Salvation: Body and Soul
March 27, 2016
Saint John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
The human body is a fascinating thing. Did you know, for example, that your tongue print is as unique as your fingerprints. Or that your nose can remember around 50,000 different scents? Not just the ones you want to remember like the smell of lilac blossoms or freshly brewing coffee, but even the unfortunate memories of skunk and rotten milk: your nose knows which is which. Did you know that the average human heart pumps around 2000 gallons of blood each day through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body? Think about that: that’s enough fluid to practically fill a pool that’s four feet high and twelve feet in diameter being pumped through enough blood vessels that you could wrap them around the earth two and a half times at the equator. I find that personally mind blowing and a little hard to believe, but I read it online, so it must be true! And it’s all in your body. And we are here today to celebrate that Jesus redeemed all of it.
You see, sometimes we get the idea that Jesus simply died to save our souls, or that the soul is somehow more important than the body. But the reality of being a human is that your body and soul are inseparable. You are not a body with a soul or a soul with a body; you are body and soul together, joined as one like nothing else in all creation. There are those in our world who would argue differently. There are those who would tell you that the body is irrelevant at best, or at worst a mistake. It is not a particularly new argument, it has been argued by different religions for millennia. However, it is picking up steam in popular culture once again. There are those who would argue that the body is a burden or a crutch that must be overcome in order for your soul to be free. There are those who would argue that the biology of one’s body could be a mistake, saying one might be a man trapped in a woman’s body or a woman trapped in a man’s body. There are those who would argue that the body is irrelevant, that one’s gender or biology has no bearing on who a person truly is. This is yet another symptom of the sad fact that we live in a culture that has, by and large, bought into the lie that what matters most is reality as you see it, not reality as it actually is.
And yet for all the talk about how unimportant the body is supposed to be, we spend an awful lot of time as people trying to save it. Think of all the technology, medicine, surgical procedures, and cosmetics that are dedicated to the preservation of the body. If we are really just souls trapped in a fleshy cage, why is it our instinct to spend so much time, effort, and resources decorating, repairing, and even remodeling that cage, when we should really be trying to escape from it? Because deep down inside we know that the body is important. The truth is hard to kill. We may want to believe that our body is not a very important part of who we are; we may love the supposed freedom of choice we think that gives us, but try as we might to drown reality under a sea of our personal opinions and the ideas we would like to be true, the actual truth has a nasty habit of popping back up to the surface. And today is a celebration of the truth; it is a celebration of reality. Today we celebrate not the symbolic or metaphorical resurrection of Jesus. Today we celebrate his actual flesh and bone resurrection. Today acknowledges the importance of the body both to us and to God himself.
There is great joy to be found in acknowledging reality as our Lord created it. You and your body are not an accident. Your body was created for you and given to you as God’s gift. Now, there are certainly cases where sin has corrupted God’s once perfect creation, no one is arguing against that sad reality. There are cases where disease or other ailments have made some bodies harder to live in than others. That’s why when Jesus walked the earth he healed people, putting back together what sin had broken. He healed the blind and the lame and the mute and the diseased. He gave them back their bodies because the body is important, essential even, to human existence. Jesus restored what sin had corrupted. But those corruptions are the exception, not the rule. The design for creation remains. God has given you a body and has designed it for you. He has given you specific talents and abilities to be used for the benefit of others. He has made you good at certain things, maybe you’re good with your hands, or maybe you have a knack with machinery or accounting or art. Whatever the case may be, believing in the Creator means we believe that these skills are not ours by chance, but are God’s design for us that he will use in service to others.
Today is a celebration of the fact that not only has God created your body for you, he has redeemed it. That’s why Jesus took on human flesh. Jesus came to earth not simply to teach us how to live, he could have done that from heaven. In fact, he did just that when he wrote the Law into our hearts and clarified it from Mount Sinai. Jesus did not come to earth to reveal some secret or esoteric knowledge reserved for the select few. No, Jesus took on human flesh in order to redeem human flesh, he took a body in order to redeem the body, to redeem your body. And that’s exactly what he did, he who for the joy set before him endured the cross, something, that he needed a body to do, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God, he who did not consider his equality with God a thing to be clung to at all costs, but who made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, and being made as a human, fully human, body and soul, he became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. And he did it for you, to redeem you, the whole you, body and soul.
Your body is important to God. It is a gift, not a curse. Yes, there are a multitude of problems that our bodies face in this life: hunger, deformity, disease, pain, and eventually death. There are temptations and misunderstandings about gender and sexuality. But these temptations come not because the body is bad, but because it is a good gift from God that Satan is out to destroy. Satan wants us to believe in the separation of body and soul. He will tempt us to ignore the body and focus on the soul, tempting us to believe that our salvation is found by thinking the right way or found in the strength of our believing. He will tempt us to believe that it doesn’t matter what we do with our body so long as our heart is in the right place. He wants to drive a wedge. Or he’ll take the opposite track and tempt us to believe that salvation is found only through the body by living the right way and making the right choices. He will tempt us to believe that it doesn’t matter what images go into our eyes so long as our body does not act out the lust, or that it doesn’t matter what hatred or bitterness we harbor in our hearts so long as our body does no harm to another. But his end game is the same: separate body and soul in our thinking. Today undoes Satan’s web of lies and reminds us of the reality that salvation is found nowhere in ourselves, body or soul, but only in he who is the way, the truth, and the life: in Jesus, the only name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved, in Jesus who became body and soul for us. It’s not our actions or inactions that win us salvation; salvation is found in the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, today we rejoice with Job. For we too know that our redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth, and that even after our bodies have been destroyed by disease or death or decay, yet in our flesh we shall see God. And our own eyes, the eyes that belong to this very body, will see him for themselves. We rejoice in the knowledge that our bodies are not irrelevant or burdensome, but rather a gift, a gift so important to God that he would take one himself to suffer in our place. Your body is a gift so important to God that he brings the gift of salvation to that body today, not merely in theory, but in physical and fleshy ways, bread and wine that fill our mortal stomachs with the food of immortality, salvation for our bodies as well as our souls. That’s why when we stand before the grave of a loved one waiting for the moment when that casket is lowered into the earth we pray that God the Father who created that body, that God the Son who by his blood redeemed that body, and that God the Holy Spirit who sanctified that body to be his temple would keep those remains until the resurrection of all flesh. That’s why at the end of communion we pray that the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ would strengthen and preserve us body and soul unto life everlasting. For body and soul together is life. It is our life in this world. It will be our life in the world to come.
So rejoice today that your body is not an accident, it is a gift – the gift of life itself. Whatever temptations or afflictions you face, whatever diseases or ailments have attacked your body, know that Jesus died for all of it. He redeemed you from all of it. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” May our Lord continue to provide for all our needs of body and soul as we celebrate his resurrection, and as we wait for him to come again.
Christ is risen! Alleluia!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
 Hebrews 12:2
 Philippians 2:6-8
 John 14:6
 Acts 4:12
 Job 19:23-27
 Blessing from Lutheran Service of Committal. Pastoral Care Companion p. 134
 Philippians 3:20-21