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“After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John NIV).
Friend to Friend
It was just a few days after Easter, and I was reading about the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of John chapter twenty. I had read the story many times prior, but this time God opened my eyes to see something I had never noticed before.
In my mind’s eye, I saw the pre-morning mist hovering over the garden surrounding the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid three days earlier. There amongst the dew stood Mary Magdalene, deep in sorrow and mourning over the death of her beloved Jesus. But then…Mary hesitates…blinks, tying to readjust her eyes…and discovers the unthinkable. The heavy stone had been rolled away from the entrance to Jesus’ grave.
How could this be? Mary thought to herself. Who would have stolen his body?
“I must go and tell the others,” Mary said as she dashed from the empty tomb.
“They took Him!” Mary said as she burst through the door of the room where some of the disciples were hiding. “His body is gone!”
Without asking any questions, Peter jumped up from his sitting position on the floor and bolted out of the room. A much younger and more agile John followed close behind, and eventually passed his older friend.
“He’s not here,” John whispered as he peered inside the opening of the cave. “His body is gone.”
A moment later, Peter arrived - stunned.
“Look,” John said, to his winded friend, “over there in the corner.”
A ray of sunlight pierced the darkness like a spotlight illuminating a lone actor on the stage. At the end of the beam lay Jesus’ empty burial cloths. Peter barreled past the timid John and burst into the darkened cave. There was just enough light to see the empty burial cloths and the strips of linen that had once covered Jesus’ head.
“What happened here? What does this mean?” they mused.
“Hurry,” they agreed, “let’s go tell the others.”
Running past Mary, Peter and John ran back to tell the other disciples of their discovery. But Mary stayed in the garden, weeping for her beloved Jesus.
Mary knelt at the opening of the empty tomb with her hands covering her tearful eyes. Suddenly, a beam of light caught her attention. There, at the spot where Jesus’ body had been laid, sat two glistening angels clothed in white – one at the foot and one at the head…just like on the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, she thought.
“Woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked.
“They have taken my Master,” Mary replied through her tears. “I don’t know where they have taken Him.”
Hearing a rustling in the myrtle bushes behind her, Mary turned her head. There appeared another figure as if in a dream. It was Jesus, but Mary didn’t recognize or expect Him.
Jesus echoed the angels. “Woman, why are you weeping?”
Mary thought the man was the Gardener. Oh, she was not mistaken. He was The Master Gardener. “Sir,” she whimpered, “if you know where they have taken Jesus, would you please tell me so that I can take care of him?”
Then Jesus whispered one simple word. “Mary.”
At the sound of her name, Mary recognized the Lord.
After a brief conversation, Mary raced back to the disciples. “I have seen Him!” she proclaimed, “I have seen Him!”
“Who,” they asked in confused unison.
“I have seen Jesus! He is alive!”
Later that day, as the disillusioned band huddled in their hiding place, Jesus appeared in their midst. He didn’t knock. He didn’t open the door. He simply appeared.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus said.
But the disciples didn’t recognize Him. He looked like Jesus, talked like Jesus, but how…how could it be?
In order to convince the disciples that He was indeed the risen Christ, Jesus made a simple gesture. He held out His hands and revealed the nail pierced hands. Then he lifted up his tunic to reveal the scar in His sword pierced side.
It was then…that they believed.
As I read these verses, God played and replayed the frames in my mind’s eye, but it was the final scene that captured my attention …”’Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20:1-20).
Oh God, I prayed, they didn’t recognize Jesus until He showed them His scars.
Yes, my child, He seemed to say, this is what I wanted you to see. They did not recognize Jesus until He showed them His scars, and this is how others still recognize Him today…when men and women who have experienced the healing of past wounds are not ashamed to show their scars to a hurting world.
It was an epiphany or sorts. A revelation. A cataclysmic shift of thinking.
See, Jesus did not have to retain the scars of the crucifixion on His resurrected body. He could have returned without them. After all, He is the one who put new flesh on the hands and feet of the lepers. But He chose to keep the scars, I believe, because they were precious to Him…that’s how others would recognize who He was.
That is still the way that people recognize Jesus today, when we are not ashamed to show the scars in our own lives - when we reveal the wounds that are now healed, and tell about the Healer who made it possible.
Dear God, thank You that Jesus kept His scars when He rose from the dead. I pray that I will not be ashamed of the scars in my own life, but that people will recognize the Healer in my life through my story. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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