Have you ever shared your ‘scar’ stories with your kids/family? (Or why did Jesus show the disciples his hands and side?)
It was a strange way to dispel anxiety and grief, wasn’t it? “He showed them his hands and his side.” Given the horrible wounds Jesus has in both places, what was he getting at? Aside from letting them know that this REALLY is him –the one they saw crucified on the cross – what does sharing his ‘scar story’ do? Why does Jesus show the disciples his hands and his side?
Think of the context. The apostles were hiding behind locked doors because they were afraid. If they were identified as followers of Jesus, they could share his same fate. It was an understandable and prudent fear. And as the gospel continues, even though most of them had seen our risen Lord, a week later they were still locked in that upper room still barricaded in. Something has yet to happen inside of them despite seeing him. They were still in that upper room – a bit trapped, a bit bound, a bit “un-free” – and Thomas the most un-free of any of them. Into that “STUCK-NESS” – into the midst of their fears, Jesus breaks into their lives: not merely into the physical place in which they had taken refuge, but into the core of their hearts. He attempts to calm their fears with that simple act: He showed them his hands and side.
LOOK at these wounds, he invites. See them for all their gory truth. BUT KNOW THIS – they are not ultimate. They do not have the last word. Pain, suffering and loss, and the scars that they leave, need not be the last word for those who believe in the love of God. That is what Jesus wants his disciples to know. ‘Your failures, your falls, and your brokenness – I know them more than most. They are only the end of the story if you let them be that; if you let your wounds and failures drag you down. But they don’t hold me back. Nor will they you, if you let me live in you.’
All of us have experienced pain and suffering. We all have our ‘scar stories’. If you touch my forehead right here (put hand on forehead above my nose) you’ll feel mine. As a 3 ½ year old, I “knew” that if you fell and scraped your hands/arms, they would hurt for 2 weeks. If you fell and hit your forehead, it would hurt for 10 minutes. It made perfect sense to me to choose the ten minutes of pain over the two weeks of pain. However most of our scars are a little more invisible. All of us bear the wounds of failure, betrayal, deception, disappointment, and loss. Our hearts, our minds, our memories – our souls – have the scars to prove it. Out of fear of being hurt further, like the apostles, we sometimes lock ourselves away in some small emotional or spiritual corner of the world, living in fear of what other pain or disappointments life may bring in the days, months and years ahead. We withdraw from life: in effect, we die, with no hope of resurrection.
Jesus would have us know a different truth, wouldn’t he? And those middle words in that first appearance narrative seal it: “Who’s sins you forgive are forgiven, but when you let them bind, when you let your scars and wounds hold you fast, you are held bound.” You can live there, being bound, but that is not what Jesus wants for you.
This is why our Lord must have loved it when Thomas said to the community: “I’ll not believe” without entering the wounds.” I need to see that there is life on the other side of the wounds – that they indeed have not stopped you from being the living one. And from the exploring of those wounds a most amazing faith emerged: “My Lord and my God!”
On this Divine Mercy Sunday, the only truth our savior wants us to know is that we are always being set free. We are always being forgiven. We are always being shown a mercy that acknowledges our scars and failures, but that tells us not to live there. The scars of our humanity are a part of our past and if we are honest, a part of our present. They need not, however, determine the course of our future.
This Sunday, bring your ‘scar stories’ – all of your failures and brokenness and woundedness with great confidence to the Lord. And the one who shares his scar stories, who shows us his hands and side will tell you that his Father had the last word in his life. And if you let him, he will have the last word in yours!