TEXT: John 20:19-31
This morning we turn our attention to chapter 20 of John. Christ has been crucified. He has been buried. He has risen from the dead. It’s hard to believe, and as we see in this morning’s reading, not all of Christ’s followers blindly accept the news of that he has risen from the dead.
A friend of mine says that when he went into the Army, he was given a physical medical examination. The recruit in front of my friend was asked if he had any scars or identifying marks. He answered, “No.”
The medic at the table said, “Boy, everybody has some scars or other identifying marks. You better tell me yours or I’ll have to take you outside and give you some!”
Suddenly the guy ahead of my friend remembered a scar or two.
The medic was right, of course. Everyone has at least one scar and a story to tell about it.
Illustration: (Playing with my brother, and cousins…scars in my chin.)
Every time I’ll be seeing it and feeling it, it would always remind me that I’m not superman and that I can’t fly. J
I have a very colorful childhood…two of my friends were hanging out with me in front of our house in Tugatog, Malabon, and we were talking about our scars…I was then 12-13 yrs.old. My friend told me that he got his scar to his knee when he stumbled after beating everyone in “Mataya-Taya…” The other one said, “Oh that’s nothing! I had these scars in my elbow and two knees after I crossed the finished line in the 100 meter dash in our school competition.” (Syempre, di naman ako papatalo…) I took off my shirt and said, “You know this?” (I was pointing my finger to my chest)…My friends told me, “Yes, yan yung natapunan ng bagong kulong kape diba…kaya nga nagka-mapa ka dyan ng Tugatog” I said, “No, Edith, Kinder to Grade 1, she broke my heart.”
Be it physical, emotional and even spiritual, all of us have scars…You can’t live life without being hurt, without being scarred.
In the New Testament Lesson for today, Thomas demands to see the scars upon the hands of Jesus. He is full of doubt and when he is told by one of the other disciples, “We have seen the Lord,” Thomas responds with some honest and sincere doubt. He has a “gotta see it to believe it” attitude.
Thomas looks at the other disciples and says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
What do these scars mean to Thomas, to us and to Jesus:
1. TO THOMAS: A PROOF OF THE RESURRECTION.
Thomas has a nickname. It is “Doubting Thomas.” He earns that nickname because in our New Testament lesson, he expresses doubts. “Unless I see the scars…I won’t believe,” says Thomas.
But this like referring to the patience of Job. Job is a long book in the Old Testament and the man named Job lost his patience very early in the book. He spends most of the time in the book of Job very impatient.
So it is with Thomas. Throughout most of the written record we have about this man, Thomas was a man of great faith and belief. It is Thomas who is the first to say to Jesus after the Resurrection, “My Lord and my God.”
Actually, it would have been unacceptable for Thomas to have done anything else but express doubts. There is a difference between trust and gullibility. There is a difference between being a person of faith, and a total loser.
After the Resurrection, God made sure that people served as witnesses. Actual witnesses who saw with their own eyes and felt with their own hands. It was important that there would be people like Thomas who could express doubt and demand evidence, and once confronted with that evidence, believe.
We think of Easter as a one day event, but it actually is a season of several days. In the Book of Acts, we read that there was a 40 day period between the time Christ rose from the grave and the day he ascended into Heaven (Acts 1:3).
It’s enough time for Christ to see and to visit a number of people.
The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:3-8): For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, (at the time Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians) though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
The scars at the hands of Jesus became part of the fabric of evidence that the Resurrection was not a rumor or a figment of imagination brought about by grief and denial. THE RESURRECTION IS REAL!
Hank Hanegraaff writes, “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest feat in the annals of human history. It is the very “capstone in the arch of Christianity.” Without it, all else crumbles. When we fully comprehend the significance of resurrection, our lives will be revolutionized. Without resurrection, there is no hope. Indeed without resurrection, there would be no Christianity.” (Christian Research Report, Vol.13, Issue 2, May 2000).
We need to come to a conclusion today that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is more than a fairy tale, more than a legend, and more than some religious symbol. It is a historical fact that is indisputable. In fact, Billy Graham said that, “There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three.”
Now the question is ‘Why should Christ’s resurrection be important to us?’
THE RESURRECTION MAKES YOUR RESURRECTION POSSIBLE!
You and I are spirit and body. We are spiritual and we have physicality. Unlike the beliefs of the Greek philosophers who thought the body was evil and something we should want to be released from, God made our bodies as part of who we are and they complete us. Right now our bodies are affected by sin and die, but God has a plan to resurrect our bodies to perfection.
One day we our current bodies will be transformed, it will be glorified…it will be bodies completely perfect and dominated by the Spirit rather than the sinful nature.
Our spirits have been saved, but we are waiting for the day our bodies are completely made new. “For in this hope we were saved.” RESURRECTION IS OUR HOPE! And 2 Corinthians 5:5 says, “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose…” This ‘first fruits of the Spirit’ spoken of in Romans 8:23 is elsewhere referred to as a deposit in Ephesians 1:14, 2 Corinthians 1:22 and 2 Corinthians 5:5 and His indwelling is a guarantee that much more is on the way. We have the down payment of the Spirit, but are awaiting the full transaction that will come to fruition when our bodies are resurrected and we live forever with Him.
And our resurrection is only made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As Stanley Horton points out, “Christ’s resurrection and ours are part of one and the same plan of God.”(Horton, Stanley. I & II Corinthians. p. 150) Christ’s resurrection guarantees our own bodily resurrection. The Bible refers to Him as being the ‘first fruits,’ which guarantees the whole harvest, of which you and I are a part if we are in Christ. In other words, since He was raised first, we know we will be raised.
To Thomas, that is what the scars of Jesus meant — the Resurrection is real.
What do these scars mean to us?
2. TO US: A REMINDER OF CHRIST’S HUMANITY
There is something about scars that seems to make a person “more human”.
We are sometimes suspicious about people who seem to be “too perfect”: about children who don’t have some signs of scraped knees, about teenagers who don’t show any signs of acne, about models whose hair is perfect the moment they step out of the surf, about people who are in their “twilight years” who have no signs of graying hair or wrinkling faces.
There is something about our scars that makes us real, believable, trustworthy. Maybe it is because we know that life hands out its damaging blows to all people of all ages, of all backgrounds.
It is sometimes easy for us to accept the divinity of Christ, and to forget the humanity of Christ. But Christ was both divine and human.
Paul said (Phil. 2:6-7), Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” In Hebrews 4:15 it says, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
- Those scars remind us that Jesus remains human, just as he remains divine.
- Jesus being human; reminds us that Jesus felt pain, just as we feel pain. Those scars remind us that Jesus suffers, just as we suffer.
Have you ever felt really down, perhaps you were unwell, or somehow things were going badly? An acquaintance saw how blue you were and decided to cheer you up. They told you that your problems weren’t so bad and proceeded to tell you that it was your own fault and you needed to get a grip, pick yourself up by your bootstraps, dust yourself down and get on with your life! Now didn’t that helpful advice make you feel a lot better? No? You do surprise me! The truth was that they didn’t understand what you were going through. They didn’t understand how badly your head or heart ached. If they had they would have been much more sympathetic, now there is a lovely word. When we are blue, true sympathy is better than all the know-it-alls who think they have all the answers – but don’t really understand the half of it.
Of course God knows us through and through. He knows what makes us tick – after all he designed and made us. The Bible reminds us, time and time again, that God is interested in our concerns and heartaches. And not just like a curious scientist watching laboratory rats, but because He loves us. Perhaps, though, you think that He is so remote, up in heaven that He can’t understand how we feel. He may understand the theory of our problems – what is wrong with our dickey ticker, creaky joints, or auto-immune system. This verse makes it clear that this just isn’t so. Jesus doesn’t only understand the theory of our weaknesses – He understands the feeling of our infirmities. Why? Because He stood where we stand and faced the sort of problems that we face! Let’s think about it for a while:
- Have you had a tough life? So did Jesus! He was born in a stable and lived the life of a peasant.
- Do you have housing problems? Jesus had no place to lay His head. Mt 8:20
- Do family responsibilities weigh you down? There is no mention of Joseph after Jesus 12th birthday. Jesus probably had to support Mary and His half brothers and sisters from an early age. As He died in agony on the cross He even had to think who would take care of His mother.
- Do people undervalue you or put you down? Those who lived in Nazareth saw Him only as the boy who had grown up among them, the son of Joseph and Mary. When He tried to reveal His true identity they tried to stone Him. Mk 6:3; John 6:42
- Do people slander you and make unkind remarks? They called Jesus illegitimate – John 8:41, a glutton and a drunkard. Mt 11:19
- Are you misunderstood? He ate with the dregs of society and they said he was just as bad – Mt 9:11. He healed a paralysed man they called Him a blasphemer – Mt 9:3. He cast out demons and they said He did it by the power of Satan – Mt 12:24.
- Are you under too much pressure? Crowds followed him everywhere, until He was so tired he slept in a little boat in the middle of a storm Mt 8:24
- Are you hated or unjustly treated? The Pharisees saw Jesus as a threat and hated Him so much that they determined to destroy him, arrested Him, rigged His trial and arranged His execution. His judge knew that he was innocent, but condemned him to death anyway – it was politically expedient – Mt 12:14.
- Are you lonely or let you down by your friends? Judas sold Him; Peter denied Him with oaths and curses; His closest friends deserted Him. The crowd who had screamed His praises a week before they asked for His death. On the cross even His Father forsook Him.
- Do you suffer pain? They beat Jesus, made a crown of thorns put it on His head and hit Him on it. They plucked the hairs from His beard, forced Him to carry His own cross, nailed Him to it with jagged iron spikes, leaving Him there to bleed and die of thirst and suffocation under the hot eastern sun. He was the Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief (Isa 53:3) and has not forgotten.
- Do you feel unwanted? And they all cried out at once, saying, “Away with this Man, and release to us Barabbas” Lu 23:18
- Do people ridicule you? They laughed at Him and taunted Him as He hung dying on the cross – He saved others himself he cannot save Mt 9:24
Are there problems you face and He has not endured worse? HE IS ABLE TO SYMPHATIZE BECAUSE HE TRULY UNDERSTANDS. He is more than qualified to be our High Priest; to represent us to God as our high-priest because He is fully God and fully man. As we have seen, Jesus is perfectly fitted to represent us because He understands what it is like to face the problems that we face – from personal experience.
If you’re looking for someone to love you, Jesus loves us so much more than anyone else possibly could. And He truly understands. No matter what you’re facing today, Jesus knows your name, your struggles, your feelings, your everything.
But what do these scars mean to Jesus?
3. TO JESUS: A REMINDER OF HIS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR US.
Isn’t it strange that the Resurrection brought Christ back to life, but left Him scarred.
Here is Jesus, the man, appearing to his friends and showing them the scars that his life, his suffering, and his death, inflicted on him. Isn’t it amazing that, in whatever occurred at the time of the resurrection the scars were NOT obliterated? They remained. They are still there.
We have a permanently scarred God. And he comes, scarred, to be with us with whatever scars we bear, with whatever wounds we carry, and with whatever doubts we harbor.
Isn’t that incredible? Isn’t that an amazing demonstration of God’s love for us? That he would continue to carry the scars, the reminders of the pain and humiliation he went through.
Think about what it means for Christ to have scars on his hands.
Our hands are the one part of our body that is almost always in view of our sight. We can’t see our ears unless we look in the mirror. We see our feet if we intentionally look down. But our hands are almost always before us. No matter what we do, we usually see our hands as we do it.
That is why in the Old Testament, some people would wear small boxes on their hands. Inside the boxes was a small parchment with a portion of Scripture. In Deuteronomy, God told the people (Deut. 6:6-9): “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
- In that way, if a person reached to steal something, there was the Word.
- If a person went to hit a person, there was the Word.
- If a person went to touch someone in an adulterous way, there was the Word.
Now what does Jesus sees when He reaches out for us? He sees the scars on his hands:
- When Jesus reaches out to judge, He sees the scars on his hands – It reminds Him of His love for you…
- When Jesus reaches out to bless or comfort, He sees the scars on his hands.
- When Jesus reaches out to receive us, He sees his scars.
With those scars, He would always see how much He had given just to prove to you how much you and I are loved!
- Thomas needed to see the scars in Christ’s hands.
- Those scars remind us of the humanity of Christ.
- Those scars remind Christ of his love for us.