Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Feast of the Resurrection 2013: Gaze we on those glorious scars

The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture,
Gaze we on those glorious scars!
John Ce­nnick  

Alleluia, Christos anesti!

You'd have thought, given Our Lord Jesus can appear in utter majesty at His Transfiguration, that He ought to have made an effort when appearing to His disciples after His Resurrection! What better proof of His triumph over Death and the truth of our hope in His word than for Him to appear in blazing light in no uncertain terms and fix His image in the minds of all Jerusalem and the world?

Yes, but that's not how Our Lord Jesus Christ works, and if we think like this, then, like the disciples, we haven't quite heard His message.

He appears to us bearing His wounds. He allows us to touch them, to see them, to put our hands into them to prove, this is no make-up, no feint, no magic. With these scars He destroys our doubt. With these scars, He appears to us as we might know Him. He doesn't need to appear in radiance to His friends who have known Him and loved Him in the grubby garb of the street. He doesn't need pomp and ceremony to eat with those who have truly known Him.

His scars give him continuity - this is the same Jesus Who was crucified, dead and buried. If you can put your hand into the wound of a man on his side, then there is something horribly wrong unless... unless this man is precisely who He claims to be! This man, who stands in front of us, smiling, eating, being just as sociable as he was before the grotesque events of the past days, this man is God Incarnate.

Ours is a scarred God. Christ has perfected His Incarnation with wounds, great livid scars that speak of pain and suffering. He does not permit them to heal on His new Resurrection Body because they do not need to heal. While He bears these scars, He gives to His followers the pattern to be able to bear their scars and see them as part of our being.

All our lives we are scarred in many ways, small and great, and often big, disfiguring wounds given to us by the world and even by our own silly fault. Often we look at those who suffer and cannot turn our eyes away quick enough from their disfigurement because, in seeing their pain, we imagine it in ourselves and feel ill at the thought. This is a reasonable reaction, but a reaction that should be followed up with the same compassion that the Lord showed them when He gazed upon their scars.

His knowledge of suffering allows Him to identify with them - with us! - His pain is not imagined, but real and so He knows the reality of the blind eyes, deaf ears, leprous hands,  haemorrhaging, paraplegic and sheer crushing misery of destitution and abandonment. The is our God whose scars show the world He is one of us! He does not need to heal - these scars are His badges of honour. They cease to be the livid marks or pain and anguish, of torture and hatred, of fear and malice. They become more precious than Victoria Crosses, Military Medals, more glorious than tiaras and sceptres and crowns. These are not perishable baubles, but are genuine, personal and indelible. Each imprint of the nail, the jagged hole in His hand, is a shining beacon of light and a doorway into Heaven to sit and eat in His Kingdom.

His scars give our scars the opportunity to shine radiently too. All our hurt and woe, our rejection and dejection, our tired vain and impotent attempts just to try and get things right in the unfair, unkind, unaccommodating world, all of these He turns into the same badges of honour. Christ gives us the dignity to suffer in life and to come through and find our battle scars reflecting His glory to the world. Yet He offers this challlenge to us that we should be prepared to become as scarred and marked as He if we aim to have any fellowship with Him. Take up our cross? Yes, we must, but we will not regret it!

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