I want to talk about scars. We all have scars. Every one of us.
Every scar brings with it a story, and those stories become a part of who we are. Every single one of us is scarred from the moment we are born. Each one of us carries a scar so universal that we consider it a body part: our belly button. Even as we took our first breath we had to adjust to a whole new reality: life in a world that leaves us with scars.
We could probably spend hours sharing the stories of our scars. I’ve got a scar that’s barely hidden by my hair that is evidence that when my college friends and I came up with idea,s working together actually made us less intelligent. I also worked in food service during high school and college and collected scars almost weekly on my hands, arms and even on my foot. I’ve got a few scars across my brow created by hockey sticks, and a few made by the careful hands of a surgeon.
Every scar has a story. Some of them make us laugh. Some of them are pretty mundane. Some of them relentlessly remind us why we call them “scars”: stories that we don’t want to remember, that we wish had never happened. Even though scars are proof that we have survived, they still leave us forever marked.
And the scars that mark our skin, they barely scratch the surface. It’s not just physical scars that we carry through life. Often the scars that hurt us the most are the ones we can’t point to on our elbow or forehead.
On the evening after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples—all of them locked up in a house—and the first thing Jesus did was show them his scars. Jesus—the risen glorious savior—still had scars. Thomas wasn’t there, and the story draws our attention to his desire, his insistence, his need to see the scars. A week later, the first thing Jesus does is show Thomas the scars.
I relate to Thomas. I think we are all meant to relate to Thomas. The Bible never explicitly calls Thomas a doubting Thomas”. Thomas is always referred to as “the twin” but we never hear about his sister or brother. Other siblings of disciples are clearly identified, but not the other twin. I believe what many scholars over the centuries have suggested: Thomas is called “the twin” because he is our twin. In Thomas, we can see our own struggle to believe. I find that possibility very encouraging and interesting.
It also occurs to me that Thomas would not have struggled with the idea that Jesus had risen from the dead. Just a few pages earlier, Thomas was there when Jesus told the disciples that his friend Lazarus had died. Thomas was also there when Lazarus come out of the tomb. Thomas did not need to see that Jesus was risen; what Thomas needed to see were the scars. Maybe he just wanted proof that it was really Jesus, or maybe there was something more.
Maybe the good news of Easter is not simply that Jesus is alive but that the scars are real. Scars that tell the story of Jesus; permanent reminders of what had happened. Thomas needs to see the scars because we need to see the scars. We need to know that they are real. We need to know that God has scars just like us. Even after the resurrection, the story of suffering is not forgotten.
God has scars just like you. God knows every one of your scars and every detail of every story behind them: the funny ones, the boring ones, and the ones that hurt every day. Our scars are signs of healing. They are proof that we can be mended, but they are also reminders that we have been irreversibly changed. God doesn’t take away those scars. Instead, we hear the words of Jesus: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Jesus sends us, scars and all, to be the hands and feet of God in the world today. We are the wounded hands and feet of Jesus. And our scars may be just what this world needs to see. This world doesn’t need people who have it all figured out telling others how to live and what to believe. This suffering world needs to see scars. We are surrounded by people with scars who need to meet people with scars just like theirs who have encountered a God with scars just like theirs: a God who offers a love deeper than every scar’s damage.
Jesus sends you, scars and all. And there is no length that Jesus not already gone to meet you in the midst of your scars. Jesus is already there. Jesus already bears the same scars and invites you to see them, to touch them, and to believe. It is in the scars that you see how deep God’s love goes. It is in the scars that God meets you right where you are: even the parts that you try so hard to keep hidden.
“Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”