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THE resurrection of Christ evidently sustains important relations to the resurrection of mankind. This is Scripturally apparent. Paul makes it the foundation proof of the resurrection of the human family. "Now if Christ is preached that he is risen from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (1 Corinthians xv. 12.)
But while this fact, in some manner, is generally admitted, Christian scholars differ respecting the nature of Christ's resurrection, as well as that of the human family. While most admit that there was a personal appearance of Christ in bodily form after his resurrection, there is a point at issue, whether this was the transformed and immortal body with which he ascended to heaven, or simply his natural body reanimated, but unchanged.
This question is full of interest to the Christian, because it greatly determines the extent of our knowledge respecting the nature of the spiritual body, and its capabilities and mode of existence. Assuming, then, that Christ's resurrection is a pledge of ours, it follows that the significance and force of the pledge is determined by the sense in which it becomes the pattern. For if it is not & pattern of ours, it is in no sense a pledge, other than an assurance that we shall live in some form and manner hereafter. It holds about the same relation of proof to our resurrection, that the reanimation of Lazarus and the widow's son does. It merely confirms the truth of his words, leaving the manner of our resurrection and a future life indefinite. Hence the diversity of opinions respecting the resurrection of the body.
Denying that we have a pattern in Christ, our views of the resurrection become strangely diverse. We naturally drift into the idea that spiritual bodies are as impalpable as luminiferous ether or the air we breathe, or that the resurrection is' past already, or that there is no resurrection. That there were some circumstances in the appearance of Christ to his disciples which might have been incidental, furnishing no positive proof in favor of any theory of his resurrection, and yet carrying weight as they may agree in one direction, will be readily seen. One is, that he was not always immediately recognized by them. While there is nothing decisive in this, it is nevertheless suggestive of some change in his features.
It may be objected that as Christ and angels have assumed varied appearances, so it may be difficult to determine their normal constitution. But this appearance was so uniform to the disciples after Christ's resurrection as to encourage our belief that it was the natural.
As he first appeared to Mary, he had the ordinary look and bearing of a man. (John xx. 14, 15.) She did not know him, though she had so recently stood beside his cross. The expression of his countenance might have been changed. That there was but little, if any, supernatural glory or divine majesty in his appearance is evident in the fact that she supposed him to be the gardener. That there was a striking resemblance to his former likeness is seen in that as soon as Jesus familiarly speaks her name she recognizes him as her Saviour.
The two disciples who walked with him to Emmaus did not know him. But it is said that "he appeared to them in another form (iv Mpa pop??)), and that their eyes were holden." These circumstances—one in Christ and one in the disciples—prevented the recognition. There is nothing unnatural in his joining their company. "He drew near, and went with them." (Luke xxiv. 15.) Whatever the change in his dress or countenance might have been, his appearance was not superhuman. It was not a glorified form, as they regard him simply as a stranger in Jerusalem; "but their eyes were holden" —perhaps miraculously so—that the superhuman appearance of Christ was not seen; or the failure of recognition might have resulted very naturally from their bewildered condition of mind. How was it? It does not appear that there was any change of form when he was recognized by them. The circumstances were similiar to those in Mary's case. Might not the difficulties have been these? Might there not have been so much change, and no more, in the features of Christ as to elude the detection of a careless glance, whereas close observation might have recognized the Saviour in the somewhac changed lineaments of his face? Artists have attempted to produce the sainted features of distinguished persons. While they retain the general expressions of life the features are softened, etherealized, possessing the gleam of conscious peace. Might not the change in Christ's countenance have been similar? The casual observer might not have noticed anything more than the ordinary appearance of the human face, nor the exact likeness of Christ. But thoughtful inspection would have detected both the features of Jesus and the gleaming lineaments of divine glory. Often some slight circumstance will recall the features of one we had almost forgotten; as when a longlost son returning is unrecognized until he speaks in his own peculiar manner the word "mother." So when the Saviour at Emmaus assumes the expressions and attitude in giving thanks so familiar to the disciples, he is at once recognized by them. Hence.it is said, "He was known in (iv)—not at—the breaking of bread."
Another noticeable circumstance in the disciples' intercourse with Christ after his resurrection was their reverential reserve and awe. Respectful silence or cautious inquiry takes the place of the former unrestrained familiarity. Peter's spirit of dictation is broken by the wonderment in which he now beholds his Lord and Saviour. The beloved disciple seems to shrink from that close contact with the person of the Redeemer which he once enjoyed. Those women who once lavished upon him the tender expressions of their love are now found prostrated before him. Thomas seems to have forgotten, in the presence of Christ, what he had told his fellow-disciples would be proof tests sufficient for his faith in the risen Saviour, until Jesus reminds him of it. The "My Lord and my God " reveals the depth of his emotions when this demand is satisfied. Now it is possible that this instinctive shrinking from that familiarity with Christ, once manifest in their intercourse with him, might have been awakened by the awe one naturally would feel in conversing with one who had passed through the grave. The dignity and worth of the Saviour must also have been greatly enhanced, in the estimation of the disciples, by his resurrection. But it is equally possible, and just as probable, that there was an impressive majesty in his appearance which produced it. At the meeting by the sea-side, "None of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord." Jesus forbids the touch of Mary, because he had not ascended to the Father. He evidently demands a greater reserve, and more reverence for his body since its transformation. What reason would there have been for this if no change had passed upon it?
Another circumstance, of perhaps still greater significance, was the mode of Christ's appearing to his disciples. This was sudden; in some instances supernatural. In the first five instances it was so, unless we except his appearing to the two who went to Emmaus; and, in that instance, he miraculously disappeared, vanishing out of their sight. On that evening, and also one week later, the disciples being together, Christ suddenly stands among them, the door being shut. He entered without opening a door. How a material body may enter a room without opening a door may exceed the limits of human philosophy, as well as how the dead are raised. But we are not compelled, in proving the truth of miracles, to tell how they are done. Now we infer that the apostles thought there was some importance to be attached to this mode of his appearance. His sudden and supernatural appearance, his vanishing out of their sight, are circumstances the apostles speak of as worthy of note.
It is true we may call all this simply a miracle, and the Christian heart would be satisfied if this was the limit of our knowledge. But does our philosophy end here? Was it simply to perform a miracle that the Saviour thus comes among them? If so, it seems to be the only instance in which our Saviour adopts a mode of action simply for a miracle. But the apostles were in no need of miracles. They had accepted Christ as the true Messiah, and had abundant proof that he was. Is it not more rational to suppose that Christ's conduct, in these instances, was in natural harmony with the capabilities of his spiritual body? His appearance and departures were different from what they were before his death. Then he lived with his disciples, and wandered with them over the plains and hills of Palestine. No miraculous advent, or sudden exit. But now, how brief the time he spends with them. The mode of his advent is supernatural. He is no longer dependent upon any known physical laws of locomotion, nor embarrassed by them. And yet he possesses a body composed of palpable flesh and bones.
The natural answer, then, to the inquiry, Whence this change in the mode of his appearance? is, that there was a transformation in his resurrection-body. His resurrection was something more than a reanimation. He came forth from the grave with a body of new capabilities.
Before entering upon the more positive proof of the nature of Christ's resurrection-body, we wish to consider some objections urged against the ground we now maintain. It has been asserted by by some writers that Jesus still retained the "unhealed and ghastly wounds") in his body, which the disciples not only saw, but handled; that nothing so unsightly would be admitted in his body prepared to be glorified; that if this was the identical body which arose to heaven as the pattern of ours, its glory must be tarnished by such wounds and scars as he received for our sins. Now there is no proof that they were unhealed—that they were raw and ghastly. The print of the nails was there, perhaps an opening in his side; but not, as we suppose, tender and sore, for the disciples handled them. Now that such marks of suffering, even if essentially unaltered in the reassuming of his former glory, should detract from that glory, or from the interest the heavenly host will have in him, seems both unnatural and unscriptural. It is not in the nature of a sanctified heart to find repulsion and disgust in the marks of suffering in a Saviour. So far from Jesus being less lovely and glorious, undoubtedly because of these a stronger emotion of attachment will be awakened. I believe for these the heavenly hosts will praise him. Does a loved daughter, snatched from the devouring fire through the sacrificial love of a mother, see less to love and admire in that mother because of the scars she bears for that devotion?
The Scriptures, in a prophetic view, represent Christ as coming forth from the conflict with the sanguinary stains of the battle-field still upon him. He is said to be red in his apparel, and his garments stained with blood. But these are his glory. When interrogated respecting them, he holds his blood-red garments up as the sign and pledge of his greatness, and exclaims, "I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." (Isaiah lxiii.) Hence, in this condition, he is called "Glorious in his apparel." So these scars, even in a glorified body, may appear as the insignia of his glorious work.
Perhaps one of the strongest arguments against the view we now advocate may be drawn from what Paul says: "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians xv. 50), as compared with what Christ says of his resurrection-body: "A spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." (Luke xxiv. 39.)
We confess that the words of the apostle seemingly conflict with the idea that Christ arose with his immortal body. But only seemingly. We believe the discrepancy in the two assertions furnishes the key to a perfect reconciliation on this very ground. Jesus asserts that his resurrection-body is composed of tangible flesh and bones. "Handle me and see." And he took food, and ate before them. In this assertion he occupies the resurrection stand-point. He has experienced the transformation in the flesh, in which state the blood is