But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since death came through a man,
the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
(1 Corinthians 15 v 20-22)
This may seem an odd verse to use at the beginning of the season of Advent, looking towards the birth of Jesus, the coming of God clothed in human flesh. But the incarnation, already stunningly good news in itself as we see God reaching out to us in love, is so much more again!
I have been thinking about what it meant for Jesus to be human – like us, made of flesh and bone, full of emotions and thoughts – and what that means for me. I think that too often I have a degraded view of humankind, forgetting that when God reviewed creation, He declared it all good, and stated that humanity – men and women together – reflect God’s own character. We represent the ecstatic heights of God’s creative act, and I believe that the story revealed in the bible is of how – in spite of our rebellion, our destructive habits and utter inability to redeem ourselves – God is still planning to fulfill his original purposes in creation.
In Genesis, we find God walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day, enjoying their company in the world which had been created to sustain and delight them – in their human form. In the book of Revelation, in the vision which the apostle John was given of the future promised to all God’s children, we find a new earth, where God dwells with his people, and all the barriers caused by our sin and rebellion are gone. All that God ever wanted, was us… Do I really let that sink in often enough? Out of his abundant love, he created a universe and galaxies beyond understanding in order that he might share joy and love with us. And this is still his plan.
When Jesus humbled himself and took on human likeness, it was also the likeness of God, and should remind me continually of the value of each and every human being that every lived. There has never been anyone who did not matter, or was not worth caring about. When Jesus lived for over 30 years on this earth, eating and drinking, walking and wearying just as I do, it reminds me that my Lord and God knows and understands intimately what it is to be human, and nothing about me is unimportant to him. But, when I consider that Jesus came back to life with a human body – albeit with some unprecedented qualities – that is simply electrifying!
My eternal destiny is not in some disembodied state, but in a transformed, glorious, but still human body – because I will inhabit a transformed and glorious but still recognisable earth! God plans to live in uninterrupted fellowship with his beloved children, as He has always desired, and to this end, will make all things new when Christ returns. I freely admit that my mind is far too small to begin to deal with all the implications of this truth – and I would also suggest that if we don’t know all the details, it is because we don’t need the details just now!
Is it not enough to know that when we delight in this world, in our humankind, in all we can do and create, share and enjoy, we are following God’s heart? These are good things to give thanks for, and in which to recognise and celebrate the goodness of God. But we can rejoice even more in the certain hope of a life to come, in a new body – just like Jesus – when all the things which make this world painful will be gone. Then, oh then, what joy awaits, as we revel in a perfect world, in uninterrupted communion with our God, exercising our gifts, pursuing our interests, fulfilling our truest destinies – really living at last.
As we enter into this period of preparation for celebrating the first coming of Jesus as our Saviour, let us also look ahead with eager anticipation to his return in power, when we shall truly be ‘made alive’.
Amen. come, Lord Jesus. (Rev 22 v 20)