I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25-26 ESV).
One big anxiety that amputees experience is that lost body parts embody their identity in ways that must now change. The pain is particularly acute when the body part is associated with a beloved activity. Our hearts go out, for example, to the runner that loses a leg or the brilliant researcher who develops Alzheimer’s disease. Our body is part of our identity.
God knows who we are and feels our pain—to be human is to be whole in body, mind, and spirit.
Jesus raised the widow’s son out of compassion (Luke 7:13) and he wept before raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:35). How compassionate would Jesus have been if he had raised the widow’s son from the dead only to have the son live on as a paraplegic? Or if Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead but left him mentally handicapped?
During my time as a chaplain intern, I knew a dear woman who had been resuscitated after her heart stopped for eight minutes. The resuscitation left her afflicted with dementia and forced to live in a lock-down, Alzheimer’s unit. The affliction left her family guilt ridden and torn over their decision to resuscitate her.
The point of this story is that resuscitation leaves scars. Scripture reports that the widow’s son and Lazarus were returned to health without scars. Consequently, Jesus did not resuscitate them; he re-created them as only God can.
Resurrection is an act of grace—bodily resurrection completes the compassion.
Jesus was bodily resurrected. When the resurrected Christ appeared before the disciples in Jerusalem, he was hungry; the disciples gave him a piece of broiled fish and he ate it (Luke 24:41-43). Furthermore, Christ’s compassion for his own disciples, who had deserted him, suggesting that Jesus did not harbor the deep emotional scars that might normally accompany the trauma that he experienced (John 21:17).
Consider the alternative. What if Jesus had been raised only spiritually, how long would he continue to empathize with fleshly humans? Or what if Jesus harbored some grievous handicap or emotional scares? Would he still have pity on the rest of us? Would we really want to stand before such a scarred and potentially vengeful judge?
Bodily resurrection is re-creation, not resuscitation. It gives us hope because our judge is healthy and whole—still human—and he still loves us.