On the Resurrection of Christ and the Social Context

The Resurrection appearances of Jesus were personal. There was not simply an empty tomb followed by an angelic revelation or a different version of the burning bush. There was the bodily, personal appearance of Jesus to his followers. He is not a ghost, but has flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). A person is a soul, is spirit, yes, but a person is, as the Incarnation teaches us, a body. And Jesus’ personal appearances were appearances of his whole person, body and soul, to his followers. His death, from the vantage point of his disciples, had irrevocably sundered their personal relationship. His Resurrection restored forever those connections.

We have pre-Resurrection examples of what this victory over death entails. In two instances, recorded in Luke, in which Jesus raised the dead, the dead were returned to their families: Of the widow of Nain’s son “And Jesus gave him to his mother”; of Jairus’ daughter, after dismissing everyone except her parents and three of his disciples, he raises her and then tells her parents, “Give her something to eat.” And when he healed the demonized boy after coming down from the mount of Transfiguration, Jesus “gave him back to his father.” Raising from the dead, healing, were intended to restore the social and familial connections that sickness and death harm and destroy. And in the final resurrection, St Paul writes, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). The next verse, in the wonderful KJV phrasing, exhorts: “Wherefore comfort one another with these words. ”

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