The God of the Living

He is not a God of the dead, but of the living; for all live unto him.

— St. Luke 20:38

Let us inquire what is meant by the resurrection of the body. With what body do the resurrected come? Surely we are not required to believe that the same body is raised again; that is against science, common sense, and Scripture. St. Paul represents the matter quite otherwise. A man’s material body will be to his consciousness at death no more than the old garment he throws aside at night, intending to put on a new and a better in the morning. Yet not the less is the doctrine of the Resurrection needful as the very breath of life to our longing souls. Let us know what it means, and we shall see that it is precious.

What is the use of this body of ours? It is the means of Revelation to us. It is by the body that we come into contact with Nature, with our fellow-men, with all their revelations of God to us. It is through the body that we receive all the lessons of passion, of suffering, of love, of beauty, of science. It is through the body that we are both trained outwards from ourselves, and driven inwards into our deepest selves to find God. It is no less of God’s making than the spirit that is clothed therein. We cannot yet have learned all that we are meant to learn through the body. How much of the teaching even of this world can the most diligent and most favored man have exhausted before he is called to leave it! Is all that remains to be lost? Who that has loved this earth can but believe that the spiritual body of which St. Paul speaks will be a yet higher channel of such revelation? 

Commentary

by Stephen Carney

Flower Gardens and Cemeteries

By Stephen Carney

 

“Yet not the less is the doctrine of the Resurrection needful as the very breath of life to our longing souls.  Let us know what it means, and we shall see that it is precious,” writes MacDonald in his sermon entitled, “The God of the Living.”  The Resurrection seems such a misunderstood subject by so many and it can be very confusing if we fail to study it in depth.  I do not claim to understand it in it's entirety, but will be happy to share with you what I have seen in the glimpses I have of it.

MacDonald alludes to Paul's words in I Corinthians 15, where Paul makes this extraordinary statement: 

“But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?”  You fool!  That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else.  But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own...So also is the resurrection of the dead.  It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” 

Paul begins by picking up on the words of Jesus, speaking of his own death and resurrection, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  (JN. 12:24)  The image of Resurrection is clear to Jesus and Paul, for God has made it evident to us in creation.  A seed falls to earth, dies and decomposes, with the results that a new body is formed.  If one should take a small flower seed and look at it thoroughly, one could not imagine the flower that can emerge from that seed.  It is tiny and brown and so small, and yet, its death brings forth the most beautiful of violets or daffodils.  A small seed of wheat brings forth great plants that feed families.  A grain of corn can grow into a might stalk seven feet tall! 

The proof of Resurrection is all around us, God has imprinted it in every springtime and reminds us that things must die before they are really changed.  It is why we send flowers to funerals.  It is not for sympathy or sentimentality, but to remind the families of the Resurrection.  I often tell families at the graveside, “There are no cemeteries here, these are God's flower gardens awaiting the Resurrection.”  For our bodies must go “from ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” all to await the Resurrection.

 We know that when we die our soul goes to be with the Lord in paradise, and to “be absent from the body” is to “be present with the Lord.”  So our dear departed are at a place of great rest and peace in the Lord.  But the body awaits the Resurrection.  It awaits final transformation. This mortal must put on immortality, we must be raised from the dead.  How else do we explain such Scriptures as Revelation 20:13 “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it..”  Or Jesus in John 5:28-29,“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” 

Though our souls are with Jesus, our bodies still must be raised, or it isn't resurrection.  Some people misunderstand this, and talk of Lazarus being resurrected; indeed he was brought back from the dead and came forth from the tomb, but this is not the type of Resurrection of which Paul and Jesus are speaking.  Jesus' body was not left in the tomb, it was raised and his body was made immortal.  For this to be Resurrection proper, the body must be raised incorruptible and put on the heavenly glory as if it were its new clothes.  The body must be raised in such a way that it can be united with the soul and be eternal.  Therefore it must be changed. 

“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him...” Just as Jesus emerged so gloriously changed from his tomb, so we too must be HIs image and likeness.  The seed of our bodies must be decompose, whether at sea, burned into ashes and scattered with the wind, buried in the earth or destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, the little seed of what we were remains and will one day hear the voice of God calling it and the shall the graves be opened and the sea will give up it's dead and then “In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, we shall all be changed.” Indeed, there are no cemeteries, just flower gardens, waiting, waiting and waiting, for the trumpet to sound, for spring to come and God shall have his flowers.