SCRIPTURES – Acts 3:11-21; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49
Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” Luke 24
This is the second week in a row that our Gospel reading has focused on the things that took place late in the afternoon on the day that Jesus rose from the dead. For the second week in a row we hear that Jesus appeared to His disciples, said, “Peace to you!” and then showed them His hands and His feet.
Why did He still bear in His body the wounds from His crucifixion? He did not give partial healing during His ministry. When Jesus healed a person, no infirmity remained: the lame did not limp or hobble along, but walked, and even ran; the blind received perfect sight; lepers had all evidence of their disease removed; the dead were raised to life again, not made into zombies. Why is it different with Jesus? Why does He still bear His wounds?
A simple, and most obvious, reason is that they bear witness to the fact that He is truly the Jesus who was crucified. The disciples were not fooled by an imposter, while the real Jesus of Nazareth lay dead in a grave. “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself,” Jesus says to His amazed disciples. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe,” He says to doubting Thomas. They needed the evidence, for, oh, how real had been the evidence of His death: a mangled, bloody, crucified body! “Peace to you!” He is not a defeated failure, but is risen in victory!
But, perhaps Jesus still bore His wounds after His resurrection because we still bear our wounds. Now, God tells us that He loves us as His children. He made you His child when He baptized you into Christ’s death and resurrection, for in that act He put to death your sins and raised you to new life with Him. He also put His name on you and declared Himself to be your Father. As believers in Jesus we have been raised with Christ and are God’s children now! But, boy, we do not always feel like our lives are new or behave like it; nor does it appear in our lives that we are God’s blessed children. The wounds of the sin and death which mark this world have been thrust deep within us. Their wounds are seen upon our bodies and in our lives in many ways:
In the sicknesses that assault us and threaten us – even on Easter Sunday, as Steve Sabol experienced with the extremely serious pneumonia that hospitalized him for 10 days.
In the weakening of our bodies, and especially our minds, as we age. How this wounds us and our families!
In the sorrows, worries and fears we have because of the uncertainties of life in this fallen world.
And, especially, in the shame we feel because of our sins. How do you think Peter felt when he saw Jesus standing there before him, when during His trial he had lied and said he didn’t even know him? Are you not also ashamed at times? Should you not be ashamed? And, sin has wounded us so deeply that we can do wrong and sin even when we do not intend to do so and are unaware of doing so! We are still guilty, however, for unintentional sins still inflict wounds.
The deepest wound that sin has inflicted upon us, however, is the wound of doubt and unbelief. Again and again the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection make note of the doubts and disbelief of His disciples, even when He was standing before them! At the very end of Matthew’s Gospel, right before he relates Jesus’ final words to His disciples, Matthew tells us: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” Even after the risen Jesus had spent 40 days with them some still doubted!
That wound of doubt and unbelief which so afflicted them also afflicts us. How can it not? We are 2,000 years removed from Jesus’ day. We have never seen Him with our eyes or actually heard His voice! Doubts and disbelief also wound and trouble us.
Sometimes when things like TV specials investigating what happened to His body ask: Was it stolen? Did He rise from the dead, but then die again later? Was it all a story concocted to promote a new religion? And we are disturbed.
But, more often it happens this way: when we feel rejected we doubt His love… When we feel guilty we doubt His forgiveness… When we are lonely we doubt His presence.
We are no better than His disciples, who constantly struggled with doubt and disbelief. What kind of Christians are we? Why are we so weak, so wounded?
“Peace to you!” Jesus shows us His wounds because He is, and forever remains, our Savior. He never wants to be seen or thought of without His wounds, for He never wants you to think that He is separate from you and your wounds. Your Helper is not a spirit being of infinite power and might who is so distant from you and unlike you that He cannot truly understand you or know you. Even after His resurrection and ascension into heaven He is your Savior, a person of flesh and blood just like you. He knows your wounds, no matter what they are, for He has borne them. Even in the midst of His joyful victory over them He comes in humility, bearing our wounds and serving us with the peace of His gentle and forgiving presence. “Peace to you!” In Jesus God is at peace with you.
Even when you are sinful and wounded; in fact, especially when you are sinful and wounded; look upon His wounds. God’s Son offered Himself to be wounded for your sins, and by His wounds you are healed. “Peace to you!” Your Helper, your Savior, is at hand. This means we are loved as God’s children now. And, even though what we will be is not yet evident, “we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3)
“Peace to you!” In Jesus Christ, the Savior of wounded sinners. Amen.