Why was it important that Jesus tell his disciples this?
The phrase, "have risen" is being translated from the Greek word ἐγείρω (egeirō). ἐγείρω means "to be raised up" according to the lexicon.
What is Jesus speaking of that is being raised? Is he referring to his physical body?
Ecclesiastical sectarian translators and interpreters will have us believe that Jesus' physical body awakens from the dead, thereby "rising up" - as if it was sleeping.
If Jesus' physical body "rises up" as if the body was sleeping, why wasn't Jesus recognized when he appeared to Mary, and to his closest disciples?
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 24:4)Do these verses indicate Jesus was walking around in his physical body? If Jesus "rose up" in his physical body, why didn't his closest students and disciples recognize him when he appeared to them? And how could a physical body 'disappear from their sight'?
At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. (John 20:14)
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. (Matt. 28:17)
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:31)
The true meaning of "have risen" or "rise up" is illustrated when one of Jesus' beloved students, Martha ('Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.' (John 11:5)) responded to Jesus when he said: "Your brother will rise again" (John 11:23):
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (John 11:24.Martha was responding with what Jesus had been teaching, which is that a person will "rise" from their body at the time of death. The Greek word ἀνάστασις (anastasis), translated to "resurrection" means to "rise up," and ἀνίστημι (anistēmi), translated to "he will rise again" also means to "rise up."
"The last day" in Martha's statement - as was also used by Jesus and in other Biblical verses - indicates the time of death. In this context (because Martha was not speaking of some time in the distant future when the world would supposedly end), the Greek phrase ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ (eschatos hēmera) utilizes "day" in a metaphorical manner, meaning, as outlined in Thayer's lexicon to indicate "time in general." Thus the time of death is the only appropriate interpretation for the metaphorical use of "last day" here.
The speculative teaching that our physical bodies will rise again at the end of the world as taught by ecclesiastical (professional) sectarian teachers today is nonsense. A dead body will decompose within a year or two in normal conditions, leaving just the bones. In normal acidic soil the bones will also decompose within a few decades. Old bones we find have been preserved by abnormal conditions or specifically designed bone boxes (ossuaries - where were only in use among prominent families until about 70 CE). Most dead bodies have thus completely decomposed to soil - even those from ardent followers of Jesus - within a few decades.
So what is supposed to "rise" then, some thousands of years later when the world supposedly ends? How can a decomposed body "rise"? This makes no sense. Some Roman Catholic ecclesiastical teachings have tried to hide this inconsistency by suggesting that all the dead people (all the dead bodies?) have to wait in some kind of "purgatory" state for the "end of the world" scenario. So if their bodies have decomposed, in what state will they be waiting? And why would they have to wait?
What is funny is that these very same ecclesiastical teachers will often refer to someone who has died by saying that "they are with Jesus now." How could they be "with Jesus now" if we are to believe that all everyone has to wait in purgatory for the end of the world?
This is all speculative imaginings contrived by those who do not seek to understand the real teachings of Jesus.
This fact - that we rise up from our bodies at the time of death - has been proven scientifically in clinical death research. In a multitude of studies that have followed tens of thousands of patients who have died in the hospital, it has been proven that we rise up and out of our bodies at the time of death, and we can observe our body from above after we leave it. Millions of people have now had clinical death experiences like this. See this article for more details of this research.
Looking down at our body at the time of death illustrates that we are not the physical body. We are spiritual, not physical. This is what Jesus had been teaching his disciples:
"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." (Luke 12:4-5)This illustrates that Jesus taught the existence of a "you" that exists after the body is killed. Who is this "you" Jesus is referring to that exists after the body is killed? Who is the "you" that can be thrown into hell?
This is the spiritual self. It is the person. The personality that gives life to the body.
Let's say we look at a picture of our body as a child. Then we look in the mirror at our adult body. The two bodies look different, yes? Yet we are the same person, yes? Our body is constantly changing, while we - the spiritual self - remains the same. Science tells us that all the molecules that made up that childhood body have been replaced by new molecules within five years. The body we had when we are a child is gone, and now we wear an adult body.
This same spiritual self who remains through changing bodies - this is the person who leaves the body at death. Each of us "rises" from the body, leaving the body lifeless. Jesus was trying to teach us to be focused on our spiritual selves, rather than our physical bodies because this is our true identity:
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear." (Luke 12:22)But didn't Jesus' body disappear from the tomb when he "rose"?
The fact that his body disappeared is a footnote. The fact is, Jesus's body was requested by one of Jesus' disciples, Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38). Joseph put Jesus' body in Joseph's own tomb. Under then-Jewish law, a person's body was not supposed to be put in the tomb of a non-family member, as family members were gathered within a single tomb. Therefore, this tomb was considered temporary:
Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. (John 19:42)While there is no clarity on where Jesus' physical body was eventually taken, a 1980 archaeological find has been suspected to be the tomb of Jesus' family. In this tomb, the researchers found ossuaries ('bone boxes') labeled in Aramaic, "James, brother of Jesus," "Jesus, son of Joseph," "Joseph," "Marium," and others. While there has been controversy and speculation surrounding this tomb, research by a team of scientists led by North Carolina University Professor of Religious Studies James D. Tabor, PhD and Simcha Jacobovici, MA maintains the possibility that Jesus' body was moved to a family tomb - consistent with Jewish practice. (The findings were the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary that first aired in 2007).
Using scriptural evidence, the fact that Jesus was not recognized by his closest students after he "rose" illustrates that he had left his physical body. He appeared before his disciples on several occasions, and even proved his identity by showing holes in his ethereal body.
This latter fact also illustrates Jesus was not appearing in his physical body. A physical body that had holes in it would be spilling blood all over the place. It would be a bloody mess.
As evidenced by the fact that he could control his appearances and recognition, showing holes in his hands illustrates Jesus' ability to manipulate his angel-like appearance to reassure his students of his identity. After all Jesus appeared suddenly to his disciples several times. He didn't walk up in his physical body. When Jesus appeared to his disciples at their dinner, for example, the doors were locked. How did Jesus get in if he was wearing his physical body?
As for Jesus meeting them in Galilee - as we'll find later - Jesus is referring to his appearing to his disciples in Galilee after the death of his physical body. He was preparing them to pass on his teachings to others:
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation." (Mark 16:15)And what did Jesus teach that he wanted his disciples to also preach?
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:37-40)
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Book of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Gospels of Jesus - translated from the original Greek texts.)