Thursday, March 28, 2013

He Bore the Scars

                I have a number of scars on my body. Growing up, I was rather accident prone. Each scar bears witness to some traumatic childhood event. There is a scar on my forehead, from when my older brother accidentally hit me with a shovel. There is a small, faded scar on my abdomen; a reminder of my bout with appendicitis.  There is a fat, little scar on my left thumb, from a failed go-cart test run. Over the years I have added several more prominent scars. The most evident is a seven-inch long scar (dubbed “the worm” by my children) from some emergency surgery I had a couple of years ago. Along with the scars that you can see, I bear some scars that are invisible to the eye. They are scars on my soul, caused by major disappointments and failures. Of these, I have many. Each scar, whether physical or emotional, marks a significant event in my life.

                I was reminded today that when Jesus rose from the dead, and presented himself to his disciples, he bore the scars of his crucifixion. You would think that his resurrection body would be perfect, without spot or blemish. After all, the sacrifices that the people of Israel brought to the Temple for hundreds of years had to be perfect. Jesus was and is our perfect sacrifice. So why the scars?

                I believe the scars are there to remind us of the depth of Jesus’ love for us. It was those scars that convinced ten scared disciples that Jesus was real. It was those scars that melted Thomas’ doubt and turned it into faith. Those scars are the ultimate symbol of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. They are the ultimate symbol of Jesus’ love and compassion. They are the ultimate symbol of Jesus’ identification with us in our humanity.

                Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:14-17 (NIV)

                Humanly speaking, it cost Jesus everything to be our Savior. This was no easy task, no walk in the park. This was a battle to the death; and beyond. In taking on our humanity, Jesus took on our scars. Paul summarizes the enormity of the price Jesus paid in Philippians 2:6-11.

                Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
                When a soldier excels in valor, during the confusion and terror of battle, we award that soldier the Congressional Medal of Honor. It is the highest military honor that can be bestowed on a soldier. The scars of Jesus are God’s Congressional Medal of Honor. They symbolize the full extent to which Jesus carried out his duty. Jesus was willing to do what it took to secure our freedom from our bondage to sin. We are the beneficiaries of those scars. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (NIV)

                When we think about heaven, we often think about the reality that we will receive a new body. Pain and death will be banished and we will live with Christ forever. The Bible speaks of crowns and rewards that we will receive in heaven, which we will gladly lay at Jesus’ feet. I have often thought of that in terms of jewels in a crown. But I wonder if, at least in part, what we will lay at Jesus’ feet are our scars.

                Paul teaches us that the path of faith is shaped by sharing in Christ’s sufferings. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17 (NIV) It is the challenges of life, the ones that often leave scars, that prepare us for the glory that God has in store for us.
                But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
                        Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, 16-18 (NIV)

                Over the years, as my children were growing up, they have asked me about my scars. Those were opportunities for me to share my story with my children. When we get to heaven, we will see the scars of Jesus. They will forever vividly remind us of his love and grace. The story of Jesus’ life is wrapped up in those scars. When we get to heaven, maybe our scars will be the means by which we get the chance to share our story of faith with Jesus. 

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