This phenomenon has been occurring sporadically over the past couple months.
I get a call on my phone in the middle of the day. It’s a live, polite person reciting a scripted reading reminding me of my medical appointment tomorrow.
I’m sorry, I don’t know what you are talking about. I don’t have an appointment with you tomorrow?
Is this not Justin Boyer?
Yes. This is Justin Boyer?
Well I have right here that you have a dental appointment tomorrow at 9am for a semi- emergency tooth repair.
Uhm… My teeth are fine.
Is this Justin Boyer of [address]?
What are the last 4 digits of your social?
Yes, we have you scheduled for tomorrow so you can come on in at 9am.
I don’t have an appointment with you tomorrow!
Is this Justin Boyer?
Mistaken identity… things can go very bad if we think we know who we are talking to or what we are talking about and have it not be the correct person/idea. If we mistake the embodiment of a thing simply for its name, if we have the form but not the substance, and start living out of that perceived reality, things can go wrong.
So in my personal life example, I could be being charged for expensive medical care and procedures that I simply did not receive and yet all my information is intertwined. Secondly, if my medical history and “Justin Boyer”’s medical history get intertwined, both of us could be in big trouble from a health provision standpoint. I might be allergic to something that could save his life; he might have had his appendix out and so there’s no way that my appendix could be the problem because I don’t have one even though I do.
For today’s post I’d like us to try to untangle a little bit of gospel from “gospel” and resurrection from “resurrection”, because we can be saying the same words but meaning different things which then has different implications. More importantly, we can be misplacing our perception of what something is rather than what the 1st Century Christians saw, experienced, and meant by the use of their language of gospel and resurrection.
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)
The Gospel should not be mistaken as good advice, of a “this is how you should live, this is how you change, this is how you straighten out your life” mentality. Does how you live matter? Absolutely. That might be Christian living, or discipleship, or Jesus ethics, which can all be good, but it’s not the Gospel.
Likewise, the Gospel shouldn’t be mistaken as a good idea, of a “this is how you should think, this is how you should feel, this is the concept we should gather around” mentality. Does orthodoxy matter? Yes. Does emotional/relational interaction matter? Heck yeah. Those things might be truth teaching, and prophecy, and community, and your existential existence, which can all be good, but they aren’t the Gospel.
The Gospel, quite literally, is good news. Advice wants to tell us what should happen; ideas, what could happen. But news… that tells us what has happened; specifically what has happened that has changed some part of our world, or in the case of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, what has happened that changed the cosmos.
This is the Gospel:
Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the scriptures
He was buried
He was raised on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures
And He appeared [to many]
If we mistake the gospel, if we receive, stand in, and hold fast to it as good advice or good ideas, we believe in vain. But is we receive, stand in, and hold fast to the Gospel as it really is, as good news, we are then being made whole through the person of Christ. Something needed to change outside of ourselves before the possibility of change happening inside ourselves.
There are two and a half ways we mistake the resurrection from what actually happened to Jesus. There is our modern day religious mistake which is somewhat tied to the Gnostic mistake which is the opposite of the materialist mistake.
The religious mistake is that we can think resurrection means “going to heaven”, we think the term resurrection is simply a metaphor for heaven (but it’s not) and informs our eternal life as something that is in the future and we simply need to escape “this world.”
Heaven has become muddled so much over the past few hundred years. And I’m not smart enough to exactly know why or change our cultural mindset, but there are a couple things I can observe and say in spirit and truth.
- It’s easy to make heaven and hell idols, exalting them above Jesus, hence the gospel becomes good advice, how-to go here or how-not-to go there.
- Heaven without the person of Christ is not heaven, it’s actually hell, hence the gospel become a good ideal, removes the historic and the truth that heaven is where God dwells.
- Heaven is not our final state or destination with Christ, the new heaven and a new earth is (read revelation 21+22).
- By saying “raised on the third day”, Paul did not mean Jesus went to heaven.
Did Jesus go to heaven and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? Yes. But that is the ascension, not the resurrection.
The religious mistake leads into the Gnostic mistake. One of the key tenants of Gnosticism is the thought that spirit is good and the body is bad. This plays into mistaken resurrection by thinking that resurrection means that just the soul or the spirit is raised, that resurrection is you shedding your flesh and taking up your t:rue entity” as a disembodied ghost or soul. But resurrection is not an abandonment of the body.
However, resurrection is not just the resuscitation of the body either, which is the materialistic mistake. The resurrection of Lazarus and the resurrection of Jesus were different. Lazarus was a miracle healing resuscitation of the same body, which is crazy to begin with, but Jesus’ resurrection was something more. Lazarus was going to die again. What a rough thought. But this resurrection of Christ was not just a resuscitation of the same body.
Here are a couple snapshots of what we see Jesus do post-resurrection…
- The tomb was empty, which means there was no body. If the resurrection was about a soul being raised there would still have been a body. If resurrection was about an entirely new/separate body, there still would have been a body.
- Ate some fish – Here Jesus appears with some of the disciples and they are startled and think they saw a ghost. Jesus says: Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have. They still marveled then he ate some fish.
- Walked through walls and appeared. C. S. Lewis talks about this in one of his books. He says something along the lines of Jesus’ body was actually more solid than the physical space around him. Much like we can “walk through” a waterfall, Jesus could walk through walls.
- Thomas touched his wounds. The marks of the past were still there. The fact that Jesus’ resurrected body still blows my mind… what marks, what scars will we bear in our “new” bodies
- Ascended into heaven, was carried up. I can’t fly. Can you?
On one hand, there seems like there is a resuscitated body that is touchable, and can eat, and has somewhat similar characteristics as our current bodies. On the other hand, it seems like Jesus abandoned his body as it had spirit like properties. Take both those hands and clap them together, for neither standing by itself is the whole picture, but smashed together create something beautiful.
I think a good word that all of these point to is transformation. Jesus’ body was not abandoned, neither was it simply resuscitated, it was that his physical body was transformed, some type of embodiment albeit with new characteristics and properties.
Resurrection produces transformation.
As Christians, I believe our future (along with the truth, prophecy, and promises contained within our faith) informs our present. How does rethinking the resurrection within the Gospel speak to our perspective on eternal life now?
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 ESV)