Pastor Lecia Beck
16 April 2023 — Second Sunday of Easter
Acts 1:3-5, 12-14; Psalm 111; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31
Saint Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church, Bloomington, Indiana
We See the Wounds
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When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors were locked where the disciples were, for fear of the Judeans, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 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 retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, 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 the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, 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. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
The Easter eggs have all been found (I think). The decorations have been put away, the jelly beans eaten and that last little annoying bit of Easter grass has been vacuumed up. While the world around us has moved on from Easter, this morning we return to the disciples on that first day.
As you remember, it was early in the morning on the first day of the week that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and found the stone had been rolled away. Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, raced to the tomb and found it empty. There were no alleluias yet, still tears. The angels asked Mary, “Why are you weeping?” Jesus asked Mary the same thing. And then her eyes were opened and she saw the Risen Christ before her. Jesus told her to go, tell the disciples that he is ascending to his Father and their Father. Mary went and preached the very first Easter sermon, “I have seen the Lord.”
So now we join the disciples again, still on the first day of the week. It was evening, perhaps it was getting dark, and there were still no alleluias. It was as if resurrection had not yet come. They had heard Mary’s words, but the disciples were gathered in a room, locked away, for fear of the authorities, when Jesus appeared among them. His first words to them were “Peace be with you” as he showed them the wounds in his hands and in his side.
Thomas was not among the disciples that night, but notice how many of them, even Peter and the other disciple — the ones who had seen the empty tomb — were locked away in fear. Through Mary, Jesus sent word that he was ascending to the Father in heaven, so perhaps Thomas didn’t expect to see Jesus again. I wonder if he was already out there sharing the good news of who Jesus was, refusing to be crippled by fear of the authorities.
In a way, it just makes sense that Thomas was already out working. Out of all of them, at times Thomas was the one who seemed to get it the most. They had left Jerusalem in a hurry when folks tried to stone Jesus, so everyone knew it was dangerous to go back. Yet when the others would have dissuaded Jesus from going to Judea when they heard that Lazarus had died, it was Thomas who was ready to follow Jesus wherever it may lead, saying “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16)
While Thomas seemed to get what the other disciples didn’t, when he hears about Jesus’ appearance, he wants what the other disciples got – he wants to see the wounds also.
Why the wounds? Most of us are quite happy to leave gaping wounds to the medical professionals, to wait to see people until they have been bandaged and tidied up. For most of my adult life, I have been trained in First Aid and CPR, with the express hope that I will never have to use it.
Yet it seems important to them and to Jesus that they see the wounds. It’s as if the wounds are an integral part of resurrection – that resurrection is not real if the wounds were not there.
Sure, the wounds show us that this is indeed the same Jesus, the same person who was crucified, whose side was pierced, who died and was buried. The wounds assure us that Jesus is indeed human, one of us, while also God incarnate, that this is what happens when the word becomes flesh and dwells among us. This is the body of Christ, broken and poured out for us and for the whole world.
Touching the wounds makes resurrection real. It’s more than just doubt that makes Thomas want to see the risen Lord, but Thomas remembers the horror, the torture of crucifixion. Good Friday was all too real for him, the memories had not yet been blunted by time. The message that the tomb was empty and Mary’s testimony that she had indeed seen the Lord could not erase the memories. The pain was still too great to proclaim an alleluia. While resurrection may have come to Christ, it had not yet come to Thomas, or any of the other disciples huddled in fear.
But the wounds matter. If there are no wounds or brokenness, how can the resurrection be for me, broken and wounded as I am?
You see, we may not know what exactly resurrection means, but we know wounds and brokenness. We don’t want to know about it, but that’s part of being human, to know about wounds.
Maybe not with the same physical wounds, but we are wounded in many other ways. We lack wholeness and peace in our lives. Living is dangerous – especially living whole-heartedly and fully – so we risk being wounded. We wound ourselves. We wound each other, intentional or not.
Poet and painter Jan Richardson writes, “The wounds of the risen Christ are not a prison; they are a passage… In wearing his wounds—even in his resurrection—he confronts us with our own and calls us to move through them into new life.”
God knows what it means to be wounded and Jesus’s wounds become a passage from death to life. They tell us that resurrection is not just for those who have it all together and can avoid getting hurt or for those who can do the work and heal themselves, but that resurrection is for all people, for each one of us.
We believe that in baptism, “… we have been united with Christ in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:5)”
Yet we know that our own wounds are not the only ones that matter to the one who created us, the one who redeemed us. God desires to draw all people to God’s self that they may know healing and wholeness, life abundant. Seeing and touching the wounds of Christ allow us to see and touch the wounds of the world, which are many.
We see the wounds inflicted in an industrial fire releasing toxic chemicals.
We see the wounds inflicted in the countless mass shootings in our country – and the punishment of those who speak out.
We see the wounds inflicted by limiting the healthcare available to women or to trans.
We see the wounds that drive people to new countries where they are refused entry or treated inhumanely in the process.
We see and we stand alongside all those who are wounded, doing what we can to bring healing and relief, sometimes just simple accompaniment. We work for the restoration of the world, that all might know the abundant life Christ promises.
In the touching of the wounds, when the resurrected Christ is revealed, we can proclaim Alleluia! Christ is risen!
When we get a glimpse of the resurrected life on the other side of our wounds, we can proclaim, Alleluia! Christ is risen.
When we see ourselves, redeemed in Christ’s wounds, we can proclaim, Alleluia! Christ is risen!