The Scars Still Remain
Originally written April 25th, 2015
There’s this interesting little Batman animation short I saw years ago, centered on Batman receiving training to not feel pain. He goes to a woman named Cassandra to learn how to become immune to pain. As they are discussing, he sees her stop and just stand on a spot of burning ground, and asks if it hurts. As they continue discussing it, he asks a very interesting question, “Does it scar?” She responds, “Bruce, what pain doesn’t?”
The vast majority of us will acquire at least some scars over the course of our life. Some through silly things; reckless games, careless mistakes, dumb choices, and more. Some might have a more serious story, though. Scars are something that I think about often, being left with so many after going through a year with cancer. A large scar in my back from surgery and a massive infection, a scar on my chest from the port that was installed for chemo and removed after. For years after, I was too self-conscious about them to even take my shirt off at the beach. I have minor scars too from silly things in life; a little scar on my lip from when a cat scratched me when I was 2 years old, and even an almost invisible scar on my right little finger from the time I smashed my hand with a pocket knife cutting something in Haiti. Each scar with its own story, and its own pain. For some people, scars are a reminder of the pain they endured, for others, a reminder of the difficulties they have overcome.
The Sunday Jesus rose from the dead, it took some convincing for even the people who saw Him to believe He had come back to life. If you read the gospel accounts of Luke and John, you see some interesting details of Jesus’ first interactions with the disciples after He came back to life. The very first thing he does is show them His scars. Before He eats anything. Before they have any real conversation. He shows them His hands, feet, and side. John adds an interesting detail about Thomas, who hadn’t been there when it happened. When Thomas heard the story, his response was “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 it.” He doesn’t ask to see His face, or see Him eat, or even see Him perform a miracle. He demands to see the scars.
Sure enough, one week later, Jesus comes back, and goes right to Thomas. “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” One week later, the scars were still there, so Thomas would believe. I think there’s something powerful in this demonstration. Most people go through life hating scars. They do everything they can to avoid or hide them. Entire fields of surgery are devoted to removing scars. Here we have Jesus with a new, resurrected body. He didn’t need to keep those scars. There is no rule that says you keep all the wounds that you have when we are brought back to life in the final resurrection; on the contrary, the description we get from the apostles paint a picture of new, perfect, glorified bodies that don’t decay. Jesus, however, didn’t take that. He didn’t accept a body with no record of what He had done. He didn’t take a body that had no stories to tell. He came with a body that had the marks reminding everyone of all the pain He had endured. He kept these scars so Thomas and all the others could believe, and by extension, so we would believe.
There’s a song that always comes to mind when I think of this, with some very powerful lyrics:
We often think of the crucifixion as something Jesus endured for a few hours, and then was done. After that he was shiny and smiling and super-powered, right? That’s not the story these scars tell, nor is it the story we see after Jesus’ resurrection. When John is describing the end times in Revelation, he says he saw “a Lamb, looking as it if had been slain” at the throne. Even at Heaven’s throne, the wounds were still there. Those wounds didn’t last just a week, and they went much deeper than just His hands and feet.
Judging from typical church attendance trends, it’s fair to say that the vast majority of people in the US think about Jesus hurting and dying for about a week out of the year, and then forget about it until next year. But even though most people stop thinking about Jesus and the resurrection after the Easter week, the truth is Jesus was up and around interacting with people for more than three weeks after he rose from the dead. It took work to convince people like Thomas that He wasn’t dead. All that time, as near as we can tell, He walked around with those scars for everyone to see. It’s no wonder that even today we’re still fixated on them. For the Christian, those scars are everything. The God of all creation endured a pain for us so great, it leaves scars until this very day.
It’s fun to wonder about what Heaven will be like sometimes. New sights, new sounds, maybe even new senses we could never have imagined. We can picture new bodies, with all the scars of past pains gone and forgotten, with only the future to look forward too. But I wonder too if this song really captures what we’ll see; seated around the throne of God, with a new heaven and a new earth, all of our own scars and our own pains long gone, yet seeing those scars still there, for all eternity. And forever they will tell the story of a God who paid a penalty we could never hope to pay, to give us a reward we could never hope to earn.