BY AL EARLEY
In Plato’s famous “Allegory of the Cave”, some prisoners are chained inside a cave, facing the back wall. Behind them there is a fire, with people walking past. Prisoners cannot turn their heads and have always been shackled that way. All they can see and hear are shadows coming and going and echoes bouncing off the walls. One day, a prisoner is released and dragged out of the cave. He is blinded by the light, and confused, and resists being led outside. But, eventually, his eyes adjust so that he is able to see things around him, and even the sun itself.
He comes to realize that the things he thought were real were just shadows of real things, and that life outside the cave is much better than his previous life in the chains. He pities those who are still inside. He again ventures into the cave to share his discovery with the others, only to be ridiculed because he can barely see (his eyes struggle to readjust to the dark) and is fiercely resisted.
Over the centuries, this allegory has been interpreted in different ways. Often times as a way to understand our experience when our current understanding of reality is shattered and we achieve something new and amazing about our life or our life in general. This is what happened to all of the many witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus did not really teach us to live in a cave, but to live in his light of truth which breaks the darkness of any cave.
His cave, or tomb, is empty, and Jesus is alive and risen to rule the world. Because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, he is victorious over sin, evil, and death. For example, the resurrection of Jesus reveals a great truth about the mysterious question of what happens to us when we die. In I Corinthians 15: 42-44 we read: “So will the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; he is sown in dishonor, he is raised in glory; he is sown in weakness, he is exalted in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. In this text, Paul reveals that God promises to give all who die in the Lord a new body, a resurrection body, suitable for the resurrection life of eternity with God.
When we study what Jesus’ life was like outside of his cave or tomb, we learn a lot about what happens to us when we die. When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on Easter morning (John 20: 11-18), she was able to recognize Jesus and speak to him. This is true of all the other witnesses of the Gospels. We will be able to recognize and talk to each other in the life to come.
When Cleopas and another disciple met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, they did not recognize him at first, but when he broke bread with them, they recognized him, then he disappeared from their sight (Luke 24: 13-32) . Then Jesus can reappear in the locked upper room. Like Jesus, our resurrection bodies will not be limited by time or space.
In another apparition, Thomas is not present and Jesus allows the other ten disciples to touch the wounds on his hands and feet (John 20: 19-25). Our resurrection bodies will have substance, and we can be touched. A week later, Thomas is present and can touch Jesus. Jesus teaches something very important to all disciples who will believe after Jesus’ ascension, that we are blessed to believe without seeing or touching (John 20: 26-29).
When Jesus meets seven of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, he prepares and eats breakfast with them (John 21: 9-12). Jesus does not need to have lunch with his disciples, but he can and does. All of Jesus’ references to the banquet table in Heaven can be a teaching tool, but I think we learn from this that we can truly enjoy the food in Heaven when we receive our resurrection bodies.
These are just a few of the many truths Jesus reveals to us in his life, ministry, death, resurrection and breaking through the darkness of the cave that held him back for three days. We can choose to believe he is what he says he is, or we can live in a cave believing that the half-truths and lies of the world are reality. I don’t want to live in a cave. I choose to walk in the light of Christ. And you?
To learn more about Al Earley or read previous articles, visit www.lagrangepres.org