Christ’s Risen Glory: A Promise of our Future!
“Will we be able to walk through walls too?!!!!”
Since our return to school after the Easter break, I have been reading the stories of the risen Jesus to my class of 4-8-year-olds. They are fascinated by them. They love the thought of Jesus just being able to appear to His disciples at any time and anywhere, no longer subject to the limitations of human earthly existence. When I explain that God has also promised that one day in the future, He will also give us risen, glorified bodies, they get excited! (Perhaps not entirely for the most pious of reasons!! 😀 )
Nevertheless, the thought should excite us – even if it’s not clear what exactly our risen bodies will look like, or what it will be like to experience. To the disciples, for instance, the risen Jesus was different. Mary Magdalene seems to mistake Him for a gardener and only recognises Him when He says her name – I find myself thinking here of the line ‘The sheep who belong to me listen to my voice’ (Jn 10:27). Neither do the two disciples on the road to Emmaus recognise Him straight away, but only when He breaks bread with them: ‘When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him’ (Lk 24:30-31).
There is also the curious line at the end of the Gospel of Mark, after we are told of Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene: ‘After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country’ (Mk 16:12).
Yet, Jesus also makes it abundantly clear that though He is no longer subject to the limitations of human earthly existence, there is a physicality to His risen existence all the same: ‘But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Lk 24:37-39). He even EATS: ‘And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them’ (Lk 24: 41-42).
These details from the Gospels give us clues to what we can expect from our glorified bodies. Upon Baptism we are brought into intimate union with Jesus. For instance, Jesus describes Himself as the “vine” and us as the “branches” (Jn 15:5). Why is this significant? Because – in the words of Sofia Cavalletti, ‘It is the same sap, the same life force that runs in every branch of the same plant.’ I can’t help but think of a line from one of my favourite praise and worship songs in this respect: ‘for I am Yours and You are mine’ (Hillsong United – Oceans). We share intimately in His life as He does in ours; we will also share intimately in His resurrection.
This is one reason why the modern line of ‘my body, my choice’ runs so vastly contrary to Scripture: ‘The body [is meant] for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? …. You are not your own;…so glorify God in your body’ (1 Cor 6:13-15, 19-20). Our bodies are imbued with incredible dignity since we have been fashioned in God’s image and likeness. We were also created as a union of body and soul, a reality which is indelibly central to who we are. It was never God’s plan that we would become subject to death with its consequent separation of body and soul. In sending Jesus, He thereby ensured that this separation would be only temporary. One day, therefore, our souls will be reunited with our bodies – in a more brilliant fashion that we can dare imagine.
So, what CAN we expect from our future risen bodies? Renowned Bible scholar, Scott Hahn, conveys this beautifully in the eighth chapter of his most recent book, ‘Hope to Die: The Christian Meaning of Death and the Resurrection of the Body.’ He explains that our risen body will be undoubtedly our own body…only brilliantly better! He draws upon St. Thomas Aquinas for instance, who wrote that we can expect them to possess four additional features. Each feature, in fact, connects back to Adam and Eve’s original existence in the Garden before the world was enveloped with the darkness of sin – when they were perfectly holy and in right relationship with God, themselves and others.
Firstly: our risen bodies will be imperishable, no longer be subject to sickness, pain, old age or death. Like Jesus demonstrated, we’ll be ABLE to eat but we won’t NEED to.
Secondly: our bodies will be imbued with ‘subtlety’, meaning that though our risen body will possess the ability to be touched and felt -as Jesus’ risen body was – they will have a lightness to them that we don’t experience here on earth. Additionally, Scott Hahn explains that we will be able to communicate ‘the whole essence of who we are – to others’ (p.96). Essentially, the communication difficulties which tend to plague our relationships on earth would be entirely absent!
Thirdly, Aquinas speaks of agility, meaning our resurrected bodies will be ‘perfectly coordinated’, able to do everything we want perfectly. My young students, for instance, would entirely relish the prospect of being able to fly or leap the height of skyscrapers and play any sport perfectly! Scott Hahn puts it like this: ‘Every desire we have in this life – to move gracefully or swiftly, to soar through the sky or effortlessly float above it all – we have because that’s what are bodies were, in a sense, made to do. In heaven, we’ll be able to do it all with ease’ (p.96). Additionally, if you think in a particular moment that you would love to visit someone on the other side of the world, then you would just be able to appear there in an instant! No more long and tedious journeys to see those we love – how amazing would that be? 😊
Importantly, though, divine wisdom will direct every action and movement we make, for sin will no longer govern us and we will be perfectly oriented to God in our hearts and minds.
Finally, Aquinas speaks of clarity, meaning that our risen bodies will glow with the light and beauty of perfect holiness: “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever” (Dan 12:3). Beautifully, one of the things that will make us shine all the brighter is our loving acceptance of all the trials and painful experiences of our earthly lives: ‘Every wound and every scar that has been accepted for love of God and offered back to him will shine with glory’ (Hahn, p.98). Yet, this is not all: we will see each other in perfect clarity too, meaning that one glance at somebody will give us perfect knowledge of who they are. It goes back to the words of Origen of Alexandria: “Holiness is seeing with the eyes of Christ.”
Returning to my young student’s question at the beginning, I’m not entirely sure our bodies’ new supernatural capacities will extend to walking through walls. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine that the reality of it will be anything less than spectacular!
Through Your incredible love and generosity towards us,
a truly glorious future reality awaits us!
By Your grace, may be live in a manner worthy of it
(though it can never be truly deserved!)!
Through Christ Jesus our Lord,