Jesus returned to heaven completely different from when he left it to become our Savior.
I read that idea in Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for his Highest, the April 8 reading. I don’t know if I ever thought about Jesus that way before.
This past Sunday was Easter. Resurrection Sunday. The basis for Christianity. The reason for hope.
He is risen!
And without a physical church to go to, it was hard to focus on why we celebrate, the difference Jesus’ death and resurrection makes for me.
I never thought about the difference it made for him.
Chambers writes, “When our Lord rose from the dead, He rose to an absolutely new life – a life He had never lived before He was God Incarnate. He rose to a life that had never been before.”
I’ve been thinking about it all week.
How strange did it have to be in the first place for Jesus to become a person. He went from being everywhere all the time, to confined in the skin and bones of a human being.
It’s more than I can grasp, what God is capable of doing as a spiritual being with no boundaries.
Yet Jesus let himself be bound in the 24/7 of life on earth, for the sole reason that we people needed someone to save us. Someone not only good, but sinless.
Genesis 3 talks about how sin entered the world and that one day Eve’s offspring would crush Satan under his heel.
And that day came, and we celebrate it as Easter.
So I’ve been thinking this week about Jesus and how he was more different yet, in a brand new way, when he rose from the dead on the third day and walked out of that tomb.
He had lived as a baby, a child, a teenager, a young man, working and learning and growing in knowledge and wisdom.
He never sinned.
That’s so hard to wrap my head around, because opportunities and temptations to choose the wrong option come to me every day. If they came to him as frequently, he spent a lot of time consciously saying no so that he could show us all a better way to live our own lives.
He was out in the desert alone and tempted by Satan for 40 days early in his public ministry.
I wish I could know more about how, specifically, he was enticed. But God chose not to tell us the details. And maybe that’s for a reason.
So that whatever it is each one of us is tempted to do, we can imagine Jesus being faced with a similar choice.
Yours may not seem like a big deal to me, and mine may seem silly to you, but they were all real to Jesus. He was tempted in every way scripture tells us. So I believe that all the ways that any person can, is, will be tempted, Jesus went through it.
He heard every lie from Satan and he was able to resist and stand firm.
Another mystery is what was happening to Jesus between his death on the cross and his resurrection.
I heard possibilities when I was a child that I can’t find in the Bible now. All I know is that when Jesus rose from the dead, God’s face was no longer turned away from him, and he sent his angels to roll the stone away that covered the tomb.
The sin of the world he had carried on to the cross was gone, and his relationship with the Father was fully restored.
Jesus didn’t appear the same, or at least those who knew him weren’t able to recognize him. Again, it doesn’t say, but it seems all the wounds from the lashes, the beatings and scourging were gone. His raw, oozing sores, skin hanging from his limbs, would have made him instantly recognizable.
Except the nail holes in his hand, the hole where the spear had pierced his side. Those he had Thomas, one of his disciples, feel to prove he was really Jesus.
And as far as we know, just a few weeks later when he ascended back into heaven, he carried those scars with him.
He lived in a body like ours, and as his time to suffer and die drew very close, he asked God if there wasn’t some other way.
That right there always strikes me as so thoroughly human. I can syke myself up to do something hard, and at the last minute be searching desperately for an easier way to get the job done. Or better yet, call it off until a more convenient time.
Jesus was human like me. But unlike me he was also God, and he refused to give in to those very human fears. He was willing to follow through, to do whatever Father God required of him.
And look at him on Easter morning! Not only free of agonizing wounds, but alive!
Here’s the unknowable part. When Jesus rose from the dead he still appeared as a man, but he was no longer bound by the laws of this earth. He appeared here and then there, walked through closed doors, traveled distances quickly. People who knew him didn’t recognize him, and then later they did. And eventually he rose into the clouds, ascending back to heaven.
Did he resent those few weeks being chained here, eager to return to the Father? Or did he see us all in a brand new way, now that the plan had been a success?
When I read Chambers’ devotion, it made me think that every person Jesus saw or thought about, what he was thinking was how much he wanted every one of them to feel what he was feeling, to be totally and forever alive in a body that was changed and ready for eternity.
Far from begrudging this world a little more time, I imagine he was eager to get on with his new life, this life he had never lived before.
Because now he had done it. He had conquered death. He had made a way to live forever. And he needed to get back to work, doing what his few short years on earth had equipped him to do.
Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us as you read this.
Not one minute of his time on earth was wasted. He stored it up, learned from it all, became intimately aware of every temptation we could face, felt the feelings we feel.
And now, in heaven, there are no philosophical discussions of what a person might feel like if this or that trouble came to them.
There is God the Father in control of all that happens, and Jesus looking him in the eye saying, “Let me tell you how this feels, what they are going through.”
Redeeming every minute of time he spent on this earth for our good.
So that we can join him, doing our forever jobs, when our few years on this earth are over and we also start living our more real and eternal lives.