Sometimes I wonder if Doubting Thomas gets a bad rap. That adjective’s permanently affixed to his name as if Jesus Himself placed it there. Actually, Thomas’ name never appears that way in scripture. Reading through John, the whole story unfolds quite differently than how I had remembered. When Jesus first appeared to the disciples after His resurrection, Thomas was not present. Jesus stood in their midst but it isn’t until He revealed His wounds that they really recognized Him. Later the disciples recalled this experience to Thomas and he responded by saying that he would not believe that it was the Lord until he could experience those wounds for himself. Several days later, when Jesus appears again to the disciples, this time with Thomas present, Thomas didn’t actually ask Jesus for that proof. Jesus, unbidden, invited Thomas to touch His hands and His side.
Fanny Crosby, a prolific hymn writer and poet, composed a hymn which spoke about Jesus’ wounds as well. The chorus goes:
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
And redeemed by His side I shall stand!
I shall know Him, I shall know Him By the print of the nails in His hand.
All this attention to His wounds got me to thinking about them.
Why does Fanny Crosby care so much about His wounds?
In every bio I came across online, almost the first thing that was revealed about Fanny was that she was blind. Though the world often considers blindness a disability, she understood it differently:
“It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.”
It’s revealing that this woman who is blind would focus on how she would know Jesus in heaven by seeing His wounds. I wonder if someone for whom her life was defined primarily through a “brokenness” in her body might see a particular beauty in Jesus brokenness? What humans see as proof that a person might not be fit for use by Him (a disability, a weakness, a person’s opposition to Him or sinfulness), in scripture God routinely reveals as the reason why He chose them. If Jesus’ perfected resurrected body is a wounded body, couldn’t it be true that our broken and wounded places might fit, with no incongruity at all, into His picture of beauty and perfection for our lives as well?
Why does Thomas care so much about His wounds?
Have you ever been in a circumstance in which it felt as if the hope that you held closest to your heart had been denied, only to hear from someone else around you that hers have been fulfilled? Interestingly, in the story of Lazarus’ rising from the dead, Thomas had been the disciple that seemed most eager to bear witness to that resurrection story. It seems plausible that Thomas might have, in the time of grieving following Jesus’ death, held close to his heart a hope that he would witness another resurrection story featuring Jesus. Yet when a resurrected Jesus did appear to His disciples, He did so at a time when Thomas was not present. So imagine how Thomas felt when the other disciples ran excitedly to him, telling him about how they had born personal witness to the risen Savior.
If I were Thomas, I might have wondered if there were something about me that was less worthy or less important than the other disciples to have not been allowed to experience the resurrected Christ personally. And maybe Thomas was a man who didn’t just want to bear witness but wanted to literally dig deep, actually get his hands dirty, in this amazing thing that God was doing. That Jesus allowed Thomas to do this, invited Him to touch and see Him in such a real and intimate way, is truly a testament to how well Jesus knew and loved him. To Thomas, perhaps not only seeing but also being able to place his hands in the resurrected body of Jesus was confirmation that Jesus cared enough to give Thomas a special place in the resurrection story.
Why did the disciples care so much about His wounds?
A resurrected Jesus is a perfected Jesus. I’ll admit that I have a hard time believing that Christians who appear too pretty or too perfect are real. When I see a believer who presents the skin of her life as being smooth and unmarred, it’s hard for me to imagine that they’d be able to relate to a person like me whose stretchmarks and battle wounds pucker and pull at me still. Disclosing scars is revealing the paths of our lives carved like a map across our identity. We can look at them on each other and say, “I’ve been there too!” Jesus came to earth as the Messiah (which means “God with us”), because He’s not only with us, He’s for us. He became weak so that we would know that He understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses and therefore can be a perfect advocate on our behalf. Jesus knew His wounds would allow the disciples to recognize and identify Him by where He’d been. In this situation like in so many, wounds are authenticating.
Why did Jesus care so much about His wounds?
For Jesus, His wounds are not a source of shame. His scars were not something to hide, they were something to reveal because Jesus’ wounds are not His ugliness, they are His beauty. Jesus’ suffering was not his downfall, it was His glory. Jesus made Himself weak to reveal God’s strength. In the same way, God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. The truth is, sometimes to reveal God’s strength, we must disclose our weakness. In fact, as we learn from Paul, sometimes our weakness is the thing in which we should boast. The theme appears a lot in his writing in fact:
I’m part of a group of women planning on event on September 20th at a church in Bloomington, MN called Three Stories. The purpose of the event is to encourage women to reveal themselves and share their stories, their real selves and real stories, so that the real Jesus may be revealed in and through them. Find and follow us on Facebook to learn more.