"It is necessary to die in order to be reborn. As soon as you experience impermanence, non-self, and interbeing, you are born again. But if the plant does not become dormant in the winter, it cannot be reborn in the spring. Jesus said that unless you are reborn as a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. Thomas Merton wrote, 'The living experience of divine love and the Holy Spirit...is a true awareness that one has died and risen in Christ. It is an experience of mystical renewal, an inner transformation brought about entirely by the power of God's merciful love, implying death of the self-centered and self-sufficient ego and the appearance of a new and liberated self who lives and acts in the Spirit.' "
-Thich Nhat Hanh
I love that the gospels present the risen Christ in so many different ways. Mary Magdalene encounters a man she thinks is the gardener...but then he calls her name. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus have no idea who their fellow traveler is until he breaks bread with them in the evening. In another story, some other frightened disciples have locked themselves up for protection and experience a visitation of Christ - recognizable from his wounds. Late in John's Gospel, several of the fishermen have gone back to the lake, and are surprised by a man on the beach who turns out to be Christ. There are other stories, including an often neglected one in I Corinthians 15 that says five hundred people once experienced the presence of the Spirit of Christ, but many of them had died by the time the epistle was written.
What I like about this variety is that it sets us free from the idea of a simple bodily resurrection. The Bible stories themselves hint at a Spirit set free from inhabiting one particular body in one place and time. Rather, the risen Christ is presented as present to us in many forms - not to be crass, but a shape-shifter of sorts. Think about what he taught in Matthew 25 - that he is present in the "least of these" brothers and sisters among us. Or how he says, "This is my body..." at the Last Supper. Or how Paul says, "All of you are Christ's body, and each one is a part of it." Hmmm.
The Spirit IS the Spirit of Christ embodied in Jesus of Nazareth, yes, but now set free in the world to live in you, me, and our brothers and sisters in need. We participate in the resurrection today, if we dare.
Christ's Peace, Greg