Each Lord’s day Christians have the privilege and the duty of remembering our Lord’s death. We take our minds back to his sacrificial suffering. In observing the memorial feast which reminds us of his body and his blood we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).
Perhaps you feel compelled to limit your thoughts to the suffering and sorrow of the cross during this sacred time. If so, when was the last time you contemplated our Lord’s scars? Have you thought about the link between our sin and his scars? Have you reflected upon what Jesus’ scars mean for your own?
Sin and the Scars
Sin is universal. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin is ubiquitous. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Sin is unrelenting. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). All of us who have chosen self over Savior have been marred by sin.
Our Savior was also marred by sin, just not his own.
We’re told that Pilate took Jesus and flogged him (John 19:1). This flogging was a particularly brutal form of punishment perfected by the Romans. As the flagrum struck the back, the iron, brass, and bone would tear at the skin, exposing arteries, muscle, and sometimes bowels. Nobody would willingly give themselves over to this punishment, but our Lord did (see Isaiah 50:6). The beating our Lord received, combined with the crown of thorns on his head, marred his appearance “beyond human semblance” (Isaiah 52:14).
Then they crucified him (John 19:18). Equally as brutal as flogging, crucifixion was a painful and public death. One would be tied, or in our Lord’s case nailed, to a rough crosspiece of wood by the hands. Then tied or nailed to the post at the feet. Death was accomplished through asphyxiation, as the wearied condemned could no longer lift and lower themselves to inhale and exhale. After our Lord’s death, his side was pierced (John 19:31-37).
Taking the Sin and Leaving the Scars
Why did Jesus endure such agony of body and anguish of spirit at the hands of his creation? As Isaiah tells us, it was for our benefit. Read Isaiah 53:3-11 slowly, with emphasis upon the pronouns our, us, and we. Now consider the testimony of the New Testament. He was “offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28), and was made “to be sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), and “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). By his wounds we are healed (1 Peter 2:24). Surely the perfect one was not infused with sin, nor did he die in sin; rather, described forcefully using metonymy, Jesus took the punishment for our sins.
And that punishment, the flogging, the crucifixion, and the piercing, left Jesus with visible marks on his body. Following his resurrection, these are displayed as proof of his passion. Jesus showed his disciples his hands, his feet, and his side. When Thomas, who was not a witness to the first appearance, demanded like evidence, Jesus lovingly showed the scars and implored this disciple, “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:19-29).
Jesus was not ashamed of the scars he earned. The power of Deity did not remove those marks when he removed his body from the tomb. The Christ did not cover them with cloth to present some sanitized version of himself. No, those scars were part of him, part of his mission for mankind, part of his faithfulness to the Father. They served as further signs that the Son of Man was also the Son of God.
Hurting, Healing, and Who We Are
In order to best illustrate what this should mean to us, we turn our attention to the best of us, the apostle Paul. The apostle suffered much at the hands of the enemies of Christ. In defense of his ministry, he boasted of his sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:24-30). For the sake of fellow Christians, he rejoiced in his sufferings and acknowledged that he was “filling up” was lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24).
While God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3), the physical and emotional scars often remain. As jars of clay, our suffering and the attendant scars serve as reminders of the glory of God and our place in his service. They are shadows of the struggles that helped to mold us. When we love this world too much, they show us our frailty and bring to our mind the incomparable glory of heaven (2 Corinthians 4:17).
We all carry scars in our bodies. If they came by way of sin, God can forgive and heal. If they came by way of service, God will reward. We close with this thought from Paul: “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians 6:17). Do you?