The Seventeenth Day of Advent
We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.
1 John 1:1-2
The apostle John was a young man or teenager when he first left his fishing nets to follow Jesus. Decades have passed, as John now puts quill to scroll to tell what he and the other apostles had experienced. They had seen Jesus with their own eyes and touched him with their hands. Jesus was no ghost, no phantom, no apparition, but a real flesh and blood Man revealing “the eternal life that was with the Father”. John would never forget that incredible night when the risen Jesus showed Himself to them and said: “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). John would remember how a hungry Jesus asked them for something to eat and they gave Him a piece of broiled fish (Luke 24:42). John knew first-hand how Jesus experienced temptation, thirst, exhaustion, joy, and disappointment. The Son of God entered the world becoming like us in all things except sin.
It is with urgency that John writes in response to false teachers seeking to subvert the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Infected by a philosophy that saw the physical world as evil and the spiritual as good, they preached Jesus as a disembodied spirit without any physical reality. So John wants readers to know that he and all the apostles really did see and touch Jesus’ human body, sounding the clarion call: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!” (2 John 7)
The implications of this are enormous! If God could come to us in a human body then our bodies are not an enemy to the spiritual life, but a friend. God in human flesh models how we are to live. True spirituality is lived in God-given bodies. God calls us to Christlike living in and through our bodies.
Because God gave us bodies the apostle Paul could write: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?…Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:15, 19-20). In another place Paul asks us to focus on the commitment of our bodies to God as an act of spiritual worship: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). The fact that our bodies are “members of Christ” and that we are to present our “bodies” to Him tells us how much God values the physical state in which we live.
It is significant that the Bible calls the church “the Body of Christ”, not “the Spirit of Christ”. This is the materiality, the physicality of our faith. The pinnacle of Christian worship comes at the moment Jesus takes the bread and commands: “Take, eat; this is my body”(Matthew 26:26). For the church to really act as the Body of Christ in the world, we must first recognize and come to terms with the reality, “I am a body”.
We need not flee from our bodies in seeking to be spiritual. C. S. Lewis warned, “There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature…He likes matter. He invented it.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
God who is Spirit chose to forever clothe Himself in our human flesh and to sanctify it. So as followers of Jesus we do not tolerate our bodies; we celebrate our bodies! We use our bodies to grow closer to God! God so delights in and values our bodies that He will resurrect them and redeem them for the new heavens and the new earth! (Romans 8:18-23).
- Why do you think that John and the other apostles are so adamant about Jesus having a physical body?
- What are some ways Christians might play down the importance of the body?
- What are some ways you can glorify God with your body?
EMBODIED PRAYER: LYING DOWN
We spend a lot of time lying down, which makes this posture of prayer a favorite of many. I do some of my best praying lying down between two and three in the morning. Like their contemporaries, Jesus and His disciples ate Passover lying down, symbolic of being free and no longer slaves in Egypt. Lying down embodies rest and peace, our lives secure in God. David wrote in the Psalms: “I will both lie down and sleep in peace: for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety“ (Psalm 4:8). David liked to think of God while lying down and talking with Him: “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night” (Psalm 63:5-6).
Lying down is symbolic of knowing ourselves cared for by God: “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2). When we are fretful and anxious, God wants us to lie down and experience our rest and safety in Him.
Today, and every day (and night) of the Second Week of Advent pray the Lord’s Prayer while lying down. As you pray let yourself go into God’s strong hands.