The Promise of Easter
Jesus emphasized the physicality of his resurrection in his appearances: "Handle me and see," he said to his first Apostles (Lk. 24:39). He had Thomas, who had not been with the disciples at the Lord's first appearance, put his finger into the Lord's wounds (Jn. 20:27) and he commanded the Nephites who witnessed his appearance in the New World to do the same thing (3 Ne. 11:13-16). That he, too, could be touched, whether in a wound or with affection, was crucial to his appearance.
That he could be touched literally showed that he could be touched by our pains and came to heal them. And it seems to me that the promised resurrection of the spirit is the healing of our physical and spiritual wounds.
That spiritual resurrection is not something on which we must simply wait. As a contemporary LDS Apostle says:
To be redeemed is to be atoned—received in the close embrace of God with an expression not only of His forgiveness, but of our oneness of heart and mind (Russell M. Nelson, October General Conference, 1996).
I take it as significant that Elder Nelson uses the present tense rather than the future. At Easter time we remember Jesus' suffering and ignominious death. But we celebrate his resurrection. We celebrate the new bodily and spiritual life that he offers, an embrace by God here and now and not just something that we await.
That embrace by God is found in his present forgiveness of our sins, in his grief at our present sorrows, and in his gift of the Spirit, by which we may be one with him in heart and mind.
But if we are of one heart and mind with him, then we will, with him, sorrow at the sorrows of our fellows, we will learn to succor the physical and spiritual infirmities of others. Our bowels, too, will be filled with mercy and forgiveness.
The resurrection's promise of spiritual and physical rebirth and renewal calls us to the joy of peaceful shepherding and healing. Easter is a both a promise of the future and a demand for the present.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.