When we make a mistake, or do wrong, our first instinct is usually to cover it up and hide. This was the first response to sin in the garden of Eden, and we can observe the same response in young children. We experience shame, bow our head, and withdraw. We can even experience this when the wrongdoing wasn’t our own. As a victim we often hide our woundedness from others, and carry within us a sense of shame.
As we continue reflecting on John 20 and the resurrection of Jesus, I’m struck by the fact that the resurrected Jesus, in his new creation body, still carries the scars of his crucifixion. It’s the scars on Jesus that testify to the evil of the powers of darkness, human sin, and all the suffering it brings. Thomas needs to see them on the risen Jesus to be assured that this evil has actually been defeated. Perhaps his doubt is regarding the question, “could God really bring new life from the Good Friday events and humanity’s crucifixion of the Messiah?”
In this light, I find Jesus’ actions when he enters the room fascinating. Unlike us, he isn’t hiding his scars. He doesn’t cover his woundedness, or bear any shame. He comes to those in fear and doubt and says “peace be with you”. He looks to Thomas, reveals his scars on his hands and side and with full vulnerability invites him to touch them. It is this revelation that leads to the most emphatic response of faith in the gospel so far - “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus’ resurrection doesn’t make light of the reality of sin and darkness. What the scars testify to Thomas, and to us, is that the light has entered the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. The world has rejected God and crucified the messiah, but God’s word has endured, has power over the grave and can bring forth new life and new creation. Evil does not get the final word. Jesus’ word is again, “peace be with you.”
How might this be relevant today?
What can we learn from Jesus’ vulnerability in the bearing of his wounds, and how his scars become a testimony to the power of God.
As we seek to share our faith, what might we take from the fact that it was the wounds of suffering on the resurrected Jesus that brought forth faith in another person.
This isn’t to say we should glorify or celebrate wounds, but that we celebrate the fact they don’t have to have the last word. When our wounds are not defining, but are instead found in the context of the story of God, and the death and resurrection of Jesus, they point us to a savior and hope. It is the wounds of Jesus that reveal his glory. Might our wounds do the same? As Joseph testifies to his brothers at the end of Genesis, “what you had intended for evil, God has used for good.” Or as Paul says, our treasure is in jars of clay, God’s glory is in our weakness.
I’ve heard many stories from parishioners during this lockdown that have produced wonderful fruit. One dear friend shared with a group of us online their struggles with depression and isolation. Through this vulnerability and honesty came an outpouring of support and connection, and this person has since testified and given thanks to God for His provision of family in this season. Vulnerability like this is really countercultural. A “good” testimony in the eyes of culture is a story of how we have pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps, been independent, successful, and succeeded against the odds. Christian testimony is about our own struggles, weakness, and woundedness, and about God who intervened to redeem and to heal.
What experiences of struggle in this period of lockdown might lead to God’s glory and bring forth faith in another person? How has Jesus met you in your struggles? Are there ways you can be appropriately vulnerable in sharing these stories with others to point to the resurrection power of God? Might this vulnerability and testimony be what is needed for a friend or neighbour to turn to encounter Jesus and declare, “my Lord and my God?”
In all of these stories that make up John 20, the person who encounters the risen Jesus is expected to go and to tell. Who will you share your story with this week?