Easter 3B St. John, Galveston 4/18/21
“The Wounds of Jesus”
+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
When Jesus appeared to His disciples after having risen from the dead, the one thing that enabled them to recognize Him were the wounds in His hands and feet. Those wounds were the marks, if you will, the bodily characteristics that identified Jesus as the Christ of God. Perhaps it seems a bit odd that those wounds should remain in Jesus’ flesh since His body was raised from the dead and glorified. And yet, they remained then even as they remain now. Thomas, you may recall, believed because he was able to put his finger into the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and to put His hand into His side.
Jesus’ wounds are more than the necessary marks of death by crucifixion. In one sense, they are symbols of anger and of resentment. They were inflicted on Jesus because, as the people said, “You, being a man, make yourself out to be God!” Jesus was hated by many people because He said things like, “I and the Father are One. If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” As Christian apologist, Josh McDowell once wrote, the best testimony to who Jesus claimed to be comes, not from those who supported Him and followed Him, but from His enemies, those who hated Him and who nailed Him to the cross. Those marks in Jesus’ hands and feet were put there, not because He claimed to be a good man, or a holy prophet, but because He claimed to be God. In that sense, the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet are marks of anger and of resentment, even of the depravity of mankind.
At the same time though, His wounds are marks of atonement and of forgiveness. As Jesus Himself said, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus did not come as the awful judge of the Law. Rather, He came into world to bear the sins of the world in his body, to atone for them, to bear sin’s guilt and its anguish and shame. Thus, even of those who cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion, whose anger blinded them to His love and compassion, He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
If you have sin in your life that blinds you to Jesus’ love and compassion, that has somehow convinced you that you are beyond the grace and mercy of God in Christ, that you are unworthy of His forgiveness, I remind of the wounds in His hands and feet. They are marks of atonement and of forgiveness. As the prophet Isaiah wrote long ago, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities.”
So, Jesus’ wounds are the marks of anger and resentment, even of human depravity, but they are also the marks of atonement and forgiveness. They’re marks too of healing and of victory. As I said earlier, it may well strike you as a bit odd that Jesus still had the marks of the nails in His hands and feet when He rose from the dead. It seems contrary to the resurrection, that sins marks should remain on the body, especially of the holy and blessed Son of God.
The 4th century church father, St. Augustine, reflected on Jesus’ wounds remaining after He was raised from the dead. He came to understand Jesus’ wounds as signs of healing and victory. He wrote, “(Jesus) arose, with His wounds healed, His scars kept. For this He judged expedient for His disciples, that His scars should be kept, whereby the wounds of their hearts might be healed. What wounds? The wounds of unbelief. For He appeared to their eyes, exhibiting real flesh.” (Augustine)
Again, the only way Jesus’ disciples recognized Him after His resurrection was by seeing the marks of the nails in His hands and feet. It was in seeing those marks that their hearts were healed, healed of unbelief, healed of doubt, of fear, of self-loathing, and of condemnation. Jesus, the very One who loved each one of them, and each of you unto death, even death on a cross, was alive again! He had defeated death and the grave. Again, as the prophet Isaiah wrote, “He was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” The wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet then are signs of healing and of victory.
And finally, Jesus’ wounds are signs of glory. It’s this aspect of the wounds of Jesus that likely give us the most pause and the most difficulty. If you were to think of the various acts of God in the Scriptures, which would you say most clearly and unmistakably demonstrated His glory? Is it the creation, when He created by the sheer power of His word? Or is it His deliverance of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt? Is it the giving of the Ten Commandments? Or maybe it’s the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?
Of all the acts of God in the Scriptures, which one would you say most clearly and powerfully demonstrated His glory? Interestingly, the Bible identifies only one event. In John 17, as Jesus prepared Himself for His crucifixion, He offered a prayer to His Father. We call His prayer the High Priestly Prayer. He began that prayer by saying, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”
What was the hour that had come, the hour in which the Son of God would glorify the Father? It was the cross, the crucifixion of Jesus! It’s there, amidst the suffering and pain, in the flow of the blood and the sweat, in the humility and the agony of the abandonment and the shame, that the glory of God is most clearly revealed!
This aspect of the wounds of Jesus, that they reveal the glory of God, tells us something about God and the way in which He works in the world and in our lives. In some sense it’s a frustrating aspect of God because we so often want God to work in our lives in miraculous ways. We want Him to intervene, to right wrongs and to fix problems. And the thing is, from time to time, we can’t really figure out why He doesn’t, why He seems to be so aloof, or so disinterested in our lives, why He doesn’t show us His power and His glory.
Of course, we’re not alone in our desire to behold the power of God, nor are we alone in our frustration when He doesn’t show us that power. The psalmist assured us of that when he wrote, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.”
Jesus showed the disciples the wounds in His hands and feet that they might recognize Him, that they might know that God worked the greatest act of reconciliation the world will ever know, the reconciliation of fallen humanity to Himself, through suffering and shame and through the agony of the cross. As God said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” And they were afraid, and Jesus showed them the wounds in His hands and feet. In the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +