Jesus’ relational ministry reveals the joy we will share with Him in eternity.
John the Apostle records four resurrection appearances of our Lord.
The first was to Mary Magdalene, who was weeping in the garden over the mistaken notion that Jesus’ body had been stolen – to her, Jesus was obviously still dead. It wasn’t until Jesus called her name that she recognized Him as fully alive and in the flesh. She was so elated that, as John reports, she grabbed Him and wouldn’t let Him go until He told her she had to (John 20:17).
The second resurrection appearance was to all the disciples on that first day of the week, later that same evening. He came and spoke peace into their fearful lives (John 20:19).
His third resurrection appearance was to the disciples a week later, on the first day of the week again. This time, Thomas was present, the Apostle who would not believe unless he could put his finger and hand in the wounds Jesus received on the cross (John 20:25). When Jesus allowed Thomas to do so, Thomas fell down at Jesus' feet and cried out “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
The fourth appearance, which was the third to the disciples, occurred when Jesus showed up on the shore of the Sea of Galilee while the disciples were fishing (John 21:1). This was reminiscent of the first time that the disciples encountered Jesus (see Luke 5). Just as the first time, here the disciples had been fishing all night and had caught nothing, until Jesus, whom they did not immediately recognize, told them to throw the net on the right side of the boat. When they did so, they caught 153 fish and only then realized that it was Jesus on the shore, prompting Peter to once again leave the boat and make his way to the shore ahead of the other disciples.
When the rest of them made it to shore, they discovered that Jesus had made them breakfast.
He told them to bring some of the fish they had caught which they added to the fish Jesus was already cooking, and they ate breakfast together. The disciples spent time with post-resurrection Jesus around an early morning breakfast campfire, eating the bread and fish that Jesus had provided. Jesus, as the triumphant Risen Lord, spent one of the forty mornings that He was still on earth simply eating breakfast with His disciples.
And this, in short, is our future.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the promise of our resurrection.
His resurrected body, which could be seen, touched, and held onto, which still bore the scars of the cross, and which could evidently consume food (see Luke 23:42-43) is the firstfruits of all who have died and will die (see 1 Cor. 15:20).
We will not experience our promised future merely as disembodied spirits floating around in some nebulous cosmos singing praise choruses throughout all of eternity. Our future has been revealed by the resurrected Christ: we will be embodied persons; we will have physical forms. I’m convinced we will recognize each other, just as Jesus was finally recognized by His disciples. And the joy of that fully realized future kingdom will be the same as the joys of the partially realized present kingdom here and now. Our joy will be in our fellowship with the Christ and in our fellowship with each other.
Perhaps we’ll even eat breakfast around a campfire with our Lord and with our friends.
Mark Quanstrom is the Dean of the School of Theology at Olivet Nazarene University.
Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2018.