Easter Musings…Dead Man Walking

Last year, I was teaching a class of teenagers about the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. I was regularly using the language of “bodily resurrection” to refer to the event we now remember as Easter morning. Eventually, a student raised her hand and said, “What do you mean by the word ‘bodily’?” At first, I was a little surprised to hear this question. On second thought, the question is actually central to both faith and history.   

I began to explain to this intelligent young woman that when we speak of Jesus’ “resurrection,” we are not implying he rose from the grave in any spiritual sense. In other words, Christians have not been going around the last 2,000 years saying, “We believe that the dead guy named Jesus rose spiritually out of the grave. His body may be in the tomb, but not his spirit.”  No, the earliest Christians and all since have been saying, “You know that dead man named Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah? Well, he rose from the grave. His body is no longer there. Go take a look for yourself. Besides, he has been showing himself for many days now.” When I told this to the whole class, a couple in the class were surprised. They had unwittingly taken resurrection to mean ‘spiritual’ resurrection. This would have been an easy claim indeed for the early Christians. Who could disprove a ‘spiritual’ resurrection? The claim of bodily resurrection, if false, could be easily disproved by a trip to the tomb where the body lay. To this day, there has been nothing to overcome Easter morning. The event of the bodily resurrection of Jesus has everything to do with history and not just religion. This Easter, let us remember the magnitude of the dead man who lived and walked among us.