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The DEEP

Known by the Scars

Jesus's marks of death that were never erased

John 20:19-20, 26-29

 

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

Scars tell a story. 

A farmer may show you a missing finger and tell about the risk of rope burn from trying to hold on to a cantankerous steer.

A chef may show you white nicks and cuts on one hand and talk about the bite of a knife during the dinnertime rush of a busy restaurant kitchen.

A war veteran may show you a limp earned from an enemy’s bullet. 

There is a scene from the classic movie Jaws where the protagonists pass the night on their leaky fishing boat. While the killer shark prowls in the deeps outside, the three heroes share “war stories” about scars they carry. Hooper, the marine biologist, rolls up his sleeve:

Hooper: (Points at scar on his arm) Moray eel. Bit right through my wetsuit.

Quint, the fisherman and a true “old salt,” is not to be outdone: 

Quint: (Pulls up his pant leg to reveal long, ugly scar) Thresher! Thresher’s tail.

Hooper places his leg on the table:

Hooper: (Rolls up his jeans) Bull shark scraped me when I was getting samples.

It is not until the hero of the movie, Chief Brody, points at a scar on Quint’s arm that the scene loses its lighthearted tone: 

Brody: [pointing at a scar on Quint's arm] What's that one?

Quint: Oh, that's a tattoo. I got that removed.

Hooper: Let me guess…”Mother!” [laughs]

Quint: Hooper, that's the U.S.S. Indianapolis.

[Hooper's face drops]

Hooper: You were on the Indianapolis?

Brody: What happened?

Quint: Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin' back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We'd just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes…

The story that Quint tells becomes one of the most famous scenes in movie history. It is about the sinking of his warship during WWII and the terror that he and his fellow sailors endured from attacking sharks–who preyed mercilessly on them until they could be rescued. It is based on a true story and an incredible account in its own right, but actor Robert Shaw delivers the tale in grizzled close up as a soliloquy that chills the heart as the visceral fear of floating alone at sea with man-eating sharks fills the mind. [Here is a clip of this scene from the movie if you are interested. Warning - contains scenes of men drinking to each others legs!]

Even director Steven Spielberg admits that this short, almost ad-libbed, war story is the best scene in the entire movie.

Scars tell a story. They speak to you and me about a life lived, pain endured, and how some injuries can never seem to fully heal.

A scar can be a badge of honor or a mark of shame. 

When Jesus appeared after His resurrection in the Gospel of John, His scars were the only way His followers first recognized and believed that the crucified Christ was actually alive and among them once again. 

Jesus’s scars tell a story:

19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”–John 20:19

It is the day of the Resurrection of Jesus and the Risen Lord has been very busy. Mary Magdalene discovers the empty tomb during the early morning hours. Peter and John, have their famous footrace to find the discarded grave clothes and finally believe that His promise is true. Jesus appears to Mary, who mistakes him for the gardener–until His voice calls her to a recognition and a new reality (John 20:15). Jesus takes a walk with two disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24) who talk Him into taking dinner with them. He vanishes from their sight as soon as he breaks bread and they recognize him.

Jesus, in His risen state, is both unrecognizable and unmistakably the Christ. 

The familiar timbre of His voice. The practiced rabbinic motion of His hands breaking bread. Little mannerisms and inflections that stir memory and emotion–like hearing the voice of a long lost friend over the phone, or glimpsing a loved one in the airport, returning home from a trip.

Night is falling and Jesus’s closest disciples–the remnant of the Twelve–are holed up in a locked room. They know Peter and John’s breathless news of the empty tomb, and Mary’s happy account through her joyful tears. But they are afraid. Surely the high priests will not be satisfied with just taking Jesus. Surely must surely want His followers punished too.

The stories of Jesus’s resurrection also fill them with trepidation–what if the Jews have a violent reaction to these incredible rumors? The air is electric in the room as the disciples, minus Thomas, ponder the incredible news of the day.

Suddenly, Jesus is standing in the room! Not a knock on the door or a call from the street–but appearing among them!

Jesus, in greeting, gives them a rabbinic barocha: “Peace be with you.” This may be more than a simple hello–for during this unexpected visit Jesus commissions His bunkered-up band of disciples, later repeating the blessing as He gives them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22). 

First, however, there is only stunned silence. Their whispers and quiet talk are hushed by this apparition! They expect maybe soldiers or even a prying neighbor to to disturb their hideout but–not this visage!

Like Hamlet encountering his father’s ghost:

Angels and ministers of grace, defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape! –Hamlet, Act I, Scene 4

John does not tell us that they were necessarily afraid–maybe more just taken aback as they tried to process the encounter. Jesus knows this, knows their thoughts and hearts. He quickly helps them out: 

20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.–John 20:20

The relief seems to be almost instantaneous. It is Jesus–His hands, His feet, His side. The recognition of His scars snap them out of their reverie. It is really Him!

John does not expand on how long Jesus stays with them in this room. It is here that He blesses them with the Holy Spirit. It is here that the other disciples–Thaddeus, Matthew, Bartholomew, Phillip, and the others–finally have a chance to see the evidence of the empty tomb. They can, at last, believe.

Did Jesus leave as suddenly as He appeared once He blessed them with the Spirit? I like to think that this was a time of joyful reunion–of brothers sharing tears and laughter together again when all (save One) thought that they would never laugh again.

All are present except Thomas. He is the one disciple not present and when he learns of the reunion he is still skeptical. For a week he has to hear their stories as they relive that meeting over and over. It is a week of doubt for Thomas. And then:

26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”–John 20:26

I get the feeling that the disciples returned again and again to this room in the evenings to see if Jesus would come. They dragged Thomas with them every time in hopes that he too would see and believe. It is possible he believed from the start, it is just that he could not shake his doubts and fears. When Jesus suddenly reappeared–through locked doors, no less–all doubt was dispelled from Thomas.

Scottish Pastor William Still says that at that moment, Thomas was:

“…perhaps the most repentant and the most relieved man in all the world.”–William Still

Jesus blesses them again and then He turns to Thomas:

27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”–John 20:27

But Thomas would not touch Him. He can only confess that Jesus is risen indeed: 

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”–John 20:28-29

Jesus responds with a beatitude. He does not scold Thomas, who in his joy and relief at seeing Jesus is not an object of rebuke. Jesus tells him, the disciples–and you–that they are blessed by seeing Him but those who believe in years to come who have not seen Jesus are equally loved by God.

Jesus, in His risen form is unlike Lazarus, who simply walked out of the tomb still wrapped in linen. Jesus’s body is different, for He is becoming glorified. We know that in our glorified state after death we will bear none of the marks and disfigurements of this life (Philippians 3:20-21). 

And yet, Jesus still bears His scars from the cross. It is these that He uses as His identifiers to His followers and to the world.

Jesus, is chosen by the Father to be, known by His scars.

This is captured in song by Christian artist Michael Card (I know I quote him a lot here!):


And after they had slain Him and laid Him in the grave
And the ones He loved had fled into the dark
Then His love and power raised Him
God won the victory
But they only recognized Him by the scars
–Michael Card “Known by the Scars”

Are you known by your scars? True you may bear a physical scar or evidence of some crippling past injury, but chances are you are not truly known by these. More often than not the scars that most affect you are the emotional scars suffered through the pain of broken relationships, the experience of loss, and the struggle with sin.

It is normal for you to want people to know you by the scars you carry, to have an idea of how you may have suffered in this life. We sometimes trade stories of our pain with others like Quint, Hooper and Brody on the boat in Jaws. It is easy to want to focus on the hurts and to even one-up others for how much trouble this world has caused you. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” 

The hope for the believer is to become known by Jesus's scars. To realize that the scars of the One who has saved you can cover and heal the scars that you carry in your heart. When you witness to others and seek to live a life that reflects Christ, you too will be identified by His scars–and not your own. It is for this that you must pray–not to focus on your own worldly hurts but to lose the scars of the past within the scars of the One who bore your sins on the cross.

 

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The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

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The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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