I held her hand as we sang her favorite hymns, and I read 2 Corinthians 5 over her. A long-time, faithful, sweet saint, she was a favorite in our congregation. We saw her breathe her last, heavy breath and then slip into the hands of her beloved Savior, her life lived long and full for the Lord and for her family.
As a pastor, I had preached many sermons on the resurrection. I had declared, often, that Jesus saves our souls. But here in the cold corridors of this hospital, with a now-lifeless saint before me, the promise of Easter became startlingly real.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that death is the “last enemy,” and we see it so vividly when those close to us breathe their final breaths. Jesus, viewing the several-days-old corpse of his friend Lazarus, wept bitterly and was visibly angry. Because we have the promise of future resurrection, Christians can often trivialize death. But while Jesus conquered the grave, it is still Satan’s work. And like Jesus, we should be angry.
But our anger can turn to hope. This is why Easter matters. Jesus said as much to Lazarus’ sister: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
On Easter we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. When he conquered the grave, he demonstrated that he is indeed God’s son, and his provision for the salvation of our souls satisfied God. We who believe and repent are reconciled to our Creator. Our souls are no longer lost and in danger of facing God’s judgment.
But the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t just mean that our souls will be saved. Because Jesus lives, we too shall live, body and soul. That aging, disease-stricken body of the saint from our church will one day rise again and be united to her soul. John the Baptist, who lost his head but kept his courage, will one day rise again with a renewed body. Lazarus, who rose once only to die again, will rise again permanently, Jesus’ victory over death fully realized.
Easter means that the suffering and decay we endure in our bodies, from the tiniest aches to the most gruesome and painful suffering, is only temporary. Those who are in Christ will one day see our bodies renewed, no longer subject to the decay of the fall.
We often forget this promise. We, souls alienated from God, rightly proclaim that humankind’s greatest needs are spiritual, but we should not neglect the importance of physical promises of Easter. Jesus came to rescue both bodies and souls. His own incarnation ratifies God’s love of human bodies, and his own resurrection offers the promise of healing and hope when he returns in power.
If Easter is good news for our bodies, then how should that affect the way Jesus’ followers think about human bodies? Perhaps it reminds us that the gospel is both individual and social, personal and cosmic, spiritual and physical. It should also motivate us to share this good news with those who haven’t heard.
The gospel is good news for those whose souls are far from God, and it’s good news for those who seek some hope as they endure physical struggles. And as the church moves toward the most vulnerable, she demonstrates the good news of Easter: that in Christ, God’s new kingdom has dawned. It’s a kingdom that is good news for the poor, the vulnerable, and those who live in the shadows, unseen by the powerful.
Easter is the sign that a new day has dawned. Perhaps this is why we celebrate with flower and bright colors, why it’s appropriate that we enjoy Easter in the springtime after a long and hard winter. There is a new creation afoot, and God is calling a new people and a new kingdom. This is good news for the world.
For those of us who know him, this season should preach the individual call of the gospel to repent and should declare the cosmic aspect of the gospel. Our king is on the move, renewing and restoring what sin has destroyed, and the church, where he is present, is a signpost of all that will happen when he returns in glory. As we share the opportunity for reconciliation in Christ and as we move among the most vulnerable with compassion and care, we show the world a glimpse of what is to come.
So as we gather with our families, as we hunt for eggs and dress up in our finest clothes and enjoy meals together, let us do so in the joy of knowing how good Easter is not just for our souls but for our bodies.