In the risen Christ’s wounds we see God’s love, we see God, and we are embolden to offer own vulnerable love for the healing of all things.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Second Sunday of Easter, year C
Texts: John 20:19-31; Acts 5:27-32
Sisters and brothers in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Why did Thomas demand to see Jesus’ wounds before he’d believe?
It can’t simply be for identification. After Jesus’ resurrection, even those closest to him didn’t always know him at first. But their recognition came in different ways. Mary heard him say her name, and knew. The disciples of Emmaus recognized him when he broke the bread. The seven in Galilee knew by the huge catch of fish. No one seemed to need to see his wounds just to know it was Jesus.
John suggests the wounds are important in a deeper way than mere identification. On the first Easter night, Jesus appeared to all but Thomas, and “showed them his hands and his side,” John says. Maybe that’s why Thomas wanted to see the wounds, too. And when he does, he is overwhelmed and says, “My Lord and my God.”
Thomas not only recognizes his beloved Lord Jesus, alive. He names him as God. Christ’s wounded hands and feet and side showed him.
Thomas witnesses: You’ll know God when you see God’s wounds of love.
Eventually Paul will declare that at the cross God reconciled the whole cosmos back into God’s life, that the cross is central to all we need to know about God’s love in Christ.
Thomas starts that idea, but please notice what he understands. For 2,000 years the Church has debated, fought, made claims, proposed theories about how the cross and resurrection of Christ Jesus reconcile us to God. For some, the theories are the important thing. You have to know how it works for it to be real.
Thomas disagrees. He says, all you need to know God’s love is to see God’s wounds. Then you can believe.
And he’s right. I don’t need to understand vitamins or nutritional science to be nourished for life. I just need to eat food. You can study how food works, but the smallest child can eat a meal and be satisfied.
Likewise, you don’t need to know how God in Christ reconciles all things at the cross to believe that God does. You only need to see the signs of God’s love, and believe. Those wounds, suffered by the very Son of God out of love for the cosmos, show you God’s love in the only way you can understand.
Because what God’s Son reveals in his scarred body is exactly what he taught again and again: love willing to be wounded heals the world.
What Thomas saw in Jesus’ hands and feet and side fit with everything he’d heard from Jesus. Jesus’ way of repentance and following is a way of vulnerable love, in order to heal relationships between individuals, between cultures, between nations. Such love, spreading throughout the world, will end poverty and hunger, war and oppression, and all the isms that infect our hearts and minds. Love willing to be hurt will break the forces of evil and the barriers built up in our hearts that keep us from loving God and loving neighbor.
Jesus never shied away from telling the cost of this love. True love is willing to be wounded, even die, he said. And he was right. Love your enemies? That’s going to leave a scar. Pray for those who hate you? You’ll be marked by that. Give to everyone who begs from you? That will cost you. Forgive not seven times but so many you’ll lose count, even if it’s the same sin you have to keep forgiving over and over? That will cut to your heart. But in this love, life will be restored.
When Thomas saw these wounds, he knew he was looking at God’s love. Jesus’ teachings were now revealed as truth in the risen Christ.
But why does the risen Christ still have wounds?
Jesus is raised from the dead. Why does he still bear marks of his suffering?
Because when love is wounded for the sake of others, that leaves scars. They’re healed, but still there, signs of that love. Think of the wounds a mother receives giving birth. A new life is in the world, but the marks still remain as sign of the vulnerable love that brought that life into being.
So God is still bearing the wounds of God’s love for the cosmos, even after Easter. The Triune God still bears scars of suffering and death, reminders of the love poured out at the cross. Even though life has been restored, even though death has no more power, the marks remain.
As they do with you. When you forgive one who has asked it, a new relationship is born, and new life happens. You still carry the scars, though, but they’re healed, reminders of your love, not painful wounds that still fester. When you offer your love to another, and it costs, you still carry those costs, even though life comes out of your woundedness, and love grows and thrives. Risen wounds remain a sign of the love that caused them.
And when Thomas sees his risen Lord still scarred from his outpoured love, but alive and offering peace, Thomas realizes that vulnerable love not only redeems the world, it lives beyond the woundedness.
Seeing Christ’s risen wounds, the sign of God’s redeemed suffering, emboldened the disciples to follow the same love.
Look in Acts today at the courage of Peter and the others before the same council that just condemned Jesus to death, the same council that will soon turn into mob frenzy and stone Stephen to death. “We won’t stop proclaiming Jesus’ death and resurrection,” they say. “We have to obey God, not you human authorities.”
Most of them did lose their lives, gave up everything out of love. But living in the risen love of God in Christ, they knew from the risen Christ’s wounds that offering themselves in vulnerable love was not only the way of Christ, it was the way to life, to hope, to healing. So they let go of their fear. One at a time, they went out to change the world by their love, whatever the cost. And change it they did.
You know God’s love when you see God’s risen wounds, and there you find God’s grace to be wounded yourself.
That’s the way out of this locked upper room for Thomas, for you, for me.
Christ is risen, and you can see God’s wounds still, the marks of God’s wounded love that transform the whole creation. That’s the love that will empower yours, embolden you to offer yourself in love to your family, your neighbor, your world.
And people will see God’s love when they see your wounds. It’s time to unlock the door and go out as you are sent, as Christ yourself, to be a part of God’s healing of all things.
In the name of Jesus. Amen