Easter Sunday was the day Christ Jesus defeated the powers of death and Hell by rising from the dead and reclaimed his divine authority as the author of life. It is the day we finally come to understand that Jesus really was who he said he was—God-made-flesh, the Messiah, the hope and savior of the world—and that he really did what he came to do—conquer the powers of dominance and control, and rid humanity of our bondage to sin and evil.
One of the things that has always fascinated me about the post-resurrection stories of Jesus concerns his appearance to Thomas. Thomas was one of Christ’s twelve disciples, but he was absent when Jesus first appeared to them after the resurrection. The other disciples tried to help Thomas understand that Christ had risen from the dead, but Thomas refused to take their word for it. Instead, he told them he would only truly believe if he could place his hands inside of Christ’s wounds and see for himself. Soon afterward, Jesus appeared to Thomas and the “doubting Thomas” received the proof he was looking for. The story is well-known and often re-told as an admonition to not demand proof of Christ’s resurrection, but that is not what fascinates me about this story.
I’m fascinated, instead, by the fact that the resurrected Jesus still had wounds. Despite conquering death and rising into a new life with a new physical body, Christ kept the holes in his hands and side. His wounds were preserved. Certainly they didn’t hurt him or hinder him any longer, but I find it strange that he kept them at all.
The Apostle Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 15 that we, too, will rise to new life in Christ at the general resurrection. At the end, when God finally sets the world to rights, we will have a resurrection body much like the resurrection body of Jesus. It will be a physical body, and we will live here on a renewed earth.
But I wonder if we will have wounds?
Will our hurts be healed, but still visible?
I like to think that they will indeed. Christ’s wounds were proof that he really was Jesus of Nazareth and that he really had risen from the dead. He had come through his trial and suffering, emerging victorious. Doesn’t it stand to reason that our wounds will prove much the same thing? Isn’t that already true now?
For example, I have a large scar on my right forearm from a fantastic accident a few years back. I was riding on a BMX track and spilled after taking off a huge ramp. I lost half of the flesh on my arm and, because I was nowhere near a hospital, I had to clean the wound with steel wool in the shower. I have this enormous scar because I’m a survivor, and when I get around other extreme sports fanatics (though I barely qualify) we compare our scars and tell the stories of how we got them. This story-telling time is always full of laughter and playfulness, but there’s always a kind of quiet reflection as well because we all know that we could easily have been injured far more seriously, or possibly even died. We tell our stories and show our scars as a means of expressing our gratitude for still being alive.
I think that’s how our wounds will function after the resurrection. We will show off our scars and tell our stories, and our scars will prove that we really are the people we say we are. They will prove that God was gracious enough to rescue us from the situations that scarred us. He brings us into new, resurrection life.
And that’s how our scars function today in the community of saints we call the church. We show our scars—our emotional scars, the scars in our memory, our ecclesial and theological and social and relational scars—and we tell our stories about how God rescued us from harmful circumstances, about how God has given us new life in Christ, and about how we’re able to keep on living by God’s grace.
Scars prove we are who we say we are, just as they prove that God is doing what he said he would do.
He gives new life to us, and that is the message of Easter Sunday.
This post is from Seasons of Christian Spirituality.