eMeditation on the Bible
Question: What is the larger historical context of Jesus’ resurrection?
According to Peter (leader of Jesus’ followers who gave a public speech soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus): “With the help of evil authorities, you executed Jesus. But God raised him from the dead. God set him free from the power of death. It was not possible for death to keep its hold on Jesus. (Acts 2:23,24)
The term “resurrection” does not refer to “resuscitation” of a body, which is medical event for which physicians have refined procedures in recent decades.
(1) Resuscitation occurs when a life has been revived after the heart, breathing and brainwave activity have stopped; in other words, after all signs of life have ended and the body is clinically dead. However, when life is revived, the body is the same as it was before the clinical death took place; specifically, all the same physical conditions, strengths and weaknesses are present and the age of the body is unchanged. The person will die again.
(2) Resurrection is different from resuscitation because the life of the body is not only revived, it is renewed and transformed with additional physical properties that include never dying again.
From very ancient times, humans have believed that their spirit survives death and continues to live in an afterlife that was conceptualized in various ways, depending on the culture. Usually, such beliefs involved the separation of the spirit from the body at death without being reunited with the body later. In contrast, for some ancient people-groups, the life of the spirit apart from the body was unthinkable. Eventually, in West Asia, a belief emerged that the body will be “resurrected” in the future and reunited with the spirit. This future resurrection was expected to occur at the end of time. This was one of the beliefs people that held in the region Jesus lived in at the time he lived.
Historical Context for Followers of Jesus
For the followers of Jesus, the belief that the spirit and body become reunited after death by the future resurrection of the body was based on a very specific event: the physical resurrection of Jesus after his death by execution. Although most of them may have believed that a resurrection was going to happen at the end of time, none of them believed it was possible for a resurrection to occur before then, especially during their lives. Contrary to any expectations or beliefs they held, they were completely surprised to find the tomb of Jesus empty 3 days after his death. And they were even more shocked and confused when Jesus visited them physically alive. His body was transformed. It was both the same as and different from his pre-death body: it both preserved his identity as the same Jesus and was able to do things it could not do before. The experiences of meeting, talking, eating and spending time with Jesus in his resurrected body, convinced his followers that a resurrection had taken place and, therefore, will take place for all humans. They viewed the resurrection of Jesus as a preview of the human family’s future destiny.
As a human, you have both physical and spiritual dimensions. Your spirit grows and develops in a relationship with God. This relationship creates a deep connection for your spirit with God’s Spirit. Since a relationship with God never ends, when you are connected to God, your life will not end at your physical death. Your body will be renewed and transformed by the resurrection.