Did Jesus have a real body after the resurrection?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of whether Jesus had a real body after His resurrection is pivotal to Christian theology and has profound implications for the understanding of the resurrection, the nature of Christ, and the hope of believers. This essay will explore biblical evidence from the Scriptures to demonstrate that the Savior did indeed have a real, physical body after His resurrection.

The Empty Tomb and the Resurrection Body

The Empty Tomb

The discovery of the empty tomb is a foundational aspect of the resurrection narrative, underscoring that Jesus’ body was no longer in the grave.

  • Matthew 28:5-6: “But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.'”

The angel’s announcement highlights that Jesus’ physical body was resurrected, not just His spirit.

  • John 20:6-7: “Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.”

The presence of the grave clothes, with the cloth that had been around Jesus’ head neatly folded, indicates a bodily resurrection. If His body had been stolen, it is unlikely the grave clothes would have been left in such an orderly fashion.

Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Mary Magdalene and the Other Women

Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and then to the other women, demonstrating that He was physically present.

  • John 20:14-17: “Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, ‘Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to Him, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.”‘”

Mary’s recognition of Jesus and her attempt to cling to Him indicate a physical presence, not a mere vision or ghostly apparition.

The Disciples on the Road to Emmaus

Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, engaging in conversation and breaking bread with them.

  • Luke 24:30-31: “Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.”

The act of breaking bread—a physical action—further underscores the reality of His bodily resurrection.

Appearance to the Eleven Disciples

Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem is one of the clearest affirmations of His physical resurrection.

  • Luke 24:36-43: “Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.”

Jesus explicitly invites His disciples to touch Him and observe that He has “flesh and bones,” distinguishing Himself from a spirit. His act of eating further confirms His physicality.

Appearance to Thomas

The account of Jesus appearing to Thomas specifically addresses doubts about the physical nature of His resurrection body.

  • John 20:24-27: “Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.'”

Jesus’ invitation to Thomas to touch His wounds underscores the tangible reality of His resurrected body.

The Nature of the Savior’s Resurrection Body

Real Physical Body

After His resurrection, Jesus had a real body for He said to the disciples,

  • Luke 24:39: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”

Jesus first offered sensory evidence of three kinds in order to convince the disciples that He was a real, material being even after His resurrection. These were: sight, hearing, and the sense of touch. These evidences were given to provide an assurance that He was a real being and not an apparition or a figment of an overworked imagination.

Jesus offered them fourth proof that He is still a real being. He asked for food. And they gave Him broiled fish and honey. And to convince the disciples that He was still a material being, He ate in front of them. The disciples at first thought He was a spirit when He appeared suddenly to them, but after they felt Him and watched Him eat (Luke 24:40-43), they were convinced beyond doubt that He was real.

Forty days later, Jesus led them out to Bethany and ascended to heaven in front of the disciples (Luke 24:50, 51). The angels who appeared to the disciples said to them,

  • Acts 1:11: “This same Jesus [of flesh and bones] … shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

And it was this very confidence in the reality of the bodily resurrection that imparted convincing power to the message the apostles bore to the world.

  • 1 John 1:1,2: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life…” (1 John 1:1, 2 also 1 John 5:20; Luke 24:48).

The disciples saw Jesus with their eyes and touched His body with their hands.

When Jesus came to this earth He did not divest Himself of His divine nature.  The apostle John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And when He returned to the Father, He bore with Him the likeness of humanity. He ascended to heaven, with His body bearing a sanctified holy humanity.

Christ as the Firstfruits

Jesus’ resurrection body serves as the prototype for the resurrection bodies of believers.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:20-23: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

As the firstfruits, Jesus’ resurrection body is the first instance of the glorified bodies that believers will receive.

Implications for Believers

Hope in the Resurrection

The reality of Jesus’ physical resurrection provides a foundation for the hope of believers in their own future resurrection.

  • Philippians 3:20-21: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

Believers look forward to the transformation of their bodies to be like Jesus’ glorious body.

Victory Over Death

Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates His victory over death, providing assurance for believers.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:54-57: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The physical resurrection of Jesus assures believers of their ultimate victory over death and sin.

Conclusion

The biblical evidence clearly supports the view that Jesus had a real, physical body after His resurrection. The empty tomb, His post-resurrection appearances, and the testimony of the apostles all affirm the physicality of His resurrection. This belief is foundational to Christian faith, providing hope for believers in their future resurrection and assuring them of victory over death. As the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep, Jesus’ glorified body serves as the prototype for the resurrection bodies of all believers, offering a profound hope rooted in the reality of His resurrection.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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