And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." Then he led them (out) as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God. (Lk 24:46-53)
We are at the celebration of the feast of ascension. All our minds are filled with questions: What sort of a body did Jesus have? How could it appear and disappear? How could it be solid and real and at the same time be ghost like? How could it be at the end carried into heaven? This is the hardest thing to grasp about. Paul takes the whole chapter 15 in his first letter to the Corinthians to explain and yet it is nor clear for us.
Resurrection is not just ‘life after death’ or ‘going to heaven’. For the first century believer it is a ‘new embodied life’ in God’s new world. The new body is not identical to the previous one. In the new creation which is parallel to the original creation, God will make a new type of material, no longer subject to death, out of the old one. In Jesus’ case this happened right away, without his original body decaying, so that the new body was actually the transformation of the old one. This new body will belong in both the dimension of God’s world, in both heaven and earth. This new body will be at home in both heaven and earth. Since our minds are conditioned by the world of sin and death it finds it difficult to adjust to God’s world. This is the challenge of the Gospel.
Then, why did not Jesus continue to live with us till today? It will take one’s life time to answer this. It will take the whole history of the church to answer this. Jesus gives a very practical answer which points to the whole mission of the church. The church is to be rooted in the scripture and active in mission. “Repentance and forgiveness” of sin is to be proclaimed to all nations. Though they seem to be a matter for the individual yet it is the agenda that can change the world. This is the only way to the new creation. This is the way Jesus continues to be present in today’s world.