of Jesus. Normally, we don’t associate tombs with energy or activity. We associate death with stillness, expressing it in figures of speech like “quiet as a tomb,” “dead silent,” or “deadlocked.”

Once a body goes into a tomb, it doesn’t walk out. Even if it could, passage is blocked because the opening is sealed shut.

But the Easter tomb is anything but normal. The great stone that sealed its opening is freakishly out of place. Jesus is AWOL and the scene is abuzz with human activity and angelic energy. “He is not here; he has risen.” (Mat. 28:6; Mrk. 16:6; Luk. 24:6) The resurrection message of Easter isn’t one of static stillness, but of dynamic movement.

When I consider the parting of the Red Sea, another iconic image, I see obvious movement. In both the great Exodus and Easter, the impossible is made possible. Both are about passage from death to life. Both are about incredible power and activity.

When I consider grace, again I see movement. I see that God’s grace is a dynamic force acting with mankind through the great corridor of time. With God, we pass through history like a baby through the birth canal, learning to live with Him in increasing goodness and love.

In Mat. 17:20, I see that Jesus reminds us that even the tiniest faith moves mountains and that nothing is impossible for us. In God, we live and move and have our being (Act. 17:28).

Easter’s hope is God’s message through the ages: The impossible is occurring right in our midst—not just for Jesus, but for everyone. The last immovable obstruction was rolled aside when he abolished Death to bring new life. Love for God, self, and one another is the transforming path we walk in the land of the living, not the dead, and in bold assurance, not fear of mistakes and guilt.

I see that at the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain of the temple tore in two. The earth shook and rocks split. Tombs broke open and many people who had died were raised to life and came out of their tombs (Mat. 27:51-53).

Even Psalm 23 speaks of it. Although we walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, the same Jesus who rose now holds it back like thick, dark drapes; like massive walls of water. We need not fear that evil might seal our doom because with him, passage is safe, open, and full of possibility.

The Lord of life is the first-fruit. In following him, renewal of the mind and spiritual resurrection precedes the physical version. I didn’t see it before, but God’s plan makes sense in a long view of dynamic movement, even if it seems to me to happen at a glacier’s pace. Easter is the joyful proof that Love’s power always has, and continues to move among us.

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House I - Roy Lichtenstein

House I – Roy Lichtenstein (Photo credit: Ukenaut)

We continue this week to explore the body’s part in renewal of the whole person. Unlike novels, facial expressions aren’t specified in Scripture. But they’re implied in dialog passages. For example, I picture the Lord grinning, as if up to something, in this scene:

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples didn’t realize it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (Jhn. 21:4-6)

I see raised eyebrows when Jesus explained new birth to Nicodemus. “‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and you don’t understand these things?’” (Jhn. 30:10)

Of course, his entire body is central in crucifixion and resurrection passages. Even his ascension occurred in a body. My point is that spiritual concerns alone aren’t the whole story.

Treasure Houses

“Don’t you realize that you’re a temple and that God’s Spirit lives within you?” (1Cor. 3:16) As the outer man, your body houses and expresses your inner essence. Paul uses several body analogies to illustrate spiritual realities. Other passages about houses, temples, or tents are often about people. In the field of dream study, houses represent the self.

Then there are collective bodies/houses. Passages about cities are about groups of individuals and their way of living. Of course, the Body of Christ is the collective body of Christian disciples throughout the ages.

Scripture describes New Jerusalem, the Bride, as a “great city” of people united in Christ who rule and serve in love. The Harlot, Babylon, is also a “great city,” but her people aren’t governed by love. Both are characterized in terms of a female body; both are beautifully and lavishly adorned; and both are about a collective mind-set and resulting life-style.

Just as your mind, emotions, and will are valuable and worth taking care of, so is your body. That doesn’t mean we worship the body, as hedonistic societies do. This god causes relentless obsession over how it looks to others, or dictates behavior aimed solely at satisfying some physical sensation like lust or gluttony. This is “fleshly” living.

But don’t trivialize your body, either, as others do. Because you have a physical form made of flesh doesn’t meant it should be mistreated. To regard it as worthless is a blatant disregard for all that God created and continues to create. Your flesh is fearfully and wonderfully made, something to be treasured. If God thought otherwise, would Jesus have manifested as human flesh?

Powerhouses

In filling up and learning to obey, rightness must move into the body as action for transformation to become complete (perfect). Without love and goodness inhabiting your thoughts and will, your body becomes a means to carry out ill will, manipulation, force, and abuse against self and neighbor.

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luk. 6:45)

Treating your own body well affects how well you treat others. Our bodies, like emotions, should serve us, not master us, in the safe, trustworthy use of power. So we’re to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1), which doesn’t mean they’re forfeited, but simply devoted to and organized around God and good will.

Practice

1. Students of Jesus are with him in all dimensions of personhood—mentally, emotionally, in choices, and in action. Immanuel is God with man, God’s Word in the flesh. The Spirit dwells increasingly in your household if you’re learning from Jesus how to do everything he says to do.

So, watch how he used his body in daily behavior with neighbors. What did he do with his hands? What was his tone of voice? Where did he position himself when walking with people? Did he avert his eyes or gaze directly at people? In every way, and especially on the cross, his body spoke the character of his whole being.

2. That said, be careful of “lifting up the Lord” so far that it puts distance between you. Obviously, it’s meant well, but it’s hard to get a sense of walking and interacting with the Lord if he isn’t close at hand, or only watches from afar.

There are enough forces working to separate you from God, so don’t inadvertently contribute by widening the gap! Pre-condition and position yourself for intimacy by regularly practicing the presence of God. “And lo, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mat. 28:20)

3. Contrary to common belief, consider the biblical notion that your body isn’t temporary. Yes, your spirit will one day shed its current form, but people who are prepared (“worthy”) get the same body back in glorified, fully restored form just as Jesus did. (Exactly how that happens, no one can be sure. We don’t have enough detail.)

But even before any resurrection, Scripture seems to imply some sort of body after physical death. Paul hints that if there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body (1Cor. 15:44). In The Revelation, when John sees the souls of people who were beheaded for holding to the Word (Rev. 6:9, 20:4), I believe he sees actual people complete with arms, legs, heads, and torsos.

At any rate, Jesus is the first-fruit. Human bodies are an eternal part of our essential being—the soul—in both heaven and hell. If you understand “soul” as “person,” and as something of substance rather than a disembodied, nebulous thing, life as God defines it—whole and integrated—makes more sense. Even in everyday earthly activity, the body is much more than something to hang clothes on.