Why The Bodily Resurrection Of Jesus Is So Important For You

Text:  Luke 24:36-49
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Easter Sunday we heard the good news that the jaws and fangs of the grave could not hold Jesus down.  We heard that the grave was worthless, powerless, and unable to keep Jesus contained.  We heard that the grave was and is empty. 
With that stated, an empty tomb for some people is not enough.  For some, an empty tomb simply means that the disciples allegedly stole the body of Jesus.  Whereas, for others, an empty tomb simply means that Jesus may not have died but only appeared dead.  And there are some who believe that the empty tomb is a figure of speech or a clever metaphor at best.  Indeed, there are persons who insist that an empty tomb is not enough.
Even though it is truly great news to hear that Jesus is not in the tomb that He is not among the dead, the reality is that doubting mankind is prone to staunch pessimistic unbelief, just as the Apostle Thomas was. 
In the face of Thomas’ unbelief and all the skeptics throughout the ages, Jesus presents Himself before the disciples and an additional five hundred people.[1]  He reveals Himself after the tragic events of Good Friday as alive.  
But how did Jesus present Himself?  Did He appear to them in a dream?  Did the spirit of Jesus hover and float before them?  Did Jesus appear to them through a hologram, a three-dimensional image reproduced from a pattern of interference produced by a split coherent beam of radiation? 
In today’s Gospel reading we hear that Jesus appeared and revealed Himself to the disciples bodily—in the flesh.  Yes, bodily: speaking, touching, walking, eating, casting shadows, and making noise as He trampled across the floor.  No ghostly figure.  No spiritized ethereal being.  No hologram.  No mystic dream.  But rather, Jesus stood in their midst, body and spirit joined together.
The fact that Jesus resurrected bodily and appeared bodily to the disciples is of great importance.  It is not a finer point of theology that should be overlooked. 
You see, in our Gospel reading from today we hear that Jesus is alive beyond the cross and tomb.  He lives—unlike Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Abominable Snowman.  That is to say, He is not alive in spirit only without a body or without verifiable proof.  Because of Jesus’ physical appearance before the disciples and some five hundred other individuals, Jesus is not to be considered as a myth or a legend or a mysterious story, but to be considered the God-Man who is actually alive in Spirit ‘and’ Body!  Undeniably, the very same God-Man whose cold, lifeless body was laid in the tomb before the Sabbath began at sundown, came to life again and stood right before the disciples in their midst.
Unlike a ghost or a fantasy or a legendary myth or a dream, the physically glorified Jesus, with all the crucified scars, not only made the assurance of the disciples doubly sure, but makes our assurance doubly sure as well.  The fact that Jesus ate in front of the disciples shows that there was a real resurrected body before them, a body that functioned as their did.
Again this is important for us.  The reason why?  If Christ is not raised from the grave bodily, our preaching, the church’s foundation, and your faith are all in vain and you are still damned in your sins.  If this Jesus in not raised from the grave bodily it also means that those who have fallen asleep in Christ have died forever with no hope.  If Christ has not risen bodily, nothing has changed, death still rules the age.  If Christ has not risen bodily, then all the best sympathy cards, all the prettiest flowers, and all the best sappy compassion slogans will not cheer us up when we must struggle at the end of our lives or when we painfully put our loved ones in the grave.  Frankly put, if Jesus wasn’t raised bodily, what makes us think we will rise bodily?  The grave would be the end, with nothing beyond. 
On the other hand, because Jesus ‘has’ risen from the grave bodily and ‘has’ appeared to over five hundred people bodily, we believe, teach, and confess that Jesus is not some sort of powerless ghost or angel.  This story of Christ’s death and resurrection is not some speculative Big Foot or Loch Ness Monster story that airs on the Sci-Fi Channel rerun segment.  No, Jesus is the resurrected God-Man who defeated death, sin, and the devil—for you.  In point of fact, because He is the resurrected God-Man, He is your advocate with the Father.  He is your bodily resurrected high priest who has endured all of your temptations, bore your sins on His body, died, and overcame death for you.
Jesus lives, not because He appeared as a ghost.  He lives, not because He came as a spirit only.  He lives, not because He appeared in a hologram or dream.  He lives, not because He lives in your heart.  This is all foolish and nonsense!  He lives because the wounded, crucified body that mankind abandoned on Good Friday was resurrected.  He lives because Jesus walked, talked, ate food, cast shadows, and was able to be touched.  Make no mistake at all, He was resurrected and is alive.  He showed the wounds that make for peace.  He breathed out the Holy Spirit on the disciples through human speech.  He is alive because it is His true body.
There are further implications of Christ’s grave being empty and Christ being bodily resurrected as well.  Dear friends, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead not only means that our savior lives victorious over death, hell, and the devil, but it also means that we who will be put in the grave will not remain their forever.  It means that the dark valley of death, the deep tomb, and the heavy tombstone are not your final word.    In other words, the resurrection of Jesus means that the day will come when neither death nor the grave will keep you, but you—like Jesus—will be bodily raised again. 
We confess this central truth each and every Sunday in The Apostles’ and Nicene Creed when we say, “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”  That is to say, when you face your death, you will not face it alone.  Another will stand by your side, one who is stronger than death.  Through Him, through Jesus Christ, the sharp sting of death, which is sin, is washed away.  No one can bring an accusation towards you, not even Satan.   Thus, you will pass through death into life.  You will go into the direct presence of your dear Lord where there will be no pain or fear anymore.

But this is not enough of a victory. Christ Jesus is not satisfied with merely giving you immortality as a spirit.  You will not be some floaty spiritized mist bouncing on the clouds cuddling ultra-soft Charmin paper rolls, but you will be resurrected bodily.  Yes, Christ loves you too much to leave your body behind in the cold grave. So Christ has also redeemed your bodies. Christ died for all of you: mind, body, heart, and soul. Although your bodies will sleep in the grave when you die, it will awaken on the last day. Your spirit and body will be reunited as Christ raises you on the Last Day.

It will not be the same kind of body though. Your body here was subject to pain and illness and sin and death. But the Lord will raise your bodies far better than it was before. The physical difficulties will never touch you again. You will be raised imperishable - nothing will ever go wrong with the new body that Christ will give you. You will be full of strength and health.  No signs of age, physical defeats, or suffering, since all of these are the consequences of sin.  Our bodies will be like Jesus’ body: raised, imperishable, spiritized; the same body, yet better. 

Blessed Saints, Christ Jesus has won this victory for you. He won that victory by His perfect life and His innocent suffering and death. He won that victory by crushing Satan's head. He won that victory by smashing to pieces the power of the grave. The wonders of the life that you have received and will receive are beyond our comprehension. When we remember that Christ purchased all these things for us by dying on the Cross and rising on the third day, how can we put a limit on the value of what He has done? There is no limit to the value of the Cross or the Empty Tomb. There is no limit to the preciousness of the Blood shed on Calvary. So the value of the life given to you is limitless and endless and perfect.
Jesus is alive bodily.  Death is swallowed up. Death is defeated.
Thanks be to God, who has done all this for you and for me through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] See 1 Corinthians 15:6

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