You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen. (Mark 16:6)
Many Christians have the misconception that the Christian faith is only a spiritual matter. To be sure, the Christian faith involves deep spiritual things; it speaks with God’s authority on spiritual themes such as faith, hope, love and forgiveness. It deals with spiritual beings such as angels and with the spirits of those who have died, and it addresses numerous other spiritual matters.
However, Christianity—unlike any other religion—recognizes the foundational value of the physical. The Christian faith recognizes that God created all things good. He created all the elements of the universe and He created all the laws that enable such elements to interact. Above all, God created physical, biological life—life that is directly dependent upon elements such as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, sodium and the like. To remain alive, a creature must continue to absorb and use such elements through food and respiration. Human beings are not mere “spiritual” beings; they are—in many ways like the animals—biological beings. They are nonetheless far different from the animals, for they were created to be like God, in His image, and they were intended to live forever—as biological beings. If the Creator removes His hand of blessing, biological life spins like a top preparing to fall. Because of spiritual death (being disconnected from God), biological life runs down and ultimately crashes in physical death.
When man rebelled against the Creator and thus became separated from God because of sin, all biological life wobbled toward death. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they immediately became—as God had promised—dead. They were, as St. Paul would explain, dead in their trespasses and sins (Ep 2:1ff). This spiritual death is directly linked to physical death. Spiritual death could not be readily detected, but physical death would be keenly observed. This happened when human bodies ceased to absorb and use those nutrients necessary for biological life. Though only physical death can be quantified, yet both spiritual and physical death are inexorably linked, and they are together essential in defining death. Because of spiritual death, human bodies have genetic problems, age-related ailments, various destructive diseases, debilitating injuries…and ultimately physical death.
When the Son of God became man, He could not be a mere spiritual being; appropriately He became a biological being, He became flesh. He was and still is Mary’s biological son. He was also, unlike the rest of humanity, spiritually alive, that is He was without sin, perfectly connected to God. Consequently His body did not inherit the various ailments that would ultimately bring His physical death. However, out of unfathomable love, He chose to bear our griefs, our sicknesses and our sins (Is 53). He chose to carry all that causes physical death. Physically He was not destined to die a “natural death” but He would allow Himself to be susceptible to the pain and murder inflicted by fallen mankind. Thus the One who should not die, biologically died. His body ceased to be able to absorb nutrients; He died of thirst, He died from lack of oxygen, He died as essential elements bled from His body, He died from physical shock.
Because He is the Son of God, He was able to carry mankind’s spiritual death, but this also meant He had to carry physical death. Then, demonstrating His total victory over sin and all of man’s fallenness, He physically rose from the dead. He rose with a body that is now incapable of death—but it is an actual body. This resurrection came with two wondrous, yet related, results: First, it guaranteed forgiveness and justification, thus undoing spiritual death. Second, it guarantees our physical resurrection.
As surely as Jesus went around performing biological miracles…healing the sick and crippled, giving sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and raising the dead…He now gives the ultimate biological miracle: Our permanent biological resurrection from the grave. Because He lives, we too shall live!