What About the Scars?
Preparing for the Second Sunday of Easter, One Day Before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 150
Old Testament: 1 Samuel 17:32-51
Gospel: Luke 24:36-40
Creator of the universe, you made the world in beauty, and restore all things in glory through the victory of Jesus Christ. We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed, the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace, to the glory of your name. Amen.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet (Luke 24:36-40).
When I was a boy of about five years, one day my mom was making candy apples. I was extremely excited for the finished product and could hardly wait to sink my teeth into the sweetness of the coating and the juice of the fruit that lay beneath. While the candy was sitting on the stove in a pot cooking, I asked my mom if I could stir the candy while the sugar was dissolving. She put me on a chair in front of the stove cautioning me to stir slowly; but even with her close supervision, some of the almost boiling hot candy splashed out of the pan and landed at the base of my right ring finger. In an instant the outer layer of my skin lay dangling toward the ground. To this day, I still have the scar.
For those of us familiar with the story of Jesus, we often pass over an important detail when we read the resurrection stories—that even in his resurrection our Lord still bore the scars of the wounds he received on Good Friday. Whatever we make of Jesus’ resurrection, his renewed body did not erase the marks of his suffering and death. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams writes,
The resurrection is not about the wiping out of our history, pain, or failure, it is about how pain and failure themselves—humanity marred by history—may yet be transfigured and made beautiful.
So what the Christian gospel offers is indeed a new beginning. It is indeed something from nothing, life from death, light from darkness And at the same time it is, mysteriously, the transformation of what we have become: real flesh and blood human beings with our histories, with the lines etched in our faces…. If we did not believe that, what a very strange and hopeless world we would inhabit: a world in which again and again, when we turned to God, we would have to write off what had become of us and say, ‘All that is to be discarded,’ and the tape simply reeled back to the beginning again (The Sign and the Sacrifice, pp, 102, 103).
The scars of Jesus remind us of what Jesus has done for us. Our pain, our sickness, our frailties, our addictions, our abuses are not erased and forgotten; they are remade, reinterpreted history new and fresh. They are transfigured. The fullness of the kingdom is not a state of eternal amnesia where the bad is forgotten; rather it is an existence where God in Jesus Christ has engaged our humanity as it has become. Our scars remind us that life can be a battle; Jesus scars remind us that he has won the war. If Jesus’ scars could not prevent his resurrection then neither can ours.
I am writing this in a coffee shop. As I sit here, at the other end of the table from me is a woman sharing with her conversation partner about her current struggles having lost her husband recently to illness. (I was not intentionally eavesdropping. It was impossible not to hear the discussion.) She mentioned how she can still hear his laugh, remember his sense of humor even as he was dying, and what a good man he was. How sad it would be if the renewal of creation in Jesus Christ meant that all those good memories brought on by the tragedy of his death were simply expunged when creation is finally and completely renewed. The scars of the resurrected Jesus is a promise that such memories will be retained.
The scars of Jesus are a reminder of what our Lord has done for us, and how he has accomplished it. Jesus cannot be Lord and Savior without his resurrection. He also cannot be Lord without the cross and the scars from the wounds he bore.
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