I don’t know if you have ever watched any of the Star Trek series – Captain James T Kirk – did you know that the T stands for Tiberius? Or Captain Pickard from Star Trek Next Generation, or Captian Sisko from Star Trek Deep Space Nine, or Captain Janeway from Star Trek Voyager.
One of the things I have noticed watching Star Trek, and other Sci Fi shows is how they portray death and the after life. For them, the after life always involves the loss of the body. The transition into the spiritual is a transition, or a transformation, into a non-coporeal existence – into a gas or a cloud that has immense hidden knowledge and floats around for eternity.
It’s a common view held by many in our culture today – when we die our spirit is set free to roam the universe – bodiless!!
And you need to know that the Bible is SO against this view.
One of the things the Resurrection does is affirms and declares the physical-ness of heaven. Jesus is raised from the dead – and he is rasied in the same body he died in – that is why the tomb is empty. And he ascends IN his body which means right now there is a human body residing in heaven – Jesus Christ – at the right hand of the Father.
The heavenly reality of God is both a spiritual AND physical place – its not an either / or but a place where the spiritual and physical come together in a way that they were always meant to be – Adam walked in the Garden of Eden with God – heaven and earth were one before the fall – the garden was physical – Adam was physical and that is why we have a physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is not incidental that Jesus rose physically from the dead – it is vital.
And it is for this reason, our Gospel reading this morning is meant to be a massive encouragement to us. There is so much in these verses that I can only focus on one thing this morning.
Here are the disciples scared and hiding – the doors are locked. They have gathered, probably, to talk about what has happened and what they should do next.
Then all of a sudden Jesus was standing there among them. I so want to see the replay of this event in heaven. Imagine the fear and the surprise and the shock – doors locked and yet BAM – here was another person in the room – instantaneously! The already freaked out, scared disciples, whose nerves were almost certainly frayed now have to cope with Jesus just supernaturally appearing in the middle of their room – no wonder Jesus says to them Peace be with you. They needed it.
However, he then shows them his wounds – his hands and side. Why? To show them he was physical. He is no ghost in the sense of how they would imagine a ghost – he is really, physically, with them in his physical body.
What is remarkable is that the disciples were now looking at the future of the universe.
Here was the risen Lord – the one who has defeated evil, sin and death – who will rule for eternity with the Father and the Spirit and who will judge all people – here is the Physical Jesus Christ who has conquered satan and will rule above all things.
This is who the disciples could handle and touch – the very source, center and sustainer of the entire universe – the second person of the Trinity – standing with these 10 men in a small room in the Palestine.
But not only were the disciples looking at the future of the universe – they were also looking at an image of THEIR future.
This would one day be them – physically resurrected – not dead but alive. Here is an image of what happens to those who are faithful in Christ – they are vindicated and raised from the grave.
This joy – this immortal life was waiting for them in the resurrection future.
Spirituality is not some distant, bodiless, floating cloud or gas – it is physical, real and touchable.
One of the saddest errors we can fall into as Christians is to think of heaven in this way. The Bible says that when Jesus returns the dead will be raised and we will be reunited with our bodies. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 talks us Jesus’ return – when the dead will rise first. Paul talks about the redemption not just of our spirits, but our bodies: Romans 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Heaven is not eternity on a cloud with a harp – it is physical, real and on a renewed earth – 2 Peter 3:13 says But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells – as it was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden – heaven and earth joined together as we commune and worship God.
Jesus stood amongst his disciples as the example – the proof – the vindication of all that he had said to them and taught them. It was the proof of such passages as in the sermon on the mount: Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.”
Here is the reward.
And just as Jesus had set his hope on this future joy – he stands before the disciples as a huge encouragement that its all true – and that they too can set their hope on this future joy.
And just as the disciples could set their hope in this future joy SO CAN WE.
Jesus’ obedience to the Father – which lead even to humiliation and death – also lead to the resurrection, life and joy.
Hence – the disciples can go forward with their mission, empowered by the spirit, to be obedient to God’s calling – a calling which will lead to many of them being persecuted and martyred but in the knowledge that the promise of the life to come is true, sure, real, transformed, physical and awaiting them.
What an encouragement. What a truth. What a promise.
The teaching of the Bible is that the resurrection that is promised is physical – yes our bodies are transformed into perfect bodies – but it’s also a physical reality.
This is what should encourage us as we get up to begun our week on Monday morning.
This is what should give us great hope as we go into our normal everyday lives. Whatever Jesus may ask of us – whatever work he has called us to – whatever Jesus may call us to give up or sacrifice, the resurrection future which is both promised and assured to us, surpasses any pain or loss suffered now.
The disciples lived their life, I believe, in the sure knowledge of this hope of the future resurrection – it was for them an assurance which meant they did not hold back in serving God to the fullest, even when they were also attacked, and many of them killed. They did not need vindication – because they knew that they would be resurrected with Christ – and that is far more vindication than they could ever ask for.
Jesus’ words to the disciples Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you includes not just the mission of evangelism, of witness, of loving God and others, of worship and of even being hated by the world, it includes the incredible promise of resurrection. The Father sent the Son to the cross knowing he would be raised. The Son sends us knowing that we too will be raised from the death.
As believers here today – as those who follow the living Christ – YOU WILL BE RESURRECTED – Your body will be made perfect – you will reside on a perfect earth that is joined and in union with heaven where God will dwell and we will worship him.
For just as the Father sent Jesus so he sends us.
Do we enter our week tomorrow with this assurance of the coming resurrection. May the Lord give us a revelation, through his spirit, to know and rejoice in the fact that we will be resurrected and may we walk each day in the confidence that we can live life in the fullest for Christ, in the confidence and trust that there is NOTHING the world can do to us – there is no situation, no economic disaster, no disease, that can remove the truth of the living Christ and hope of the resurrection to come.