– by Doris Murdoch
From my recent Holy Land journey: Jesus on the shores of Galilee in the towns of Tabgha and Capernaum, along with Jerusalem, where He manifested Himself before His disciples.
In John 20:14-17, we read about the first person to see the resurrected Jesus before He ascended into heaven. In this scripture, we read that Mary of Magdala did not recognize the voice or physical being of Jesus. Mary thought Jesus was the gardener. Jesus tells Mary not to touch Him for He had not ascended to “My Father and Your Father and My God and Your God.” Jesus confirms Himself as the Son and Mary as a child of God. Had Jesus received a “new body” prior to ascending to heaven? Did His “new body” change in the tomb as he awoke from death? When will this “new body” occurrence happen for a Christian believer? When Mary did recognize Jesus, was there familiarity in His voice tone or inflection as Jesus said her name, “Mary!” or did she understand His confirmation as the Son? Was Jesus and His spirit still bound by His earthly body? Did He receive His heavenly or divine body after ascending to His Father in heaven? I Corinthians 15:20-26 tells us Jesus is of the first fruits as a human being resurrected from the dead and all believers will come alive through Jesus Christ. As I continue through the 15th chapter of Corinthians, I understand that we must be human first, then spiritual, and last through the life-giving spirit of Jesus Christ, we become heavenly and imperishable, completely transformed and transfigured.
After ascending into heaven, Jesus manifested Himself on earth. In Luke 24:13-35 (Mark 16:12-13), we read about two followers encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus on the same day as His resurrection. The men did not recognize Jesus physically or by His voice. This recognition happened when their eyes were opened upon the breaking of the bread by Jesus. They returned to Jerusalem to share about the visit and to testify to Simon’s sighting of the risen Jesus found in Luke 24:34.
John 20:19-20 shares this:
19 So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week (Sunday, the day of Jesus’ resurrection), and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
In this scripture of manifestation, Jesus proves his identity by revealing His nail-scarred hands and spear-wounded side. Otherwise, this scripture does not identify that they did not know Him. Verse 20b says, “they saw the Lord”. In this body, Jesus could make himself recognizable or unrecognizable at His will. We do know from this scripture that the new body could walk through walls or doors. Since the scripture states that the doors were shut, this fact is significant. In verses 26b-29, we read that Jesus returns to the house when “Doubting Thomas” is present. Again, Jesus proves His identity through His nail-scarred hands and spear-wounded side. Jesus even allows Thomas to touch the wounds as proof of His reality. Jesus uses man’s senses to help them identify Him. His body is visible, but it can travel through walls; the scripture emphasizes this again by saying “doors having been shut”. His body wounds are healed but still remain visible and touchable. In the new body, will we be recognizable? Will scars of the past life be visible? Will our voices remain the same? Will we be capable of traveling through walls?
In John 21: 1-14, we read again of Jesus manifesting Himself before His disciples beside the Sea of Galilee near the town of Tabgha. The disciples did not know or recognize Jesus on the beach. Jesus calls them children; is this word “children” a hint for recognition? After the net full of fish, John whom Jesus loved, recognized the manifestation of Jesus through the act of catching the fish in the net. John recognized the works or acts of Jesus! Peter now knows Jesus because John identifies Jesus as the Lord. Even after offering breakfast to the disciples, they do not truly know Him. They were afraid to say, “Who are you?” The statement that follows, “knowing that it was the Lord” tells me Jesus had been identified by name but not by His visual or spiritual appearance. In this transfigured body, was Jesus able to change characteristics for different types of recognition (sight, touch, voice, and acts)?
After that Jesus was seen by over five hundred followers at once (Galilee Region, possibly on the mountain where Jesus fed the 5000 or the Mount of Beatitudes). We still read of eye-witnesses doubting Jesus’ resurrection from death. In Matthew 28:16- 20, it states:
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We know Jesus returned to the Jerusalem area with His disciples before ascending into heaven (Luke 24:47-49, 52). Luke 24:50-51 tells us that Jesus ascended into heaven from Bethany, the town of Lazarus.
Revelation 3: 5 says, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” The newly transformed bodies will be clothed in white garments, much like we envision angel appearance. White garments could also be like a karate suit, not an angelic gown and cloak (The word garments is plural.)!
In physical death, the body goes to the grave and the spirit or soul goes to heaven. According to John 5:28-29, the separation of body and spirit is in effect until the resurrection: “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment”. Right now the souls of believers who have died are in heaven. Eventually, their bodies will be resurrected and join their spirits.
Jesus’ resurrected body was the same body as before, not a completely new body. Sometimes He was recognizable. After Jesus was resurrected, the tomb was empty. So body and soul or spirit left the burial tomb. This will not happen to man; our physical bodies will remain on earth in burial tombs or graves. For Jesus, His wounds from His crucifixion were still evident. One could touch Him so He wasn’t a ghost as we might imagine. He looked human in every way; we are made in God’s image. Jesus could speak, eat, walk, etc. After His resurrection, Jesus’ body had divine or mystical properties beyond man’s understanding. He could pass through solid walls and doors. He could appear in different forms so His identity was not immediately recognizable. In Luke 24:36, we read that Jesus could suddenly appear out of nowhere. In Luke 24:51, we read that Jesus was capable of going directly into heaven in bodily form. In Acts 1:9, Jesus ascends into heaven on a cloud.
Our heavenly or resurrected bodies will be real, concrete human bodies, yet wholly perfected and glorified. We will be much like the resurrected body of Christ. I Thessalonians 4:16-17 describes how the earthly bodies of believers are reunited with their spirits. At the trumpet of God, “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord”. The new bodies will join or unite with each of our perfected, waiting spirits and the new heavenly body will be complete. In completeness, these heavenly bodies will be transformed and transfigured, and glorified with Christ.