I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body
"I Believe in the Resurrection of the Body." Shouldn't this have been saved for Easter? Is now in the midst of Christ's passionate suffering for us and our sins the time to speak of these bodies rising? I think so.
Believing in the resurrection of the body means that we know that we haven't seen the last of this body. This very body with the mole here and the funny hair there that we've known all our days on earth we will know in the eternal day of the new heaven and the new earth. What a cheery thought! Or is it? Read 2 Corinthians 5:10. "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, each to receive what he deserves according to what he did with his body, whether good or bad." That gives believing in the resurrection of the body a whole different spin, doesn't it?
The lips of Judas that first spoke of betraying Jesus to His enemies aren't dust and ashes forever. The lips that said, "Greetings, Rabbi" and then planted sour kisses on Jesus' sweet face are going to be raised from the dead and made to answer for what they've done. What should be done to lips like Judas' that have betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss? What should be done to your lips that have betrayed Him with what you've said or kissed? If we are going to receive what we deserve according to what we did with our bodies, then we're going to be paid back bodily. Not just an ephemeral, ethereal, spiritual suffering awaits us for our bodily sins; no, bodily suffering is demanded for sins done in and with the body.
What about the hands that grabbed Jesus in Gethsemane? What about the hands that bound His hands violently and tightly? What should be done to the hands that hurt the One whose hands just minutes before were lifted to heaven in prayer on their behalf, that just seconds before healed a severed ear? Look at your hands. What should be done to those hands? Have they stolen? Have they touched forbidden things? Have they written evil things? Have they been raised in anger? Have they failed to help?
Those hands will be before Christ's judgement seat to receive what they deserve. Whatever your hands have done wrong or failed to do right has to be answered for physically. And you're badly mistaken if you think anything you do with your hands can make up for what you've done with them. Build orphanages with your hands, throw wads of cash into the collection plate, wring you hands in prayer till they bleed, and you won't mitigate, alleviate, or extenuate God's judgment on the last day. Your hands will still deserve to have their skin peeled off, fingernails pulled out, and a nail driven through them. And all your wailing of how sorry you are won't stop it.
What about sinful feet? Judas isn't the only betrayer in this reading tonight. When Peter and the 2 sons of Zebedee walk off with Jesus to His special place of prayer, they're faithful. But it's a betrayal when someone asks you, begs you to keep watch with them and you fall asleep! Hebrews tells us that Jesus prayed with strong cries and tears. This Passion reading shows us that He was in such anguish that blood was forced out of his pours and mingled with His sweat. The 3 disciples saw and heard all of this and slept any way. But that's not all. The reading closes with, "Then all the disciples deserted Him and fled." What the 3 did in their heart earlier while Jesus prayed, they all did with their feet when the mob came.
What shall be done to fleeing feet? What should be done to your feet for all the ways you've sinned with them? You've walked into situations you shouldn't have. Don't think God doesn't know about them; He does in all their sinful, unseemly detail. And even worse, how many times have you used the 2 feet God has graciously given you to walk away from Word or Sacrament? Your feet would rather run around than stand before the Lord. You'd rather go with friends than into the assembly of the Lord. Your feet will be judged bodily for what they've done bodily. They will stand before Christ's judgment seat to receive either good or evil for their good or evil.
So be very, very afraid. What you do with your body now is going to be answered for by your body later. It's almost funny. Many of you religiously follow this principle in material things. You count your calories, carbs, or fats because you're told too many will effect you later. You make sure your body exercises in this way or takes that now, because you're afraid this or that will happen to it later. You won't put this in your mouth now because it might give you that later. Yet, you ignore this principle in eternal things. You think you can let you body do whatever it pleases now, and there won't be consequences later for your body and soul. Isn't that foolish?
God's holy promise that you will appear in your body to receive in it according to what you've done with it, should cause you to believe that what you do with your body in time is important for eternity. But if that's all you believe, woe on to you. Because judgment, torture, and eternal suffering is all that awaits your body based on what you yourself admit to have done in and with it. But thanks be to God that before we confess to believe in a bodily resurrection we confess to believe in the forgiveness of sins. You've seen in the Passion Reading the sort of sinning we do with our bodies. Now see in it the redeeming of your body that Christ accomplishes with His.
You saw Judas' guilty lips betraying the innocent Jesus. You looked in the mirror and saw lips that have betrayed Him more ways than you can count, but what do you see in this text? Whose are the only lips that suffer? Not Judas', not yours, but those of Jesus. It's Thursday night. Jesus last had something to drink in the upper room. He will have nothing more to drink till 3 PM tomorrow when He cries out, "I thirst." His lips are parched, swollen, cracked and bleeding and every single line of blood on them is there to pay for, to cover what your lips have said, hissed or kissed.
While you saw their hands sin against Jesus, striking, binding, and finally nailing His innocent hands to a cross, their hands didn't suffer; His did. While your hands deserve every punishment, suffering and outright torture the devil and all his demons can think up, Jesus' hands suffered in your place. Jesus hands nailed, curled, and bleeding on the cross are precious to us even as the scarred, disfigured hands of a firefighter who burned them while saving us would be. They testify to us of how He suffered to save us.
While you saw the disciples feet and your feet flee Jesus and wander from Jesus what happens to Jesus feet? They buckle under the full weight of your sins in Gethsemane. They carry Him before the Jewish rulers; they stand motionless while Jesus is mocked and spit on, whipped and ridiculed. These feel will carry Jesus naked through Jerusalem under a cross meant for you. Then these feet will be nailed to a cross and every drop that falls from them will be for a soothing footbath for sinful feet like yours because by His stripes you are healed, by His suffering you are redeemed. His bloodied feet free your feet to run, leap, and skip with joy.
So be very focused. Be focused on what the lips, hands and feet of Jesus suffer to pay for sins. Be very focused on what Jesus does with His body because this is the only hope you have for your body. Jesus suffers here bodily in place of the bodily suffering your deserve for the sins you've done in your body. Jesus bleeds for sins because you deserve to bleed. Jesus is crushed by guilt though innocent so you though guilty don't have to be. Jesus bears the wrath of God against sinners in His body, so you can know and be sure that you never will, not even on judgement day.
O you will be there bodily. Your lips, your hands, your feet, your whole body will be there, but what of the bad things, the evil things, you've done in and with your body? Can you hear that? Can you hear Jesus crying loudly from the cross, "It is finished?" Not even sinful human judges make you answer twice for a crime. Surely the holy and righteous God won't. Jesus in His body pleaded guilty for everything you've ever done wrong in your body, and you saw in the Passion Reading He suffered accordingly.
Dear friends, don't despise the sufferings of Jesus. Don't think it's not enough. Don't think something is required from your body to pay for your sins. Don't think you really don't know what Christ is going to say when you appear in your body before His judgement seat. You do know because God the Father raised the body of Jesus on Easter shouting to all the world that His bodily suffering was enough to pay for all sin, even yours.
What you will hear with your own ears from the lips of Jesus will be in accordance with what you've heard from my lips. Jesus will say, "In your Baptism, your body has been joined to My body's death and life, so you will live eternally in your body." "In your absolution, the forgiveness I won on the cross in My body, has been applied to your body, so I can no longer see the sins you've done in your body." And, "In your communing, your body ate My body which I gave for your sins and drank My blood that I shed for them, so your body is forgiven, raised, and enlivened for eternity."
Believing in a bodily resurrection drives us to the truth that what we do in these bodies is eternally significant. But since we believe these bodies are sinful and full of death, we are driven to more than a bodily resurrection; we're driven to a bodily salvation. Believing that for bodily salvation we need what Jesus won with and gives in His body, drives us to Church. In Church Jesus meets our body with His Body not in our thoughts, hearts, or feelings but outside of us. Jesus meets our bodies in Waters that touch our bodies, in Words that go into our ears, and in Bread and Wine, where miracles of miracles, we actually touch, feel, smell, eat and drink His Body and Blood with and in these bodies. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Lent Midweek II (2-16-05); Passion Reading II