Is the resurrection a myth, concocted by those who can’t stand the thought of nothingness after death?
Are we as humans simply hardwired to believe that there is—or should be—something more than our few nasty, brutish, and short lives?
It is certainly true that the quest for immortality is one that has attracted humanity for all of recorded history. Mythic heroes, gods and goddesses, and fountains of youth all reflect the reality that we want something more. Even among those who would claim to believe that there is nothing “more,” there is an attraction to ideas that suggest otherwise.
On Sunday, we’ll be looking at the challenge presented to Jesus by the Sadducees and His defense of the resurrection. His defense of the resurrection is based on appealing to a source that both He and the Sadducees believed to be authoritative: the OT writings.
Paul, when he defended the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 used an illustration from nature. Our bodies are like a seed that dies. The seed must die before new life can occur.
In a recent edition of the New York Times, we find another illustration from nature that gives us a picture of immortality. Nathaniel Rich writes about a species nicknamed “the immortal jellyfish” and their discovery by Chrstian Sommer in the late 1980s:
Sommer was conducting research on hydrozoans, small invertebrates that, depending on their stage in the life cycle, resemble either a jellyfish or a soft coral. Every morning, Sommer went snorkeling in the turquoise water off the cliffs of Portofino. He scanned the ocean floor for hydrozoans, gathering them with plankton nets. Among the hundreds of organisms he collected was a tiny, relatively obscure species known to biologists as Turritopsis dohrnii. Today it is more commonly known as the immortal jellyfish.
Sommer kept his hydrozoans in petri dishes and observed their reproduction habits. After several days he noticed that his Turritopsis dohrnii was behaving in a very peculiar manner, for which he could hypothesize no earthly explanation. Plainly speaking, it refused to die. It appeared to age in reverse, growing younger and younger until it reached its earliest stage of development, at which point it began its life cycle anew.
Sommer was baffled by this development but didn’t immediately grasp its significance. (It was nearly a decade before the word “immortal” was first used to describe the species.) But several biologists in Genoa, fascinated by Sommer’s finding, continued to study the species, and in 1996 they published a paper called “Reversing the Life Cycle.” The scientists described how the species — at any stage of its development — could transform itself back to a polyp, the organism’s earliest stage of life, “thus escaping death and achieving potential immortality.” This finding appeared to debunk the most fundamental law of the natural world — you are born, and then you die.
One of the paper’s authors, Ferdinando Boero, likened the Turritopsis to a butterfly that, instead of dying, turns back into a caterpillar. Another metaphor is a chicken that transforms into an egg, which gives birth to another chicken. The anthropomorphic analogy is that of an old man who grows younger and younger until he is again a fetus. For this reason Turritopsis dohrnii is often referred to as the Benjamin Button jellyfish.
God has designed our hearts to yearn for eternity. For those who are part of Bethany Community, come Sunday and be encouraged as we talk about the resurrection together.
By His Grace,