Yes, the body of the risen Jesus was glorified; but it was also physical

Barbieri Cena in Emmaus
The Supper at Emmaus. Attributed to Paolo Antonio Barbieri. (Wikimedia)

The resurrection of Jesus was different from the resurrections of Lazarus, of Jairus’ daughter, and of the son of the widow of Naim. Those people were all raised to continue their earthly lives, and would eventually die again. Jesus rose once and for all and would never die again. (Rom 6:9)

The resurrection of Jesus was also different in that his risen body was in a state of glory. When he appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, they did not recognise him until the breaking of the bread, and then he vanished from their sight. (Lk 24:31) When he appeared to the apostles in the upper room, he entered through closed doors. At the sea of Tiberius he was only partly recognised at first. (Jn 21:1-14)

These aspects of the appearances of Jesus, which make them significantly different from ordinary human encounters, lead some people to the erroneous idea that the resurrection of Jesus was not physical. However the gospels do not allow us that option since other parts of the same accounts show a very definitely physical Jesus.

Our Lord tells the disciples to look at the wounds in his hands and his feet, and to “feel” them. (Lk 24.39) St Luke, a medic himself, uses the Greek word ψηλαφάω that would have been used at the time to mean “to feel” in general, but in particular to palpate as in the doctor poking at your stomach during an examination. Our Lord then asks the apostles if they have something for him to eat, and St Luke gives the details – they give Him some grilled fish and honeycomb which he eats in front of them. On another occasion, the apostle Saint Thomas is asked to put his fingers into the holes that the nails made in Our Lord’s hands. In Galilee, Jesus tells the disciples to come and have breakfast. (Jn 21:12)

It is true, then, that Our Lord’s risen body was in a state of glory: He made use of the characteristics of His risen body to bring the apostles to a living and personal faith in Him, risen from the dead. He enlightened them with a thorough understanding of the scriptures of the Old Testament, showing them that they had been fulfilled in Himself.

But it is also true that Jesus makes a point of showing them unambiguously, and in such a way that they would record it for posterity, that He was physical and tangible in His human body. They could say “It is the Lord!” meaning the same Lord that they had known and loved ever since He first called them to be His disciples.

This is of supreme importance for us because God the Son became a man, so as to communicate His divinity to us. He shared in our human nature, so that we could be “partakers in the divine nature” as St Peter put it. (2 Pet 1:4). The physical resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate guarantee that until the end of time, human beings, made of body and soul, can share in His divine life through Baptism and the Holy Eucharist.
For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Cor 15:21-22)
And as Saint Paul pointed out: if Christ didn’t rise again, then our faith is vacuous.


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