Do We Need A Physical Resurrection?

23 Apr
John 20:19-31
Today we come to the story of Thomas whose critical mind puts him at odds with the other disciples. He needs more that the words of others to confirm the presence of the Christ in the world. He needs to see it for himself.  To be there and engage with the physicality of Jesus the Christ in such a way it proves the words of others.
He needs a personal experience.
We live in a world where we need evidence, proof, the truth. We are always seeking to know, see or experience something before we will attest to its truth, its beauty, its existence. Often we say that you had to be there, you won’t know until you experience it, you have to se it for yourself. We live in a world which channels Thomas into our everyday life and existence. It is the reason we who value rational thought struggle with myth and the primal experience of those who are yet to be seduced by rational thinking. Wisdom eludes us because it cannot be embodied or experienced in the way provable facts and visible evidence can.
And this poses a problem for us all. Was Jesus the product of a miracle, a virgin birth defying all the physical implications of such an event? Did Jesus who was dead on the cross, placed in a tomb and treated with 100 pounds of nard, walk out of the tomb for all intents and purposes as alive as he was before the crucifixion?
Pastor and author Tim Keller, “The Christian Church is pretty much inexplicable if we don’t believe in a physical resurrection.” NT Wright, the Anglican author, argues that without a physical resurrection than can be no viable explanation for the birth of the Christian church.
Both men are examples of our need for evidence, for a physical presence which is, at the same time, beyond the rules and laws of the physical world. Do we need the physical and the miraculous to experience the Cosmic Christ? We may need such if we are only concerned about the man Jesus, if Jesus from Nazareth is the focus of our faith, or if we need an interventionist God to do big things, then perhaps we need the miraculous and the material to maintain our faith. If we only focus on Jesus then I understand where both Keller and Wright are coming from.
But you see it is not about Jesus, it is about the Christ, the Cosmic or universal one who was there at the beginning of all creatures, was present in the life and death of Jesus, and remains with us into the future after this cataclysmic event in the form of the Spirit, the pointe vierge (virgin point) within.
After Jesus, the Christ continues.
This is the crux of our faith, not a belief in the improbable just because, perhaps as some say, God could do the improbable if God wanted to, but a personal experiential faith in the Christ who imbues all with life and gives birth to a life that continues long after the cross. My question is always why does God need to break all the laws to prove God-ness? Why do we always look for these demonstrations of greatness to bolster our faith? Is it more about creating a God that fits into our image instead of finding a God who simply is? If our faith rests only on miracles, virgin births and a physical resurrection is that enough?
David Ewart writes, “John doesn’t care what we see with our eyeballs. He wants us to SEE with our inner eye who Jesus really is –(the Christ). That is why he has written these signs for us. That in SEEing, we might believe; and in believing, we might have the life that is in Jesus (the Christ, not Jesus the human figure).” This is the purpose of Thomas’s critical eye. This is the purpose of the encounter. Thomas doesn’t even touch the physical body. In the end he doesn’t need the physical. He simply needs presence, awareness, the awakening of his inner eye to the truth about Jesus the Christ.[1]
“John is not anti-miracle, but he is critical of the focus on the materiality of miracles and Thomas surely approaches that stance. Blessed are those who believe who did not need the proofs (20:29).”[2] The need for miracles to prove God is God is not what John is about. There is no need for an improbable virgin birth or a risen dead man, what is needed is the capacity to see the invisible – the essence of all being – love – at work in the experience of the Christ.
Thomas arrives and in the presence of his friends experiences the presence, the empowerment, the reality of Christ without the need to verify it by putting his hands in the scars.
I, like John, am not anti-miracle, just don’t need miracles to affirm my faith and in a world committed to the physical and the material we need a counter-cultural faith, a faith that is empowered solely by presence and awareness, by stillness and silence, by the unspectacular and the ordinary, by the authentic and the foundational thread tying us all together. In a world of the spectacular we need the value of the hardly noticeable, almost invisible unspectacular presence of the Christ in our ordinariness.
Yes, Thomas had an experience but it was more than a physical experience, it was an experience that opened his eyes to the truth about the identity of Jesus. It was an awareness of the Christ as the centre of all being, the Alpha and the Omega of all existence. It was not of resurrected human being but of the continuing existence of the powerful presence of God in all life. The resurrection, however it occurred, brought to the disciples and those who experienced it an incredible sense of the enduring and unceasing creative power of the Source of all life and it was sufficient to take them out into the world to face whatever the future held for them.
I don’t need my Jesus to be the result of a rule breaking God, I can not do the intellectual gymnastics to embrace the physical resurrection as a necessary part of my faith experience. And I suspect, in the modern world, many mature believers and thinkers are unable to do so. We do not have to because neither did Thomas in the end.
Christ the source of all life who Thomas saw via his inner eye is sufficient in all Christ’s mystical beauty and cosmic presence for a vibrant faith in this world. We need no thing else. Amen
[1] Parentheses mine.

[2] William Loader

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