The Fleshly Body of Jesus
WHEN Jesus was on earth was he really fully a human creature? Was he altogether a man? or was he an incarnation, part man and part spirit, divinity clothed upon with a fleshly body and appearing to be human, but yet partly spiritual, divine?
The Scriptures abound with evidence that Jesus was God’s high priest and underwent temptations such as humans are susceptible to. (Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 2:17, 18) Does it not seem unreasonable that Christ Jesus would practice deception or would appear to be something that he really was not? Would it not be deception for the Son of God in the flesh to claim to be suffering all the temptations and undergoing all the hardships to prove himself to be a worthy high priest for mankind and really not be a man, but be above the possibilities of human temptation and sin?
Jesus was on earth to prove his blameless integrity, to be the perfect answer to Satan’s challenge that Jehovah God could not put men on the earth who would be faithful to him under the Devil’s assaults. If he was not a man, would he not have failed to answer Satan’s challenge? Jesus, God’s only-begotten Son, the Word, became flesh. The apostle John says: “So the Word became flesh.” (John 1:14, NW) Yes, he was no incarnation or materialization of a spirit person to a fleshly body parading as a man during his 33 1⁄2-year residence on earth in the flesh. He was a perfect man, having a perfect human body of flesh and blood, a perfect human organism.
THE MIRACLE OF JESUS’ HUMANITY
How, then, was it accomplished that this One, with a past of untold millions of years in the heavens, became a human and was lowered to this position to fulfill God’s purposes? Jehovah God, by his almighty power, was able to take the personality of his only-begotten Son, his life pattern, with its tested qualities of integrity over millions of years of faithful service, its complete and whole-hearted devotion to Jehovah God, and put this personality within the reproductive powers of the tiny bundle of live energy that he inserted into the womb of the virgin Mary. Thus the child Jesus was born with all the marvelous qualities of integrity in him just as a child inherits qualities from his father. Also, according to God’s laws governing inheritance Jesus received from his mother Mary certain features of body and certain of Mary’s faithful and loving characteristics. But having a perfect Father as his life source, he did not inherit imperfection from his imperfect mother Mary. He was not another personality or a different person, but he was the only-begotten Son and was able to identify himself later as such. By process of natural growth Jesus matured: “And the young child continued growing and getting strong, being filled with wisdom, and God’s favor continued upon him.”—Luke 2:40, NW.
The fact that Jesus was not an incarnation or a materialization is proved by the cases where his body tired and was refreshed by rest and food. (Mark 4:38; 6:30-33; Luke 8:23; John 4:6) This shows that he understood what it meant to be tired, that he had merely a human body with its capacities and limitations as designed by God, yet being perfect and able to live forever just as Adam and Eve’s bodies could have existed forever had they remained faithful.
When Jesus was baptized at the age of thirty he was a perfect man, the exact equivalent of Adam, who was perfect in Eden. Jehovah accepted Jesus’ dedication and put upon him the obligation by which Jesus would sacrifice his perfect human life as a ransom for the sins of all mankind. Now God would not accept a sacrifice that had any blemish or fault in it, but only that which was perfect. (Ex. 12:5; Deut. 15:21; 1 Pet. 1:19; Matt. 3:17) Therefore we can see that the thirty-year-old Jesus, although he ate the food that was eaten by the people of his day, was not deteriorated in body by it, but remained perfect.
At the time that he was baptized by John in Jordan the heavens were opened to him, meaning that he received an understanding of things in the heavens. At this time, then, and during his forty-day temptation and training period in the wilderness, it was recalled to him that he had had prehuman existence with the Father. Now, merged with his personality was all the remembrance of his past life, and his personality was greatly enriched and strengthened by having these things recalled to him.
JESUS’ FLESHLY BODY DISSOLVED
What happened to the perfect fleshly body of Jesus after his death? Was it preserved so that in time men will look upon it in worship? or does Jesus still have this fleshly body in the heavens, “spiritualized” so that it can be seen and worshiped? Neither. The Scriptures answer: It was disposed of by Jehovah God, dissolved into its constituent elements or atoms.
Jesus was the antitype foreshadowed by Moses, the great mediator and leader of the congregation of Israel. God himself disposed of Moses’ body by burial, and “no man knoweth of his sepulchre”. (Deut. 34:5, 6) Later, one of the Christian writers says that Michael had a dispute with the Devil over the body of Moses. (Jude 9) The Devil desired to get the body of Moses the great leader and to use it as an object of worship to draw the Israelites away from their true invisible Commander and Leader, Jehovah God. With stronger desire the Devil wanted to obtain the fleshly body of Jesus after his death to induce some to worship it and use it for indecent false religious purposes, thus reproaching Jehovah God. But Jehovah thwarted the Devil’s purpose in both cases by disposing of the bodies of these two faithful men.
Moses’ body returned to the dust by process of decay, as all human bodies do, but not so in Jesus’ case, for it is written: “For thou wilt not leave my soul to Sheol; neither wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption.” (Ps. 16:10, AS; Acts 2:31) So God caused Jesus’ body to disappear, but not corrupt, meaning that it was dissolved, disintegrated back into the elements from which all human bodies are made.—John 20:1-13.
JESUS RESURRECTED WITH SPIRIT ORGANISM
The resurrected Jesus was given a spirit body: “He being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:18, NW) “Whom not one of men has seen or can see.” (1 Tim. 6:16, NW) Paul merely caught a glimpse of the glory of Jesus’ spirit body and was blinded. (1 Cor. 15:8; Acts 9:17, 18) At the resurrection of his faithful followers in whom God has cultivated heavenly hopes they will be given, not fleshly, but glorious spirit bodies. We all know what a fleshly body is like. But John says: “Beloved ones, now we are children of God, but as yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be. We do know that whenever he is made manifest we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is.”—1 John 3:2, NW.
When Jesus was on earth he was said to be “lower than the angels”. Man is lower than angels. Certainly one who is in the flesh is lower than one who is in the spirit. God often contrasts flesh and spirit. (Ps. 8:4, 5; Heb. 2:9; Isa. 31:3) Could you believe that Jesus Christ, the majestic King of the new world, made higher than all other creation, would remain in a body of flesh? He would be inferior to a spirit and far too limited to accomplish the marvelous things required of such King, among them the destroying of the mighty spirit person Satan the Devil.
A human body requires earthly elements for its continued existence. It is made for the earth and must subsist upon the things produced from the earth. (1 Cor. 15:40, 47; Isa. 45:12, 18) God does not violate his own laws that he has established to govern natural things. Therefore he would not take a human body out of its proper habitation and transfer it to the heavens, the realm of spirit persons.
HIS POST-RESURRECTION APPEARANCES
What about the bodies in which Jesus appeared after his resurrection? He manifested himself on one occasion in a body that had wounds into which Thomas was able to place his hands to prove that Jesus was the same person, resurrected, whom Thomas had known as the Master. But if Jesus took his human body to heaven to keep these wounds forever, this would be contrary to God’s laws governing fleshly bodies and their ability to repair themselves. Moreover, if Jesus sacrificed his human body for the life of the world and then took it back, retaining it for himself, he could not offer such merit before God in behalf of others. The ransom would be taken back, leaving mankind still in their sins.
So these bodies that Jesus appeared in after his resurrection were materialized bodies. Similar instances occurred in ancient times, such as when the three men visited and ate with Abraham, and those appearing to Lot, in each case being angels who materialized in the form of men. Jesus’ materialized bodies were signs, evidences to eyewitnesses proving he had been resurrected according to the promise of Jehovah God.—Gen. 18:1-22; 19:1-16; John 20:29-31.
The proofs that these were bodies materialized for the occasion are many. Mary, when she first saw Jesus after his resurrection, did not recognize him, thinking that he must be the gardener. On the road to Emmaus, he was recognized by his manners and actions, not by his facial features. (John 20:14-16; Luke 24:13-32; Mark 16:12) When he materialized a body with wound marks to convince the doubtful Thomas, Jesus appeared in a room with locked doors. (John 20:26-28) This shows that he could materialize and dematerialize a body instantaneously. Scientists claim the ability to make material substance out of pure energy. How easy for the power of the resurrected Jesus, then, to materialize a body!
Now about the scripture that says: “While they were speaking of these things he himself stood in their midst and said to them: ‘May you have peace.’ But they were terrified, and because they became frightened they were imagining they beheld a spirit. So he said to them: ‘Why are you troubled, and why is it doubts come up in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you behold that I have.’” (Luke 24:36-39, NW) Surely, some will contend, this shows that he was not a spirit, but a “spiritualized” fleshly body. No, but these men thought that they saw a vision, or a manifestation to them such as the manifestation of the angel to Daniel, which caused him to fall down with fear.—Dan. 10:4-9.
Since flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, Jesus could not go to heaven with a fleshly body. “Ah,” some will argue, “Jesus did not here say he was flesh and blood, but flesh and bones.” But would it have been reasonable for Jesus to say, ‘See, I am flesh and blood,’ when no blood was running from his body? But it was easily evident to the senses of sight and touch that he had flesh and bones.
So then, those who refuse to recognize the signs of Jesus’ invisible presence because of looking for his coming in a body of flesh are mistaken. So also those who try to worship him today as the baby Jesus, in the face of the evidence that he grew to human manhood, died and was resurrected a mighty spirit person. It is not the baby Jesus that God commanded all to worship, nor the fleshly body, but Christ Jesus the glorified heavenly King of the new world.