I posted a few weeks ago about a philosophy I call “meat puppetry.” It is the idea that our bodies are machines simply being utilized and driven around by our minds. The mind/soul is the control, and the body is subservient. This way of thinking about the mind/body connection is wrong, and leads us into some pretty wrongheaded theology. You can read more about that in my initial post on Meat Puppet Theology. But today, I want to talk about the ultimate example of why bodies are important: JESUS HAD ONE! Jesus was Incarnate.
Not only was Jesus, Son of God, begotten by the Holy Spirit, He was knit together in Mary’s womb. Jesus was a man of flesh and blood, as well as God from God, light from light. I’m not going to do an exhaustive study of all the verses pertaining to the Incarnation (you can look at one such list here), John 1:14 will be sufficient here to illustrate my point:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:14 NIV)
The Word, present from the beginning became Incarnate, or put on flesh, to live and die as one of us. The reason God came to live among us as a human was eloquently stated by Gregory of Nazianzius: “What has not been assumed has not been healed.” (Ep. 101, 32: SC 208, 50)
Christ could not redeem humanity without assuming it fully. At the same time, he would have had no power or authority to extend salvation to us were he not fully God. The blessed miracle of Christ being fully human, and fully divine was necessary so that his death for us was sufficient.
By his taking on flesh, Christ redeemed flesh. Yet, the scandal of God in flesh does not end there…
Every year we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, this year’s was a few weeks back on May 29th. The ascension of Jesus is described by Luke 24:50-53: 50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
I’d like to point out to you, Jesus did not shed his body! His saving work complete, Jesus did not leave behind his body to return to heaven. He ascended, STILL INCARNATE, still in flesh to return to heaven.
What does this mean for us? There are a lot of profound implications here, but the first and foremost is that flesh is important to God.
Flesh is not scandalous, inherently sinful and worthy only of use as a vessel to be quickly discarded after its purpose is finished. No, Jesus’s flesh is worthy of ascension into heaven!
It also means that when we pray, we pray to a God that understands flesh. Jesus knows our limitations, our aches, our pains. He also knows what it means to have a glorified body. We are assured that at the resurrection we too will attain glorified bodies. 1 John 3:2 tells us ” 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. “(1Jo 3:2 NIV)
For my next few posts I’m going to be talking about the mind/body connection within all of us, and how we are to treat our bodies as followers of Christ. We are an Incarnation people! This is a topic near and dear to me as I’ve sinned against my own flesh and God many times in my past. My healing has come only as I’ve learned to value the wholeness of my humanity, my own incarnation. I hope I can share that healing with you in my next post: Confessions of a Priest on Plastic Surgery.
Tracy (The Young Anglican)