Sunday 19th April – Reflection by Revd Sue McCoan
Here we are, a week after Easter. I hope you managed to find some joy and celebration despite the strange times. In our bible reading, though, we are back on Easter Sunday. It’s evening, and the disciples of Jesus are in lockdown for their own safety. The day that started with the women finding the empty tomb has left them excited but also confused and fearful. Jesus is risen – that’s wonderful – but what does it all mean? And what do we do next?
Let’s hear the first part of our Bible reading.
Bible reading John 20:19-23
If they didn’t know what Jesus being risen meant before, they do now. Here he is, standing among them, bringing them peace. What joy, what relief.
But notice the order in which this happens. First, he greets them with peace. Then he shows them his hands and side. And then they rejoice because they have seen the Lord.
Jesus is risen, but he rises with his wounds. And it is the wounds, the holes of the nails in his hands and the gash of the spear that pierced his side, that tell the disciples that this is Jesus, Jesus who was crucified. There can be no mistake. It can’t be an impostor, it can’t be that the crucifixion was some dreadful bad dream; this man was dead, and now he is alive.
In case we are in any doubt about the importance of these wounds, John the gospel-writer goes on to tell us about the one disciple who was not there when the others saw them. Let’s hear the second part of our reading.
Bible reading John 20:24-29
Dear Thomas, dear doubting, questioning Thomas! He speaks for so many of us. And here, he keeps our attention drawn to the wounds of Jesus when our instinct would be to look away. And we see, as we look, that there is more to this than a means of identification. The wounds show us that Jesus suffered.
When I was little, my brother used sometimes to save up his pocket money and buy the Marvel ‘Superman’ comics, which I would then read. On of the attributes of Superman is that he is invulnerable – he can’t be injured or feel pain. Which means that in his secret identity of Clark Kent, if someone hits him, he has to pretend to be hurt, so as not to give the game away. There have been people who have thought this was true for Jesus – that as the Son of God, he didn’t really get hurt, he knew he would be ok.
The risen, wounded Jesus reminds us that Jesus was fully human. He felt pain. He knew what it was to suffer and die. This really matters to us. It means that Jesus can stand among us in whatever we are going through, and say, ‘I know how it is’.
I know how it is to be part of a family that don’t understand you; I know what it is to be bereaved; I know how it is to be criticised for doing the right thing or to be scorned and mocked; I know how it is to feel betrayed, or let down by someone you trust. I know how it is to feel utterly alone.
It matters, because we know we can bring all our wounds, all our troubles, large and small, present and long past, to Jesus, and know he will understand.
So we are glad that Jesus shows his wounds to Thomas. But that’s not all. Jesus invites Thomas to touch. Feel the holes, Thomas, if that’s what it takes for you to believe. This is a costly thing, but it is as if, through it, Jesus is saying, ‘your healing, your wholeness, matters more than my hurt’.
Your wholeness matters more than my hurt. How much conflict in churches might be avoided if people could say this and mean it.
And we will do well to remember this when the time comes for us to be able to meet again in church. We will not be the same people we were before this virus affected all our lives – even those of us who have stayed well, and have not found it difficult to stay indoors. Already, both St Andrew’s and Wembley Park have each lost a dear person whom we have not been able to mourn properly. When we meet, we will need to be very gentle with one another, sensitive towards one another’s needs.
That’s hard when we have our own needs to attend to. But as we acknowledge our vulnerability, so we can offer it to God for healing and for redeeming. In the story of Thomas, we see Jesus is wounded AND Jesus is risen. God can take our wounds, our hurt, our shame, and redeem them so that they become something new. They may not be soothed or healed or airbrushed out, but they may become, as the Dutch theologian Henri Nouwen put it, ‘openings for a new vision’.
Jesus offers his wounds to Thomas, and to us. We have permission to admit to our own wounds, to bring them to Jesus and to have them redeemed. This is resurrection, right here in our own lives.
Let us pray.
Gracious and risen Lord,
Yours was the punishment that made us whole,
And by your wounds we are healed.
We bring to you all our hurt and pain:
Old wounds, almost forgotten, that have shaped our lives;
Fresh troubles from this current situation;
Ongoing grievances that will not go away.
We bring to you our shame that some of our hurt seems so trivial.
Thank you, because you know how it is.
Take and redeem our pain and loss,
Show us how to bear it so that it can become a source of healing and wholeness to others.
We pray in the power of your resurrection,