Dear Hyde Park Family,
“Jesus showed them his hands and his side.
Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”
Apparently, Jesus’ resurrected body had some unique abilities, like walking through closed doors and ascending into the clouds. But despite these heavenly qualities, it also had a surprising human feature.
It still showed the scars.
His hands, feet, and side bore the marks of the nails and the spear, even though the rest of his body had been made perfectly whole. His heart resumed the pumping of his blood, and his brain again processed his senses and thoughts. But his skin? Not so much. The blemishes from his suffering were still there.
John’s gospel would have us believe that they were there for a reason: to identify Jesus to those who doubted. For anyone who wondered whether the resurrection was real, the scars dispelled the possibility that an imposter was in their midst. They would come to recognize Jesus not by his voice or his gait, nor by his mannerisms and motions, but by his scars. Jesus’ had suffered extraordinary brutality, and he alone had the marks to prove it.
Some of us go through life with scars, wishing they would disappear forever. I have a burn mark on my arm when I once touched a hot piece of equipment. My younger daughter Madelyn has a scar over her left eye from stitches she needed after falling off her bicycle. My older daughter Grace has a scar on her cheek from when she was born. And I, like many of you, have scars that are invisible to the eye. They are from wounds in our spirit that reach deep within our past, etched by heartache, grief, doubt or remorse. Perhaps our scars have faded some since their original severity. But they remain, reminding us of what we’ve been through, and what we’ve become as a result.
Consider the enduring scars of people in the Bible. There’s Jacob’s limp, or Adam’s sweat or Paul’s thorn. Consider stories from the wider culture, and you’ll see the scar on Odysseus’ foot when he fought with a boar, and Luke Skywalker’s robotic hand after his duel with Darth Vader. Alice emerged from Wonderland with scrapes on her arm. And Harry Potter survived his childhood encounter with Lord Voldemort with a tingling, lightning-shaped mark on his forehead.
Yes, scars recall old wounds. But they also offer encouragement. They remind us that in those moments when we could have played it safe, we chose to take a risk. When we could have chosen the easy way out, we decided to stay and struggle. When times got tough, we didn’t run and hide. Instead, we succumbed to the brutality of the moment, persisted through the pain, and survived to tell about it.
And, not only did we endure the suffering, we were transformed by it. Often, life’s most formative experiences are not the triumphs on the mountain top, but those born in the crucible of suffering. Those are the moments that stretched us until we thought we would break, bruised us until we thought we were bloodless, and pushed us until we thought we would never stand again. But the scars remind us that we did more than survive. We experienced the most powerful and central Christian realities:
Look back on your life. Yes, you have been through a lot. More than you might feel you deserve. And at the time, it was more than you thought you could handle. But look at yourself, at all those scars and bruises (especially the ones so deep inside you that only you and God can see.) There’s no reason to be ashamed of them. No reason to hide them. Because they are living proof that God has seen you through.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Margrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist