Unless I See His Wounds
Alleluia! The Lord is risen!
A week and a half ago, we celebrated the greatest feast in the church year, the day when our Lord was resurrected from the grave—and the day he led us, by the hand, out of our own graves. If this doesn’t issue an “Alleluia” (God be praised!) from our lips, what ever could? This is the greatest news the world has ever known!
I’ve been spending a lot of time in John 20 lately, and verses 19-28 have grabbed me in a way they never have before:
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, 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; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
The resurrection of Jesus is, without a doubt, the most important event ever to occur in the history of this world. It cements Jesus’ victory over the forces of evil in the world, it frees us from death’s captivity and gives us access to Jesus’ own perfect, eternal life, and it is because Jesus rose again that we may dare to hope that, one day, we will rise again too.
But in this passage, John shows us another consequence of the resurrection, something that brings us back to the very beginning of the Bible: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the beginning of the new creation.
In the second creation account of Genesis, God forms the first man from the dust of the ground “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”—and we became living souls. Just as God breathed life into Adam, Jesus breathes a new life into the firstborn men of his new creation. Because of his life, death, and resurrection, the shalom that existed in the beginning is here once again, and it will never be lost again. “Peace be with you,” Jesus says. And it is. And it will be forever.
But did you notice that in between his two pronouncements of peace, Jesus showed them his wounds? I don’t think this is a coincidence. Sure, it’s a way for his apostles to be able to identify that it’s really him, that he really rose again. But I don’t think it’s just that. I think Jesus is showing the apostles the very reason this peace can exist.
“Peace be with you. Look at these wounds. They’re your wounds, and I shared them with you. I took them for you. You can have peace now.”
Thomas refused to believe Jesus was really back until he saw these wounds. The Church has been hard on Thomas over the years, but he’s no fool. He’s not headstrong, and he’s not a twenty-first century scientist who needs verifiable, reproducible evidence to believe something.
In fact, John reserves one of the most important roles in his story for this “doubter.” He’s the only one in the entire gospel who truly understands who Jesus is. Throughout the entire book, people argue over who Jesus is; they say he’s a good man, a prophet, a liar, a demon-possessed maniac. But only Thomas sees. Only Thomas says, “My Lord and my God!”
And it is these horrific wounds that clue Thomas in. It’s the hole in his side, the nail marks in his hands, and the scar tissue that prove to Thomas that Jesus is his God. Jesus Christ, the God of Israel and the God of the Church, is the wounded God. He’s the God who identifies with his people to the point of dying their own death, the death that they have died and continue to die. He is the God who joins himself to his people so that they may have his own life, the life that he lived and continues to live. He will never die again—and neither will we.
In John 20, the Author of Life is writing a new story. He has begun his new creation in the Church, and as the Father has sent him, he is sending his disciples into the world: “Go share in the wounds of the world. Let the world wound you, and forgive them. With the help of my Holy Spirit, go and spread the new shalom.”
We don’t have the luxury of a face-to-face encounter with Jesus like Thomas. But John includes these words from Jesus just for us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Will we believe today? Will we go and share this good news of the God who shares our wounds and lived to tell the tale? Will we take our place in his new creation?
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!