The older I get the more scars I have! Scars from multiple medical procedures add to those lingering from childhood scrapes. Some are more visible and pronounced than others. The scar on my chest from by-pass surgery reminds me that there is also an unseen scar on the heart itself.
Then, there are the less visible scars resulting from wounds to the psyche. Those blemishes lurk inside and surface in our behaviors and moods. Anger, guilt, grief, even violence often are outward signs of hidden scars.
To be human is to be scarred! Our scars tell our stories. Each mark reveals an event. Frequently, the story is one of loss and grief. A cancerous growth removed. Surgery to repair a diseased organ or fractured bone. An accident or fall. Maybe a battle wound, an act of violence.
The Apostle Thomas fixated on Jesus’s scars/wounds. Unless the wounds were visible, he could not believe the resurrection. Apart from Jesus’ scars, we miss a central meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection.
The visible wounds represent more than empirical evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead.
The request to see the “mark of the nails” expresses Thomas’ profound theological longing. He wants assurance that the Resurrected Christ is the Crucified Jesus.
No phantom Jesus who only pretended to suffer can be the Savior! Only a wounded and scarred Jesus can save a blemished and scarred humanity!
Jesus’ scars declare the profound message that God is in solidarity with humanity’s wounds. Our wounds are seen, understood, accepted, and healed! God takes on our wounds and redeems them!
“By his stripes (scars) we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus’ scars tell the story of forgiveness, reconciliation, love, justice, hospitality, and peace.
Scars themselves indicate healing. The open wound has closed, the malignant cells removed, the broken bone mended, the diseased organ healed.
Jesus’ scars proclaim:
- Our wounds are shared, understood, accepted, healed
- Forgiveness heals vengeance
- Love cures hate
- Integrity counters political and religious expediency
- Justice prevails over exploitation and oppression
- Courage triumphs over apathy and conformity
- Hospitality rectifies exclusion
- Peace reigns over war and violence.
My friend, Dale Sessions, assists with worship at Bethany, the memory care facility at the Heritage at Lowman. He bears two clearly visible scars on his head.
Dale was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Both his father and his brother died of the dreaded disease.
Wanting to contribute to research, Dale voluntarily entered a trial program at Emory University. Two holes were drilled into his skull, leaving sizable scars.
When we serve Communion together, Dale holds the cup. As he bends toward each seated participant, his scars are plainly visible. Those scars have come to symbolize his courage in the pursuit a cure for Alzheimer’s . But they also are visible signs of self-giving love on behalf of others, a fitting reminder of the Sacrament itself.
Another friend’s face is badly scarred from a wound inflicted by racists in the 1960s. He put his body on the line on behalf of racial and economic justice. Some might refer to his scarred face as “ugly.” To the contrary, the scar beautifully tells the story of courage on behalf of compassion, justice, and inclusion.
I’m glad Thomas asked to see Jesus’ wounds/scars. Those scars testify to compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation, justice, hospitality, and peace–SALVATION!
Perhaps Jesus asks to see our scars of healing in this wounded and flawed world!