Luke 24  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.  As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them.  But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit.  And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts?  See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
In a sermon preached by Sister Veronica Aryeequaye, OSH, on March 28, 2008, she recounts the following:
“My nephew who was in the military told us that when he was enrolling into the Navy, he was given a physical medical examination. He said that the guy in front of him was asked if he had any scars or identifying marks on his body. He answered, “No.” The medic at the table, with much surprise, 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 remembered a scar or two he had.
The medic was right, of course. It seems that everyone has a scar or two and a story to tell about them. Some scars are visible and some not so much visible. The more invisible the scar is, the more painful memories they bring, and their stories, so bitter to recall. Some of the stories are great and some simply teach us lessons about life. I have two visible scars and the one I see everyday reminds me of some hard things about my life. I know you have yours too …”1
Jesus, raised from the dead, appears to the disciples as they listen to the report of His appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The disciples are not sure it’s Jesus. Perhaps it’s a ghost. Our Lord offers His glorified scars as evidence of His real presence. St. Jerome, the great Biblical scholar of the ancient church comments: “As he showed them real hands and a real side, he really ate with his disciples; really walked with Cleophas; conversed with men with a real tongue; really reclined at supper; with real hands took bread, blessed and broke it, and was offering it to them… Do not put the power of the Lord on the level with the tricks of magicians, so that he may appear to have been what he was not, and may be thought to have eaten without teeth, walked without feet, broken bread without hands, spoken without a tongue, and showed a side which had no ribs.” (From a Letter to Pammachius against John of Jerusalem 34, 5th century)
There is, we are led to conclude, in God’s economy, some essential connection being shown us between our faith in the risen Christ Jesus and the scars being borne by the same Christ Jesus. Jesus accomplished the work of glorifying the Father in both His death and resurrection. The sign of His victory, mysteriously enough, is testified in and through His scars. The Christ of Easter isn’t “scarless”. He bears the marks of His death on Good Friday. Being raised from the dead did not erase His scars. It did something else to the scars. The scars are glorified!! They become glowing scars of glory.
The scars of His humiliating death are used by the Father to do two things. First, they unite His death with His resurrection. Secondly, the scars become the sign to disciples in all ages of the victory of His self-emptying love. Our Lord Jesus Christ was confidently known to His disciples by the display of His glorified scars. See especially the story of Thomas – John 20.24-28. Thomas recognized him as risen only by seeing and touching(?) his scars. Not only the astonishing triumph of the Father, in His Son’s great victory over death and defeat, but His victorious presence are, displayed in scars of the Son.
What sign, therefore, can we look for by which we might have the same confidence that the risen and glorified Lord Jesus Christ is present in our midst with the same power to transform our lives and He transformed the lives of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and the eleven apostles and myriads of other believers whose names are recorded in the New Testament?
There are a number of signs by which the Lord makes his presence known. It is important to be trained up in the knowledge of the “signs of His presence”. Among the signs is that of the appearance of His glorified scars.
The Lord Jesus took upon Himself the suffering of this fallen world and everyone in it (see the suffering servant song in Isaiah 53). His scars are His redemptive identification with every form of wounding, scaring, suffering, futility, and decay. There is no wound that Christ by His choice has not made His own. If we are to seek and serve the risen and glorified Christ in our life and the lives of all persons and circumstances, then let us look for the scars of suffering in their lives. This is where the scared hands, feet, and side of the Lord to be found and therefore the Lord. This is a form of “stigmata” if you will – a bearing of the wounds of Christ in and through our woundedness of life faithfully submitted to Him for redemption and the testimony of His victory.
The Lord invites and commands us to look for Him in the places He chooses to be found. Where are those “who travail and are heavy laden” (Matthew 11.28f)? He is there carrying the burden. Where are those in “need of a physician” because of their spiritual sickness(Mark 2.17)? He is there. Where are the naked, sick, prisoner, hungry, thirsty, and the stranger (Matthew 25.31ff)? He is there bearing the scars of their woundedness.
Sister Veronica reminds us:
“There is something about scars that seems to make a person “very human”. We are sometimes apprehensive about people who seem to be “too perfect”; about children who grow up with only soft 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” and who have no signs of graying hair or wrinkling faces. There is something about our scars that make us real, believable, and trustworthy. Maybe it is because we know that life hands out its damaging blows to all people of all ages, of all backgrounds.”2
We know that the intersection between God the Father and ourselves is the incarnate Son of God, Jesus the Christ. The supreme point of identification is His crucifixion. The scars of Christ in His risen body speak of the place in our lives where that re-union of God and man is most powerfully possible. It is in our scarred humanity that Christ Jesus is most present to seek and to save.
We, who look for the scars in the midst of circumstances and the lives of others out of faith with hearts that yearn for the revelation of the risen Lord will, in the midst of difficult circumstances and broken lives, find the Lord manifesting Himself to us in and through all those scars. By this, the disciple experiences the presence of the risen Lord at work. We, as that disciple, in experiencing the presence of the risen scarred Jesus, have hearts that are comforted and strengthened by the knowledge that all the seemingly unredeemable circumstance or tragic life into which the Lord has placed us are in fact redeemed.
But the Lord desires more. The account of the scared risen Jesus concludes with a commandment to be witnesses of Him to others. The Lord desires for all who behold Him in His scared risen glory in the midst of the wounds of people and scared circumstances to be His witnesses according to the Holy Spirit’s instruction (Luke 24.47-48). Our Lord desires for all to know that those scared circumstances and people are redeemed in Him. The redemption of woundedness does not depend on the bearer of the scars choosing for their scars to be redeemed. It only depends on the presence of the Holy Spirit in the form of the believing disciple present in the circumstance appropriately witnessing to Christ’s redemption of the woundedness. That is enough. The Lord takes care of the rest.
Therefore, if we find the wounds, we, by faith, will find the risen and glorified Christ powerfully present “in all His redeeming work” (collect for the 3rd Sunday of Easter in the BCP). We will also find an opportunity to witness, under the Holy Spirit’s guidance to the victorious character of those wounds when submitted to the scared risen Christ.
Now, I am sure, that you can give plenty of examples of this dynamic from your own life and your involvement in the lives of others. But, if you cannot, then take some time to be alone or talk with a trusted brother of sister in the Lord and endeavor to see this wonderful dynamic at work.
Paul was willing to testify to the union between Christ Jesus’ scars and his own. He said, “…For I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (Galatians 6:17) Let us join Paul and enter into the adventure of seeking and serving the victorious Christ in the wounds we find within ourselves and all around us as He calls us to do so.
Let us pray…
Collect of the Third Sunday of Easter
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.3
Collect for Morning Prayer of Wednesday in Easter Week
Lord Jesus Christ, you revealed to Your disciples the mystery of Your risen and glorified humanity. Grant us the eyes of faith to seek and serve You present in the lives of all persons and in so doing to truly seek and serve all persons, for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.4
Fr. Thomas Brindley
3) Book of Common Prayer, pg. 224
4) Magnificat, April 2009, pg. 158