We all have scars, from the unstitched nicks of childhood to long gouges left on our chests from bypass surgery to the empty rippled space left after a mastectomy. Some scars are readily visible; others remain hidden, whether from embarrassment or reticence.
Then there are the countless inner wounds; the grief that never quite heals, wrongs done to us or by us that can never be righted, memories that cannot be erased, hurtful words or betrayals that seem to have a direct line to our tear ducts or the recurrent knot in our stomach. You can’t get through life without scars, inside or outside.
It’s fascinating, then, that when John tells the story of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after the resurrection, he tells how Jesus showed them his scars, his wounds. Not once, but twice.
First the risen Christ slipped through the closed doors and appeared before his frightened, despondent disciples. But they still seem almost numb. So, John says, he showed them his wounded hands and side. Then “they rejoiced to see the Lord.”
Thomas shows up a little late. He wasn’t among the disciples for the first Easter appearance. The other disciples tell him about it, but he’s skeptical. "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe" (20:25).
A week later, the risen Christ again surprises the disciples. This time Thomas is there, and Jesus obliges his doubts. “Put your finger here,” says Jesus. I see a smile on Jesus’ face as he holds out his hands to Thomas. There’s no indication Thomas lifted finger; rather the sight of Jesus’ wounds brought Thomas to his knees in an act of recognition and adoration.
Why are the wounds so important? Why didn’t Jesus appear unblemished and whole? Jesus showed them his wounds as a badge of his identity. He is the risen Lord, conquering death, and he is their risen Savior, who entered the depths of human pain and sin. The marks he displayed proved his finished work
Jesus is truly the wounded healer. He comes as the mangled one who conquered sin and death. His wounds remind us of the suffering, the fear, the pain of the one who did it all for us. When we see the wounded one risen and victorious, we know our own wounds will be healed.
This isn’t the last time in the Bible we see Jesus with his wounds. John sees it all in his vision on the island of Patmos called "Revelation":
“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne. . . . Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands. . . . In a loud voice they were saying, ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain. . . .’” (5:6, 11, 12).
I find it infinitely comforting that the wounded one is the object of heaven’s praise. There, before the great throne in glory stands the slaughtered Lamb. Even in the glory of God’s presence, the wounds are visible. In fact the wounds elicit the thunderous praise of the heavenly hosts. In Jesus’ wounds, the wounds of human life are never far from the heart of God.