Book Excerpt: The River of Life

In my mind, the nature of Christ’s second coming is inextricably intertwined with the nature of his resurrection. Resurrection is key, as every Christian agrees. If there were no resurrection, there would be no Christianity.

So what is the nature of Jesus’ resurrection? Did he simply disappear from this earth, never to be seen again, as the Gospel of Mark reports? Did he rise bodily alongside many others as part of a general resurrection, and promise to remain “until the end of the age,” as many readers understand the Gospel of Matthew? Perhaps Matthew meant to depict the resurrected Jesus (and all the rest of the resurrected saints that day) as spiritual, not physical? Sometime when you’re in a contemplative mood, read the final chapter of Matthew. Jesus’ resurrection seems presented as physical, since the disciples “hold Jesus by his feet.” Yet the final verse of Matthew depicts a spiritual Jesus who will remain with us through the age of God’s rule. Try therefore to discern the point where Jesus slides from a physical to a spiritual body. Then try to imagine whatever happened to all the saints who resurrected that day and appeared “to many” in Jerusalem, if indeed Matthew meant to imply a physical resurrection. Did they crawl back in their graves? Who sealed up the tombs again?

Or do we trust Luke’s report, where Jesus climbs out of the tomb, presents himself in a physical body, remains on earth 40 days, and then ascends into heaven?

Should we instead dig clear back to our first New Testament writer? Paul saw the resurrected Jesus not in a physical body but as a light from heaven, and considered his Jesus-sighting to be as authentic as any other. When he writes of those who saw the resurrected Jesus, he makes no distinction between how Jesus appeared to him and to others. “Am I not an apostle?” Paul writes indignantly in that same letter to the Corinthians, insisting that he is as qualified to be an apostle as any other person who saw the risen Jesus. “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”

Were all of the Jesus sightings visionary experiences, then, like a light from heaven?

–The River of Life, Energion Publications, 2014 by Lee Harmon

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