How Can Flesh and Blood Rise from the Grave?
Despite film maker James Cameron's claim to have found the body of Jesus and just about everyone else in Jesus' family, the burning issue with people this Easter is not did Jesus rise from the dead, but will I?
Everything testifies that you won't; you can't. My flesh and blood constantly preach to me that this is it. No matter what age defying creams I put on my flesh or how many antioxidants I put in my blood, I am relentlessly sliding into the grave never to return. From dust I am and to dust I am returning. I never see a gray hair go black or a wrinkle go away. I never see any indication that this aging process, this dying process, this to dust process reverses or even slows down.
Flesh and blood preach that I'm going into the grave and staying there. Science only confirms what my body knows. Cells break down and don't build back up. Once you reach a certain age, and it's ridiculously young, you begin the decaying process. Science says, "Dead is dead," and the handmaid of science, human reason says, "Amen." Reason says only a child wonders if the dead bird will fly again. Only a child thinks the dog lying by the side of the road is sleeping. Adults know gone' always goes with dead." Animals, people, all things, once they're dead they're gone.
As loud as flesh and blood, science and reason preach to me that I'm not coming out of the grave, the Devil and my conscience preach louder still. They take away not just hope of this body rising but hope of any life after death. The Devil and my conscience preach death after death, an eternal dying. They remind me that things aren't all right between me and God. I've offended Him in thought, word, deed. I may not have done anything obviously evil, but I've loved Him, feared Him, and trusted Him as less than God. When I think of what is most important in my life, God is up there but not alone at the top. I'm more afraid of others, cancer, or dying than I am of God. Far from trusting that He loves me, I expect bad things from Him. If my child treated me with the same subtle contempt, distain, and disregard that I treat God, there would be hell to pay.
My conscience says I deserve to go into the grave and never return. Everything about me, around me, in me agrees. Christ, however, testifies something different. He says that I can return from the grave. He says the grave is not the final resting place of my flesh and blood.
God was far away in heaven. Our flesh and blood were on earth separated from Him by sinfulness. Here we were sometimes fast, sometimes slow moving relentlessly toward the point where flesh rots and blood coagulates. This was the due penalty for the sins we commit in the body. The soul that sins shall die God had commanded; souls die not by ceasing to exist, but by being cut off from God who is life. Like a branch cut off from a vine, our souls wither. When your soul withers, it shows in your flesh and blood.
How was God to rescue His creation? How could God who is spirit help flesh and blood? He sent His Son, Jesus, into creation to take on the flesh and blood of us creatures. God the Son joined the divine nature to human nature. That which can coagulate and rot because of sin was joined to the divine nature which does not just live but is life itself.
So the Son of God took on my flesh and blood, and what did He do with it? He did what I never, and I mean never, do. He feared, loved and trusted God above all things. He never misused the name of God but prayed, praised and thanked Him. He held preaching and the Word of God sacred. He always obeyed authority, never harmed others, never lusted, stole, or lied. This is what Jesus was doing for 33 years with your flesh and blood. Then came the last week of His life. Then came last week. Then as Jesus predicted, He was delivered into the hands of sinful men and crucified.
"Christ died for our sins." He was a "wrath removing sacrifice not only for our sins but the sins of the whole world." Scripture plainly and simply says. As all sacrificial animals had to be, Jesus' flesh and blood was pure, blameless, without sin. Yet upon His flesh and blood God loaded all our sins. Paul even says, "God made Him to be sin itself." And there, in and on His flesh and blood, your sins were punished, paid for, propitiated. But bleeding, crying, suffering weren't enough; there also had to be dying. So God the Son, the Man who is God, actually, completely died. The women at the tomb tell you that. They come looking for the body of Jesus. They come expecting to find a tortured corpse not a living Lord.
But death couldn't hold Jesus who by nature is God. The only reason Jesus died was to pay for your sins. He had none of His own. He died to drain the cup of God's wrath against your sins. Once that was done, death had no claim on Him. Jesus gave death a claim on His life by taking your sins upon Himself. Once He died the death your sins deserved, death had to release Him because deity cannot die. Even paganism knows that gods don't, can't die.
There's more. In the womb of the Virgin Mary, God the Holy Spirit joined flesh and blood to the divine nature once and for all. So where the divine nature goes the human nature goes. The grave had to spit out the flesh and blood of Jesus because it was joined to the divine nature. Your flesh and blood can be joined too. It is God's will that your decaying flesh and coagulating blood should be partakers of the divine nature says 2 Peter.
Your flesh and blood aided by science, reason, Devil and conscience testify to you that they can't rise from the grave. Jesus testifies they can. How? In connection to Him. Joined to the flesh and blood of Jesus, your flesh and blood goes where His did. But how? Can you be joined to Christ by a decision, an action of yours? Think about it. What decision or action of yours is not tainted by sin? Don't you make wrongs decisions and take wrong actions? When pressed just how sure are you of any decision or action of yours? Friend, it takes a mighty firm bond to Jesus to last through the agony of dying and death.
Okay, so the partaking of the divine nature, this joining to Jesus, can't happen by my initiative. Then it must come from Jesus to me. It must be His operation in me. Yes. Then does Jesus send His Holy Spirit into my heart and join me to Him by faith? Yes. Okay, then how do I know this has taken place? By feelings, by sense? Does the Jesus who rose from the dead in flesh and blood work on my flesh and blood only by means of invisible things that touch my soul? Am I to know my flesh and blood are joined to Jesus and will come out of the grave because my soul feels it, senses it?
If this were true, God would be working unlike He did in the past. The God who joined physical flesh and blood to His divine nature now works through feelings and urges. The God who forgave, healed, and resurrected flesh and blood visibly by touching with His physical flesh and blood now works by sending His Spirit into your soul invisibly. The God who worked through physical things from Genesis to Revelation doesn't do that anymore. He touches you now with nothing more than warm thoughts.
No, Jesus makes you a partaker of His divine nature through the flesh and blood of His human nature. Jesus makes you a partaker of His holiness by means of things that touch your flesh and blood to get to your soul. Jesus will raise your flesh and blood from the grave by means of things that touch your flesh and blood now.
As God gave you your first birth through a physical bag of water, so God gives birth to you a second time through the waters of Baptism. God says, "All you who have been baptized have put on Christ." God says, "Your old sinful nature was buried with Jesus in Baptism, and a new man has risen with Him." How do you know your flesh and blood won't rot and decay forever in the grave? Have you been baptized? Has water been applied to you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost? Then you've put on Jesus. Joined to Him the grave can no more swallow you than it could Him; the grave must spit you out as it did Jesus.
When Jesus walked the earth, His words healed, forgave, and cast out demons. Now, Jesus wasn't like a science fiction alien who just thinks and things happen. Jesus spoke real words that struck real ear drums; His words physically vibrated them and produced physical results. Withered arms were made physically whole; sins were actually sent away from people, and demons vacated the space. I speak the Words of Jesus in time. When I send your sins away, they are really gone. When I forgive your sins, heaven is literally opened for you and hell is literally locked. Jesus words are reality. When in His name I declare you forgiven, holy, alive, that is what you are.
God who is spirit took on flesh and blood in Jesus. This means His flesh and blood are life giving because they are the flesh and blood of God. Therefore, one drop of Jesus' blood is more than enough to forgive the sins of the entire world. And rather than the flesh of Jesus being sickened, defiled, or decayed by touching the ill, the sinful, or the dead, the flesh of Jesus healed, forgave, and saved. The Body and Blood of Jesus are that powerful, so where are they today? In heaven to be sure, but also here. Holy Communion is the Body and blood of Jesus. Right here on this altar Jesus continues His resurrection appearances. Here is where He invites you to see, touch, and handle Him today. Here is where He invites you to hear His benediction of peace and to taste that He is good.
Jesus has not left you only an inward faith, a faith that goes on in your heart and mind where there are a thousand other thoughts and feelings going on. Jesus has not left your physical flesh and blood with only a spiritual hope or feeling that they will rise. No, He touches your flesh with Water telling you you're reborn. His Words vibrate your ears telling you you're forgiven, and His Body and Blood feed you in time telling you He will raise your flesh and blood in glory from the grave. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Resurrection of our Lord (20070408)