Christ shows us His wounds. His wounds are His promises fulfilled and carved into His flesh. The tortuous piercings’ are not veiled. They are scandalous & repulsive to this world. Christ’s wounds are before the disciples’ to physically behold. The scars cannot be ignored, hidden or disregarded.
And they remain to this day invoking the same deeply visceral and acute feelings among believers and non-believers.
His wounds remind us that His sacrifice & suffering was necessary and never forgotten. Human history was never the same after the Lamb of God was nailed to a tree.
All the same, His wounds are perfected through His glory, grace, mercy and power. The fear, shame, guilt and indifference are all transformed when we see that the torture was received and endured for love of God for us and for His entire creation.
(Verse 20:21) Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
Here the disciples – as any one of us – need God’s continued reassurance and provision of peace, protection and power; and He will surely give to us said provisions freely and in great abundance. As He comforts us, He equips us as well – so that we may be prepared to live out His example as we go through this life.
In fact, we are ALL missionaries. Being a missionary is not contingent on the location we find ourselves in.
In Keith Miller’s classic book, “The Taste of New Wine,” a controversial perspective on mission is provided. I find it to be refreshing, provocative and therefore, the most biblical view on our living out the great commission.
“As I began to read the New Testament accounts I saw that Christ almost never ‘went out of His way’ to help anyone. He seems to have walked along and helped the people in His path. He was totally focused on doing God’s will and going where God led Him. But He never failed to help the people He met along the way while going where God directed Him. This made for an amazing steadiness and spiritual economy in His direction and ministry. This one change in my perspective made witnessing not a program but a way of life.” (p.93, 1965).
As He went before us, we are called to follow.
The hardest charge is for us to live out the ministry of Jesus in our own lives. For this we need to wear our scars and to show them before all who are without Him on this life journey. The quintessential ingredient we must be in possession of is lack of fear.
Fear distances us from God. Fear handicaps the spirit and opens the door to the enemy to his deceptive and destructive ways. In this day and age of positivism and scientific arrogance, it is way too easy for the darkness to oppress cities, people and churches. As we turn our backs on the sick, distorted and violent campaigns of Satan against God’s people, we fall victim to the great deception and in essence, are accomplices to his destructive agenda.
So, fear isn’t addressed spiritually. We have terms such as phobias, anxiety and other clinical vocabulary, but ultimately, the question of fear – requires a spiritual diagnosis as well. Fear incapacitates people and enslaves them. Once oppressed, the individual is no longer capable (in their hearts and minds, they are convinced) to pray, worship and serve the Lord. Paralysis is the end the enemy seeks to achieve.
As the disciples were hidden because of fear, they were not proclaiming the Gospel, they were not witnessing to others about Jesus’ resurrection. Fear has incapacitated them.
We’ve discussed brokenness and pain before. As in the case of our Lord, our wounds are healed and they undergo the healing process of Resurrection. They are no longer sources of spiritual death, but they do leave scars. It’s often said that one of the most difficult issues concerning forgiveness is whether it is possible for us to forget the transgressions we’ve have committed or those done to us.
I don’t think it’s about forgetting anything, actually. These scars are also physically carved into our flesh – into our hearts. Yet, they no longer possess any power over us. We are free and no longer enslaved by the sources of the injuries. The scars are now sources of power and remembrance of God’s healing power and of His promises. In essence, we are free from the consequences of this profound life transformation, fear. In the absence of fear, we are no longer silenced and defeated – seemingly unable to proclaim His praises, because our healing is the direct result of His death & resurrection.
When we forgive, there is no longer any need to forget the past for it has lost all its power over us. From that moment onward, the past acquires a place in our lives sourcing inspiration and testimony – for we see then that God was, in fact, always with us – even when He seemed to be on mute - distant and indifferent to our needs.
Scarring is an integral part of a wound’s healing.
The tribulations we undergo are seasons of being put through the fire. As we go through the fire, we are purified and tempered. We are strengthened and reinforced for greater things for the sake of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
Interesting enough, the word scar was derived from the Greek word schara, meaning place of fire. . BTW, it’s no coincidence, my friends.
(Verse 20:22) When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.”
We receive the Holy Spirit and in doing so, we are no longer a broken, scattered and fearful minority. Because of the Spirit, we are more then conquerors. We are on fire for the Lord and alive; empowered to proclaim & live out the story of salvation in our lives as living sacrifices.
(Verse 20:25-28) So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "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. A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you. Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe. Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
Doubt. This is a topic of discussion that causes all sorts of heartache among Christians. In some circles, doubt is absolutely unacceptable. To so much as suggest the possibility of doubting brings harsh consequences so many believers, just keep their doubts to themselves. Ironically, instead of feeling comfortable with sharing these dry seasons with other Christians, many are hesitant to do so. They feel the non-Christian crowd may actually be far more forgiving. Another irony, eh?
Traditionally, Thomas has been given a real hard time because he doubted. I sometimes feel inclined to say that he was probably one of the most sincere in his present state of confusion and disbelief. Thomas doubted that Christ could actually disarm once and for all the unfathomable powers of death, oppression, illness, injustice and brokenness on this planet. To Thomas, how could one poor, solitary life change the universe on a desolate and damned hill outside of the city gates and then defeat death once and for all by physically walking out of a stone cut tomb on Resurrection Sunday? How?
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are some of you reading these lines that are currently in a dry season overshadowed by doubt and disbelief.
Thomas was not excluded or excommunicated from the group of disciples because of His doubt. Rather Christ came to Him and revealed His wounds so that he may come and see for himself.
Thomas wanted to believe, though. And I believe that makes all the difference. When we want to believe & trust God, God seeks us and reveals His wounds so that we may come and see as well.
Fear and doubt are inextricably related. Once we fear, we doubt possibilities are available to alter the reality we are facing. Once we are taken over by fear, it becomes harder and harder to see anything beyond what is currently undermining our lives. God seems farther and father away and our ability to communicate and be heard by Him seems to be less likely and we have less desire and intention to pursue it any further.
Once we are in that state of spiritual disarray, we are once again paralyzed and ineffective. We are where the enemy wants us – hidden and afraid.
Christ offered Thomas His peace before he offered His wounds to him. As Thomas, you are able to receive that same peace as well. You are not excluded from the comfort God affords anyone who struggles and wrestles with faith and disbelief. In fact, I would suggest that it is during the state of crisis Thomas underwent that he was most effectively equipped to minister to others and to be a source of peace, companionship and compassion while taking the Gospel to where tradition suggests he ended up in – India. Why?
Humility – plain and simple. Humble recognition that the dry seasons will come and when we are in those times of spiritual famine, we know that our God does not leave us to starve. All we need to do is ask to be fed and to be willing to receive what comes from God with thanksgiving and open hearts.
How do wounds, scars and fear all measure up to a message? Jesus’ peace is Shalom. It is total healing. It is holistic. Every single aspect of our lives is transformed when we receive the peace of God. The peace of God surpasses all human understanding because it transforms the human mind to entertain and behold the things of the Spirit. Those things cannot be appreciated by minds seeking to debunk the things of the Spirit – and seeking to intellectualize their understanding of God. Those activities – rooted in the need to control God and hubris cause estrangement from God. The outcome is that there is no peace, no healing, and no revelation - nothing. Apart from the vine, we can do nothing.
The fulfillment of Jesus’ ministry and incarnation is consummated in the Resurrection. The resurrection initiated the chain reaction of witness and proclamation that is culminated in the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. The Church’s mission begins with Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, though. Here is where they receive the great commission to make disciples, not converts of men and women of every nation and every tongue.
How can a broken people – scattered, afraid and without a sense of future be the forerunners of this body of believers? Through the peace and healing that comes in Christ. These first Christians would face challenges they couldn’t even begin to fathom. Their legacy would be left to a remnant that would remain faithful even when much of the outward expressions and inner workings of the Church was as rotten as the whited sepulchers our Lord spoke of in the Gospels. And so it today, that the remnant of believers continues to pray, worship, serve and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ in the midst of ecclesial corruption, denominational apostasy and hierarchal inefficiency and irrelevance.
The wounds of Christ were the physical, bodily expression of His sacrifice; forever recorded in scars testifying to His limitless love for all humankind. Through these wounds, we are healed. Through our healing, we too rise from spiritual death and enter the Kingdom of God.
As sons and daughters of the Kingdom, we are enjoined to testify to what we have seen, heard and experienced in our own lives; in short, to show how our scars tells a story as well of recover, redemption and resurrection. As others doubt, we can have others come and see for themselves that God in fact is present, in our midst and reconciling all things to Himself through Jesus Christ. In this story, we are also like Thomas, at times doubting and in need of a physical encounter with Jesus. As fear sets in and seeks to destroy our love for and trust in God – peace is offered and peace is given. The Spirit is imparted and we can in fact, come and see, touch and realize that Jesus is our Lord and our God.
When we live in the Spirit, fear no longer has a deathgrip on our hearts. We are free to serve God in Spirit and in Truth. We can walk out of caves, rooms and hidden places to meet our neighbor and love him/her. No longer are we afraid of consequences for we serve a living God – creator and sustainer of all things and in full control of all things – including me. We risk everything for God in the trust & knowledge of His faithfulness and goodness.
The humility of our falls and lack of faith reminds us of our total dependence in God. As Paul wrote about the thorn in his side, we too, have our own thorns that prick, stab and pain us – at times quite deeply. May we worship even when our hearts are cold. May we pray even when our minds rage against the things of the Spirit. And may we know that God is always eager to grant us the privilege and the blessing to see Him – all we need to is to ask and to receive His peace.