Scripture: I Corinthians 15:35-42, 50-57
Sermon: “Was Jesus Reincarnated?” by Pastor Todd Buurstra
When I answered the phone I knew “Mary” was off her meds again. You believe in past lives, right? Ah… because in a past life I was Jesus Christ’s daughter. After I picked my teeth back up I sputtered a biblical teaching that she ignored, so I was hoping you could help me con-tact your brother-in-law [a Buddhist priest] and Richard Gere–to get in touch with my past life.
If that seems odd to you, then you might have missed the ABC program about little James Leininger who from 2 years old told his parents surprising details about James M. Huston, Jr. a Navy Fighter pilot whom the Japanese crashed 60 years earlier; things like he flew a Corsair, or took off from the Natoma. Dad didn’t believe it, but eventually became convinced that James Huston had come back for unfinished business. His parents wrote Soul Survivor.
So I wonder, why doesn’t anyone have a past life as the town drunk? Why were most people heroes in their past lives? But more basically, our hero, was Jesus reincarnated?
Shirley MacLaine says that the early church taught reincarnation, and that it wasn’t until 553 AD that the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople condemned reincarnation as heresy.
Others point out Bible passages that seem to teach reincarnation; verses like:
You must be born again (John 3:7); or,
If you are willing to accept it, [John the Baptist] is Elijah to come (Matthew 11:14); or,
Jesus was transfigured before them [Peter, James and John]…
And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus (Mark 9:2,4)
As a little boy, I suppose I was in this camp because I remember asking my mom, Where was I before I was born? In heaven, came the reply. So, I was taught I had an immortal soul.
The Bible really teaches resurrection, not reincarnation; i.e., no immortal souls! Jesus was resurrected. What’s the difference? At yahoo answers I found a few fascinating definitions:
Andy17 says, Resurrection is when you come back from the dead in the same body.
Reincarnation is when your soul goes into a different body,
and you might not remember what you did in a past life.
Or, Kats writes humorously: Basically in Christianity, Jesus was resurrected as Jesus.
In Hindu, if you died tomorrow, you could become a cockroach by the weekend.
I don’t mean that last answer to be disrespectful to reincarnation believers. Paul clarifies the biblical answer from the first verse of our text: How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come (v. 35)? So in the Easter story, your body is not something thrown away like an orange peel, but it’s a seed for a new body: you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed… [For] there are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies (vv. 37, 40). Jesus appeared on Easter with a heavenly body. And lastly, per the Bible, you can’t become a cockroach: But God gives…a body as he has chosen… there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish (v. 38, 39). Sorry, Shirley.
God’s word teaches that there are two basic differences between reincarnation and resurrection. The first is that you are never an immortal, you are an embodied soul. Your body is valued as the Holy Spirit’s temple! The only time that you’ll ever be without your body is in the transition from this life to the next; or between death and Christ’s return. Otherwise you are always in one of two bodies: your current or perfected one. So Mary was never Jesus’ daughter.
The greater difference between resurrection and reincarnation is grace. Reincarnation is a theory in faiths that have to earn their way to the divine, or climb their way to God. So Dad thought James Huston must have unfinished business. Resurrection is something God does to you by grace; i.e., by unmerited favor. God saves your soul and body through Jesus—you don’t save yourself. It’s all by God’s grace! So as God raised Jesus’ body, so will God raise your’s!
How might an Easter faith be lived in a daily crisis? I’ve asked Laurel Ennis to tell us about her cancer.
Do you hear grace and body in her story? Laurel wasn’t a detached meditator, ahh-ummm, who saw this body as just a passing phenomenon because her soul may just move on to another body. Laurel valued God’s temple, so she wanted God to heal her one body. Nor did she use her suffering to attain enlightenment, she knew we’re all helpless before God’s grace that comes down from Jesus and through others to help and heal. It’s your choice, but I’m firmly a resurrectionist. If you want to live a life that values bodies and prizes God’s grace, then let’s enthusiastically read Paul’s inspired words in I Corinthians 15:51-57 as our Easter faith/credo!