Five or six centuries before Jesus’ birth, God’s prophet stood by the waters of Babylon. The Jews were certain they were cut off, forgotten by God and everybody else that mattered. But there they heard these comforting words:
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
Or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.
In all the stuff of our earthly existence, we are never forgotten by God. God loves us, you and me, the real you and me.
But exactly who, or what, is the real you and me? In our culture we often hear that you have a soul that dwells for a while in your body. Or really, you are a soul. That invisible part is the real you. And the real you lives forever, even after the body is dead and gone.
But the Bible tells another story. You are not just a soul. You are body and soul, which are really just you, all together. Your body is you. And what happens to your body is never remote, or unimportant. Ask anyone suffering chronic pain, or walking around with cancer. Your self includes your body. That means it matters what you do with your body, what Paul called “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19)
And your body is of continuing concern to God! The New Testament teaches not the immortality of the soul but the resurrection of the body. Jesus was not just a spiritual presence after that first Easter. He ate and walked; He was visible and touchable (Luke 24:28-30); John 20:27; 21:12). God’s hope for us is not just spiritual, but also somehow physical. We will be raised up, our whole self. Whatever we may suffer bodily in this life is not for naught. It matters to God, and God will finally reconcile even our bodies, even all of creation.
Persons of simple faith may grasp this intuitively. A few years ago I buried a woman who had been trapped in a wheelchair for dozens of years. After I said “Amen” by her graveside, her daughter said, “Momma can walk now.” She was right. God did not disregard her mother’s frailty and suffering. Rather, she has been healed, fully, and is delighting in the joys of having her legs under her again. Jesus, too, had hands, real hands, at his birth, at his death, and even after his resurrection. Our bodies matter. Ultimately, there is redemption for what goes on with our bodies. We are our bodies. Our life, even our eternal life, is inextricably tied up with the real, tangible world.
Little wonder Jesus told us to observe the simple meal we call the Lord’s Supper. The Eucharist appeals to all our senses: the feel of the minister’s hand, the smell of the bread, the taste of the cup, the sound of prayers for all God’s people, the sight of worshipers receiving in humility. Saint Augustine said the sacraments are “visible words.” Our life with God was never meant to be mere words but embodied in all that is visible, tangible, real.
Source: Pgs. 18-19 of YOURS ARE THE HANDS OF CHRIST by James C. Howell