Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Wounded Christ

(Note: This post first appeared in my church's newsletter.)

As we approach another Easter, there is one detail in the story of the resurrection that always fascinates me and yet, I’ve never read anything about it in commentaries or heard a sermon about it. It’s a detail that doesn’t always show up in the readings for church until the week after Easter, when we read about Thomas the Confessor (instead of the Doubter, but that’s for another column).

The detail that always fascinates me is that Jesus is still wounded.

I’d think that the God that can restart Jesus’ heart and lungs after two days could stitch up the holes in his hands, feet, and side. After all, throughout the Gospels, God’s power cures leprosy, heals blindness, and makes legs walk again. So why does Jesus still carry wounds?

In the Gospel accounts, the wounds function partly as identification. Jesus greets the bewildered disciples and says, “Put your hands in my side and touch my hands.” (John 20:20, for example) But wouldn’t scars have worked just as well? (Note he says “IN my side,” not “here’s the scar.”) And surely they would have recognized him without that, right?

I’m not sure why the power of God would have chosen to leave Jesus wounded, but I’ve come to develop my own meaning for them. As I read the story now, I reflect on the way in which even after resurrection and new life, we carry scars and wounds. Even though God gives us new life in Christ, being baptized or saved or redeemed or resurrected (or whatever word you prefer) doesn’t make us perfect. Though God imbues us with holiness, we still carry reminders of frailty. 

And that holds true for all of the resurrection moments in our lives, all of the second chances and new beginnings that we experience. Whenever we greet a new start, we carry our old wounds with us. It’s an image for which I’m grateful because it reminds me that I’m human, simultaneously sinner and saint, as Martin Luther would put it, and those scars connect me with others in their lives. As Train sang in their song “Bruises,” “These bruises make for better conversation… You’re not alone in how you’ve been. Everybody loses; we’ve all got bruises.” Even Jesus.

“Yes and I will run the distance, if you’ll please, please excuse my crutch.” -Vigilantes of Love, “Resplendent”

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