‘I want to raise the question whether... it really matters whether Jesus literally rose from the dead or not? What difference can it make to me or anyone else if the story of the resurrection is just a haunting story of something that never in fact occurred, expressing a nostalgic and tragic sense of the inevitable frustration of the noblest human ideals and aspirations. Or even if it witnesses to the survival and triumph of Jesus in a purely spiritual form, while his body was left to decay in the grave as rubbish of no further importance? The answer is that it matters enormously, for the following reasons.
First, that the incarnation - God becoming man - is not just an idea, a pleasant way for us to think about things, but was an actual intervention by God into the process of the universe, and this had its climax in the resurrection.
Secondly, in the incarnation God assumed human nature in its wholeness, body no less than soul, in order to restore it and regenerate it in its wholeness. Therefore Jesus’ body, no less than his soul, was brought back to life, and not discarded, in his resurrection.
But, thirdly, in his resurrection Jesus’ body is not just reanimated as a kind of zombie but is transformed and glorified, raised to a new level of being... it was the same body which was crucified and laid in the grave, but it was in a totally new condition which overcame the normal limitations of material objects. This casts a great deal of light upon the essential nature and the ultimate destiny of the physical universe; it has long been an accepted principle of Catholic theology that grace does not destroy nature but perfects it; we can expand this in the form that grace neither destroys nor rejects nor ignores nature, but welcomes, needs, perfects and transforms it... [and] we can see the transformation and glorification of the human nature of Jesus in his resurrection as the supreme honour and privilege conferred by God on human nature as such and on the human race.
For the human body of Jesus is the place at which the eternal Son of God has, so to speak, keyed himself into the human race and so into the material universe. The resurrection and transformation of the human nature of Jesus in its totality, which the accounts of the Gospel describe, are the initiation of the transformation of the whole created world in him, the setting loose of the re-creative energy which was encapsulated in the human race when the Word became flesh in the womb of Mary’.
Eric Mascall OGS, 1905-1993
Fr Lee Kenyon