With what body did the resurrected Jesus appear to his disciples

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The nature of the body with which Jesus resurrected is not an indifferent question for the Christian, because it is with a body similar to that of the Resurrected One that we too will resurrect.

Risen from the dead, Jesus appears to his disciples. Now, in the Gospel of the Third Sunday of Easter, it is written that some of them believe they see in him a spirit devoid of body ( Lk 24:37 ). To disabuse them, Jesus asks them for something to eat. But what nature is his body during these appearances with which, after his rise from the dead, he eats with his disciples, allows himself to be touched, speaks: all operations which need a body to be carried out? Because, after his resurrection, Christ is both the same and another: Mary Magdalene and the pilgrims to Emmaus do not recognize him! Under these conditions, the question arises: with what body does he appear to them at Easter? 

All the accounts of Jesus’ appearances suggest that he was resurrected with a body of his own, which belongs to him and individualizes him. However, this body, if it is indeed its own, is now in a completely new condition of life, a new state which frees it from the biological conditions of our earthly life by allowing it to modify its forms of manifestation. Furthermore, this same body is no longer subject to space-time: it manifests itself where it wants and when it wants. Is this still a human body? Yes, the body of the Risen One is indeed human because it serves as a mediation for him to manifest himself to others according to the human process of interpersonal communication which is ours and which wants the person to express himself through his body. This is the sign of the human person: voice, gestures, gaze, etc. It is no different for the body of the resurrected Jesus. 

A transfigured body accessible to faith alone

The body of the Risen One is indeed the same as that given to him by the Virgin Mary. This is the meaning of the empty tomb. Jesus resurrects with the body that was tortured on Good Friday. However, this body is now transfigured by the Holy Spirit, it is glorified because it has entered the divine world. Indeed, Christ was not glorified only in his spirit but also in his body. This bodily transfiguration allows him to enter into communication with all men because he is now beyond the limits of space-time.

Moreover, the sacramental presence of Christ in the Eucharist would be incomprehensible without the transfiguration of his body. It is through the mediation of his glorified body made sacramentally present by the effective sign of the consecrated bread: “This is my body which is for you” ( 1 Cor, 11,24 ), that Jesus enters into communication and communion with us at Mass. Like the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the mystery of the glorified body of the Risen One is located at a level of knowledge and perception that is not that of our usual sensory perception. Also, this mystery presupposes the understanding of faith given by the Holy Spirit ( Jn 6:63 ). The resurrection of Jesus is not the return to his previous state of life, in which case our senses would be able to apprehend it. The Resurrection is, on the contrary, the transformation of one’s carnal being into a being of glory, totally spiritualized by the Spirit. 

A body that particularizes Jesus

But the body of the Risen One constitutes his own body, a body which distinguishes him and by which he is recognized by the gesture of sharing bread at Emmaus ( Lk 24:31 ) or by his voice in calling Madeleine by her name: “Married !” ( Jn 20:16 ). Voice and gesture of sharing bread: it is indeed the body of Jesus which performed these two acts – acts which belong only to him since it is through them that his disciples end up recognizing him. Indeed, our voice distinguishes us, as do certain gestures and certain bodily attitudes. We are recognized by our voice. Through our bodies, we are all unique. Some gestures belong only to us. It is the same for the Resurrected One. His body is indeed his own while being different from what it was before when Jesus shared our mortal condition…

Eternal life is not an undifferentiated ocean

Mystery of a spiritual body — an oxymoron! — which anticipates the mystery of our future and eternal life in the Kingdom… We will then be freed from earthly limits (and from our selfishness!), transfigured by the Spirit while remaining ourselves. We will not merge with Brahman, the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism because the divinity which will then welcome us is a communion of three divine Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit, not an undifferentiated ocean. This is why our spiritual body will allow us, like that of Jesus, to enter into communication with God and other elect with our personality. 

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