“Seeing the Wounds of Jesus”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 20: 19-31
April 8, 2018
” … 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.” – John 20:28i
As a child I lived in Missouri for nine years. Missouri’s state slogan is “The Show Me State” and I think it rubbed off on me. I’m skeptical of anything that is not rational. Ever find yourself listening to another person’s story and thinking, “This can’t be true. It doesn’t make any sense.” I have. Sometimes it’s hard not to smile and say, “Oh, come on. That really didn’t happen.” So Thomas and I have a great deal in common. He didn’t believe the other disciples. It didn’t make sense. How could Jesus work Himself into the middle of a room when the door was locked? I, too, might have asked to see the mark of the nails and spear.
And did you notice that when Jesus appeared the first time to the other ten disciples, the text says this:
…Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19b-20)
One way to interpret these verses is to say that the other ten disciples needed to see the wounds of Jesus, too. Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” And what do the disciples do? Nothing. After this Jesus shows them his hands and side and it is at this point the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Thomas isn’t so unique. He, too, needed to see the wounds before he could come to belief.
And you? Don’t we all need to see the wounds? Has not the pain in your life and its sorrow shaped who we are today? Would the “you” you have become be loved by those who love you now? Oh, no one in his/her right mind seeks out suffering in order to grow, but there has never been a life lived that did not know darkness – including the life of Jesus. A wise preacher from a former era caught this truth:
“Do you not think that part at least of the reason for the rough places of life and its sore discipline is to initiate us into the secret of God, that we may through that difficult experience become agents of God’s help and encouragement to others? Do you not think it must be God’s intention that suffering should be transmuted into love? There is a profound truth surely in the remark that Thronton Wilder puts into the mouth of a character in a play: ‘In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve.'”1
Thomas never touched Jesus. Jesus shows him his hands and side. It is enough. This is the man Thomas loved and served.
And so we come to this Second Sunday of Easter. He has not stood before me in a locked room. He has not revealed His hands or side. But I have known the power of that empty tomb. I, like you, am one of life’s wounded survivors. I would not wish you sorrow, darkness or dreams gone array. But they will come and you, like Jesus, will rise and a love once shallow will have become deep. Fight on. The triumphant Lord of earth and heaven is at your side. He has the wounds to prove it. Let us pray….
1 Stewart, James S., The Wind of the Spirit, Abingdon, Nashville, 1968, p. 155.
i John 20:19-31
19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 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.”
26 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.” 27 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.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 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.”
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah,[c] the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.