Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 358
Lawrence's story is a kind of retelling of the resurrection in two parts. In part one, Christ emerges from his tomb and finds lodging with a peasant and his wife who own a magnificent cock, which they keep tied by the leg. The cock is symbolic of a kind of life force that the resurrected Christ no longer feels. This "life force" is explicitly sexual. In part two, the resurrected Christ wanders to a temple devoted to Isis, where the priestess takes him to be an incarnation of Osiris; they have an extended love affair that leaves the priestess pregnant.
Lawrence reinterprets the Christ story by concentrating on the physical elements of the ressurection. The account of Christ waking in the tomb—swathed in linen and blinded by the light—and his chance encounter with the peasant (who innocently enlists Christ's help in capturing the escaped cock) establishes a central theme in the story, which is that of Christ as a mortal man.
Christ's experiences after rising from the grave cause him to rethink his "mission" before the crucifixion; he realizes that his divinity and his bodiless love for the disciples as well as Mary Magdalene was in itself a kind of death; "if I had kissed Judas with live love, perhaps he would never have kissed me with death."
It is this realization that forms the basis of the plot of the story, which is Christ's slow journey to rejoin the world of living men and reclaim his sexuality. On the one hand, his sexual relationship with the priestess of Isis is the culmination of this progression. However, there is also the suggestion that Christ's divinity (as represented in the story through the stigmata, the defining wounds that also mark Christ as a criminal) is equivalent to—or possibly inferior to—that of Osiris, the Egyptian king who was murdered and dismembered (or crucified) and healed (or resurrected) by Isis.
Lawrence's conflation of the sacred and the profane (or sexual) suggests that spirituality is not separate from the body; on the contrary, he states that the body (and in particular, sex) is the site of the divine.