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~ The Sacredness of our Bodies ~

A verse in the book of Hebrews provokes an image in my mind of a warrior watching from a mountaintop his army taking a beating in the valley. He cries to his king, “Quick, prepare my armor that I may join and deliver them!” Jesus cried to the Father, [paraphrased] “Prepare a body for Me, that I may join my people and deliver them.” (Hebrews 10:5).

What a sacrifice of love it was for Christ to empty Himself of His divinity and take on the human body! “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7, NIV).

Taking on different bodily forms is not unknown in human folklore. Kafka writes the story of a man who wakes up one morning as a gigantic insect. The Greek writer Homer (who lived hundreds of years before Christ) tells the tale of how the friends of Odysseus were transformed into pigs, but their minds were not, so they suffered. Many of our children learned of the story of the frog becoming a prince and of other tales where an evil entity takes control of a hero's body. These are ancient stories still circulated in the human collective unconsciousness, as Jung would put it.

These examples testify to the to the burden of having a body. I suppose angels must relish not having bodies. No toothaches, no fatigue, no arthritis, so spending hours in a car, train or plane to travel. No need for communication technologies like faxes, email or phones. No need for medical insurance or health care plans. They must mark their birthdays (or creation days) by eons instead of years, but age isn’t a concern to them anyway.

Bodies are burdensome. Mary and Joseph ably attended the needs of Jesus’ tiny body during His formative years. What an awesome responsibility God gave to two human beings! The ways of God boggles my mind!

I don’t know if Jesus ever had a toothache, which is distracting to anyone’s work. But He did need to eat and sleep. He evidently did everything fully…When He ate, he ate, and when He slept, He did indeed sleep.

Recall that sudden storm characteristic of the Lake of Galilee. Sometimes referred to as a “sea,” it is only about 14 by 7 miles in size. It is still subject to sudden and unpredictable weather due to the down pouring of winds from the nearby Mediterranean Sea. Calm water turns into 20-foot waves quite suddenly. And fishermen in those days had no weather radios on board their little boats.

The boat in which Jesus was sleeping was filling with water. The disciples, well acquainted with the moods of the sea feared for their lives. Such fears were rooted in experience, not the baseless paranoia of people who think they are in trouble but really are not.

The wind was howling. The disciples could barely hear each other without yelling. Waves washed over them and Jesus. The water in the boat was up to their wastes. Yet the Master slept!

Jesus subjected His body to tremendous challenges, beginning with His 40 day fast in the desert and ending with His torture and crucifixion. He had a perfect body (though “tempted in every way” as our own.) He disciplined it and His Spirit, “learning obedience through suffering.”

That storm, however, was obviously not a source of suffering or challenge for Jesus. His disciples debated whether they should wake Him up. (But don’t assume Jesus didn’t now what was happening in His sleep. Rather assume He was conscious of everything, asleep or not.)

Many parents know the experience of being in a deafening storm as their children sleep. They know the experience of being able to hear the quiet stirring of their children over the din of the noise. I don’t know how they roused Jesus from His sleep, but the nudging of His children, not the storm, is what woke Him right up.

Jesus took care of the first business, ridding the sea of the storm. Them He attended to the more important one, inquiring, “Where is your faith?” It was though to say, “You know my mission. You know nothing or no one takes my life, for I will offer it at the right time. Do you really think we were going to drown?”

Jesus is in my boat, and I’m in His. It is the same boat for He took on human form to share our afflictions.

My body is cumbersome and frequently (actually daily) annoys my free spirit. So did His. Yet the Scriptures declare our bodies “are the temple of the Holy Spirit.” This too we share with Christ, for He referred to His body as the temple that will be destroyed and yet raised up again in only three days. Jesus ascended into a transformed body and promised we too will share in that resurrection and transformation.

One has to admit that many bodies are not very beautiful. A walk along a populated beach will reveal that. A visit to a nursing home or a refugee camp will also reveal that, along with how burdensome they are to the spirits that inhabits them and how much care they require.

Despite appearances, they are sacred temples of the Holy Spirit. They are to be offered as a living sacrifice to our God.

Again, how inexplicably wondrous and humble of our Christ to choose to call them “temples” of His Holy  Spirit!

Whatever shape you are in, whatever your age (of which we need never to be ashamed), however afflicted through the sin of Adam and our own neglect and abuse, your body and spirit, together, are sacred and prized by Christ. Let us see ourselves as He sees us.

Thus, we will participate in His sufferings and His redemption, whose own body must have looked like a skinned and butchered, blood soaked lamb, hanging on the cross, unrecognizable in human form, on our behalf.

God, through His Son, the Son of God and the Son of humankind, sees the bodies of the starving, of the diseased, of the war-torn, of the weary who aged beyond their years under stress and strife, as well as the bodies we have neglected in the affluent nations of plenty, and says to them all, “I see you as my temple, and I will make my home in you, for you are my living temples, the living stones of the spiritual Zion!” As the psalmist declares, “Who among all gods are like our God, Yahweh!”

With that wondrous mystery comes a response required by God from us: “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to” (1 Corinthians 23-24, NIV). Yes, we are bought at a great price from slavery to the secular world and the sin of Adam. God calls us to keep free of such slavery, and remain faithful to His assignment (situation) for us. What human argument can we pose to our God against this injunction?

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
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Spiritual Resource Services  © October 8, 2004

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