A reflection on 1 Corinthians 15:35-40 for the Seventh Sunday After Epiphany, February 20, 2022.
But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?’ Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.
So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.
What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
1 Corinthians 15:35-50 (NRSVA)
It is something of an age-old question: What is beyond life? Paul points to resurrection.
The apostle, however, does not understand this as a disconnected spiritual existence. Rather, he seems to appeal to a same-different explanation for the nature of resurrection.
Paul’s sowing analogy inherently speaks of the connection between earthly and beyond–earth bodies. The Apostle clearly believes in a a strong relationship between what is sown and what grows. As he insists, ‘to each kind of seed its own body’. Some seeds produce people, some ‘animals’, some ‘birds’, and others, ‘fish’.
And yet, at he same time, seed differs significantly from that which it produces. In the same way, the ‘heavenly’ is not the same as the ‘earthly’. One is ‘perishable’ the other ‘imperishable’; one ‘dishonoured’ the other glorified, and; one ‘week’ the other ‘powerful.
Clearly ‘a physical body’ and ‘a spiritual body’ are not the same.
Connection. Difference. Even improvement.
A deeply hopeful perspective on life, death, and resurrection.
And why wouldn’t it be? After all, this is an articulation of the harvest promised by the ‘first-fruit’ that is the resurrected Jesus.
I see deliberate echoes here of the encounter stories with the resurrected Jesus. In the Gospels, people both recognised and don’t recognise the resurrected Jesus. Jesus could eat and walk through walls. He could reveal crucifixion scars and was completely healed.
Connection and difference.
Perhaps this reality is not best described as a bodily resurrection – but a bodily-and resurrection. Not resuscitation into the old, but resurrection to something new.
Somehow I feel saddened when the invitation to follow Jesus is reduced to a moral code or teaching. I am also, however, saddened when following Jesus is reduced to getting into heaven when I die.
Is either one of these really the entirety of what following Jesus looks like?
What if following Jesus is both learning to love as he did in the hear and now, while at the same time, taking the path from life, through death, and onto a mind-blowing resurrection? If so, this is good news – a picture of a future and a present hope.
Truly, in this God-revealed resurrection path, we find that heaven and earth meet.
Do you think ‘bodily-and’ is a better description of Jesus’ resurrection than ‘bodily’? Why do you respond this way?
How do you respond to the idea that resurrection is inherently connected to our physical existence?