It was a physical body, but it had a spiritual dimension, unlike any recorded resurrection before or since. A new era has been ushered in—for us, foretelling our future state after we die.
Here are the states of Christ that we have used as our anchor:
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The resurrection is on the right side.
In this post let’s refer to Renewal theologian J. Rodman Williams. He has the best balance between the two extremes, which are an overly corporeal emphasis, and an overly spiritual emphasis.
If you would like to see the following verses in many translations and in their contexts, please go to biblegateway.com.
It was corporeal or a physical body.
First some Scripture about Jesus’ resurrection:
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24:37-43)
After he said this, he showed them the wounds in his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord (John 20:20).
J. Rodman Williams writes about those passages:
Thus Jesus emphasized that He was not a different Jesus from whom they had known before, but that in His whole person—which included his body—He was totally alive again. Resurrection could not have occurred if the body had been missing. He just as firmly denied being a spirit … We may, then, properly speak of the essential identity of Jesus’ resurrected life with His life before. He had not been changed from body into spirit, but was the same Jesus they had known in the flesh. (vol. 1, p. 386)
It was also transformed into an immortal, spiritual body.
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:31)
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. (Luke 24:36-37)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)
Williams draws this conclusion from those verses:
Indeed a transformation had unmistakably occurred. There was something unique here. Other resurrections are reported in the Gospels, but none such—for all their wonder—signify a new mode of spiritual existence. They were only resuscitations of corporal existence. They represent transitory returns to physical life, and in due time the resuscitated person died once more. Jesus, on the contrary, was raised not to die again but to continue living. Thus, the resurrection, though it s bodily, is not a continuing physical life but a spiritual one. … Thus while there is an essential identity and a continuity between Jesus’ existence prior to and after His resurrection (there is no transition into a disembodied state), the is also an otherness and a certain discontinuity from what had preceded. (vol. 1, p. 387)
It was mysterious.
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” (John 20:14-15)
But they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:16)
Mark 16:12: This verse says he appeared in another “form.” But the verse is not in the best manuscripts, yet it does reflect early church belief in some quarters.
Thus all the resurrection narratives are on the mysterious borderline between the commonplace and the unusual, the natural and supernatural. Another dimension of human reality is for the first time becoming manifest. There is both identity and otherness, continuity and discontinuity, familiarity and unfamiliarity. It all suggests that something new and inexplicable has for the first time come about. This is the transformation of physical existence into a higher order of spiritual existence: the spiritual body of the resurrection! (vol. 1, p. 388)
So how do I get to know Jesus better?
Jesus’ resurrection tells us what our bodies will be like when we die and go up to heaven, and our physical bodies get resurrected. Jesus is the “first-fruits.” But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Firstfruits implies there will be others after him. Here they are—us:
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Cor. 15:42-44)
And this passage reinforces that one:
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:53-54; cf. Is. 25:8)
We will be able to eat and drink, but not suffer the limitations of our current space-time dimension. We will not suffer physical pain or disease. We will have thrown off our degraded and weak “mammal bodies” and enjoy a new, glorified body that will never grow old or decompose. Our body will be like that of Jesus.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Rom. 8:11)
Written by James Malcolm
ARTICLES IN “DO I REALLY KNOW JESUS?” SERIES
12. Do I Really Know Jesus? What Was His Resurrected Body Like?