The Body of the Risen Christ

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all have accounts of appearances of Jesus to His disciples and followers after His Resurrection. The accounts by Mark, the oldest of these Gospels, are rather cursory and are to be found in the closing verses of the Gospel (Mark, 16:9-20). It should be remarked that many Bible scholars believe that these closing verses were later additions, which could not have been part of the original text of Mark (see, for example, commentary at page 1238 of “The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, Expanded Edition, Revised Standard Version”, 1977). The details of the accounts in the other three Gospels differ in significant respects. Matthew stated that Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” (the mother of James) met an angel at the opened tomb. The angel told them of the resurrection of Christ and asked them to inform the disciples. On their way, they met Jesus, and on greeting them, “they came up and took hold of His feet and worshipped Him” (Matthew, 28:9). In the Gospel of John, two angels were involved and Mary Magdalene was the only woman at the tomb. Moreover, Mary could not hold Jesus because Jesus specifically said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father …” (John 20:17).

Two disciples (Cleopas and another) were on their way to Emmaus, a village seven miles from Jerusalem. As they were discussing the events concerning the crucifixion and the reported resurrection of Jesus, Jesus joined them, asked them questions and started to explain pertinent portions of the Scriptures to them. On getting to their destination, the disciples invited the Risen Christ, whom they still did not recognize, to stay with them for the night. At their home, the unrecognized Jesus sat at table with them. “When He was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished out of their sight” (Luke 24: 30-31). They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24, v.32).

Luke records an appearance to the eleven disciples “and those who were with them” (Luke 24, 33-36). Jesus asked them to behold His hands and His feet, inviting them to handle Him. But they still did not believe. (Luke 24, v. 41). The Gospel of John gives an account of a fishing expedition involving Peter, John, Thomas, Nathaniel, the sons of Zebedee and “two others of His disciples” at the Sea of Tiberias during which the Risen Christ showed up. He invited them to come and eat breakfast of bread and fish. “Now none of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are You?’ They knew it was the Lord” (John 21:12). The question of daring to ask who Jesus was would not have arisen if in appearance and in every way, Jesus was the same as they had always known Him; that is, if He had the same physical body that was already so well known to all of them. The question suggested that there was the possibility of reasonable doubt regarding His identity.

Moreover, in some appearances to the disciples, the Risen Christ entered and exited through shut doors, something that the ordinary physical body does not do and which Jesus did not do before. And as happened in the encounter with the two disciples at Emmaus, the Risen Christ vanished at will. The inescapable conclusion is that the body of the Risen Christ was quite different. It was in fact not a physical body; it was an ethereal body.

Every earthman is a spirit at core but needs material cloaks to be able to function in the World of Matter. These cloaks include not only the physical body but also astral and ethereal bodies and such bodies have organs of perception just as the physical body has eyes, ears, etc. At physical death, the spirit, which is the real human being, drops its physical body and goes on experiencing with the body appropriate to its new environment in the so-called Beyond. One implication of this fact is that, under certain circumstances, even while we are still in our physical body, we can perceive with the sense organs of our other bodies, such as those of the ethereal body. In other words, our ethereal eyes can see the ethereal bodies of departed persons and our ethereal ears can hear their ethereal voices. That is why there are true stories of people encountering dead persons. Because people cannot normally make use of ethereal organs for an extended period, encounters with the dead tend to be brief and fleeting, with the dead persons seeming to appear and disappear rather abruptly. The ethereal body is, of course, different from the physical body in appearance and being of a finer nature than the gross matter of this earth, it can penetrate material objects. Thus, it can enter and exit closed doors.

The mission of Jesus on earth consisted in helping human beings to know the Will of God and to understand how to do this Will in thought, word, and deed so that they may mature spiritually and be able to return to their original home in the Spiritual Realm, in Paradise. To accomplish this mission, Jesus needed the same kinds of material cloaks which every human being on earth possesses. However, Jesus was the Son of God; this, in a spiritual sense, really means that, unlike human beings, the innermost core of Jesus was of the same essence as that of God. Stated differently, Jesus was a Part of God. And being a Part of God, Jesus was bound to reunite with God on completion of His mission on earth. The mystery of the non-recognition or slow recognition of the body of the Risen Christ is explained by the fact that He appeared in His ethereal body and all those who encountered Him were able to do so with the organs of their own ethereal bodies. In his ethereal body, the Risen Christ could enter and leave through closed doors. And as soon as the ethereal organs of those who encountered Him weakened or ceased to function, the ethereal body of Jesus would seem to vanish. It was not the physical body of Jesus that was encountered; it was the ethereal body of the Risen Christ.

Stephen Lampe

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