the Risen Jesus
Thomas and the Risen Jesus
Reflection by The Reverend Ted Witham
Alleluia. Christ is Risen!
Thomas wants to see the wounds, to thrust his hand into Jesus’ torn hands and ruptured side. He wants to know that this Jesus is the same Jesus who died on the cross.
But this is more than an identity parade for Thomas. Yes, this is Jesus. But there is something about the wounds themselves that draws Thomas.
St John’s Gospel compares Jesus to the Passover lamb, the sacrifice that was made annually to celebrate the freedom of the Jewish people. Their freedom was conditional: the Jews were under the brutal rule of the Roman Empire, so the freedom they celebrated was a freedom of the mind and of the heart. No occupying power could take away their interior freedom, so it was worth celebrating.
John’s idea is that Jesus is himself the sacrifice. The strange thing is that, for a sacrifice, Jesus doesn’t fit the expectations of the Jewish people. The lamb to be sacrificed, according to Exodus 12:5, must be ‘without blemish’. The New English Translation says that the lamb must be ‘perfect’.
Jesus’ wounds are significant. He is not an unblemished lamb. He is marked and disfigured by the wounds of the nails and the spear. 400 years before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah had a flash of insight: ‘By his wounds we are healed’. (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus the blemished lamb is offered to God. The empty tomb on Easter morning proclaims that the blemished offering is accepted by God.
It is good news that, as a sacrifice, Jesus is not ‘perfect’. It means that we too do not have to be ‘perfect’ to be acceptable to God. We come to God wounded and scarred by life and we can have confidence that God loves us, not despite our imperfections, but with our woundedness and hurt. By our wounds, we are healed.
The Easter proclamation is that heaven is for human beings – imperfect, blemished, scarred. God does not ask for our perfection; like Thomas, God asks to see our wounds. God asks for the marks to prove we have opened ourselves to love, that we have been vulnerable, and we know the pain that scratches all our attempts to love.
I’ve tried to express this in sonnet form:
Behold, the blemished Lamb of God, and scarred
with unhealed woundings of the nails and spear,
Thomas seeks to know what it was that marred
pure God to now mutilated appear.
Thomas had seen his rising power before,
No question that God could raise the son of Nain,
But why upend complete Prophets and Law
and accept a sacrifice of bloody stain?
And then he saw altar priests cutting throats
and the violent contest of sacred police,
then the deep purpose of the Bible’s quotes:
to bring violence to an end with world’s peace.
The end of religion flashed before Thomas:
in faith and love alone the godly promise.
- John 20:24-31
- Luke 7:11-17