He bore the scars of love
By Pastor Huran Gatobu
United Methodist Church, Wallace
God is good; all the time. After the resurrection, Jesus continued to appear to his followers and sometimes they identified him by his scars.
They were gathered with doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19-29, Luke 24:36-42).They were feeling guilt that they had failed their master. One of their inner circles, Judas had betrayed Him. Peter had denied Him.
In the garden of Gethsemane when He was overwhelmed with sorrow and needed them to pray with Him, they fell asleep. He asked them, “Couldn’t you stay awake with me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40). All the disciples ran away except John. They felt bad and they gathered with the doors locked.
It was in that confusing, doubting and hopeless situation that Jesus appeared to them. They thought He was a ghost. Jesus spoke peace to them. He said, “Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:37-39).
They identified Him by his scars.
The scars were a proof that He was not a ghost or a phantom. He was not a hallucinations or illusion in the minds of his followers. The risen Christ is real. He had died, He rose from dead and He will come again in glory.
That makes Christianity really unique. The biblical scholar, William Barclay wrote, “Christianity is not founded on the dreams of people’s disordered minds or the visions of their fevered eyes but on one who is actual historical fact. One who faced and fought and conquered death and rose again.”
Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared. He doubted and needed to see and touch the scars of Jesus (John 20:25).
Sometimes I have wondered where Thomas was and why he was separated from the other disciples. I have also thought of how we are like him.
Although Thomas was very loyal, courageous and loved Jesus, he doubted because he was not there with them when Jesus appeared. Probably he was away because he might have been in his early stages of grieving. Probably he was too broken and depressed and he wanted to be alone. That is very common in some cultures where people want to be alone when they are hurting and people respect that.
In my African culture, it is a little different. We have a kind of a community which says, “I am because you are and since you are therefore I am.” (Mbiti). So, when somebody is hurting or rejoicing, they are encouraged to be with the community. If one goes to a private room to cry, some people follow to cry with the hurting. If words of encouragement are spoken, they are done within the community. In that sense it is important to stay with the community.
In his solitude, Thomas missed Christ’s first appearance. I think John wants us to know that Christ appears most often within the community of believers, the Church.
When we search our hearts we are in one way or another like Thomas. We would have wanted to see Jesus with our own eyes and even touch those scars. I am thinking of times when we have been faced with a difficult situation, when we have struggled with an illness or death of a loved one. I am thinking of times when we or our family member have made bad choices. I am thinking of when our faith has been challenged even by Non Christian. Sometimes we have doubted and wondered whether prayers can make a difference.
When things go wrong and we are tempted to shut off the outside world, when we close our doors in fear and uncertainty, that is the time we need to seek the fellowship of God’s people.
In the fellowship of believers, Jesus will always come to us and speak, “Peace.” Thomas doubted but he came back to the fellowship and his surrender to Christ was complete. He said, “My Lord and my God.”
Spiritually, when we see the scars of Jesus, they are not just ordinary scars. They are scars of love, healing and forgiveness. “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the punishment that made us whole. And by his bruises we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).