36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. 44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.
When I was a youth leader, one of the best ice breaker games I used was “scar show and tell.” It was easy. Get the kids in small groups, and each person was asked to show one of their scars and tell how it happened. You’d get some great stories, some funny stories, and also some sad or scary stories. Anything from “I did something really stupid like try to fly from too high of a place,” to surgeries or car accidents. I always show the scar on my forehead from when I was little and fell and got a small rock lodged into my head…my parents had to rush me to the emergency room…and there is a tiny scar still there today. Kids are fascinated by scars. Why? Because scars tell stories. Scars show where we have been. Scars show strength. They say that something happened to us and we have come through on the other side.
In the text that we heard this morning, it is Jesus who shows his scars. He and his disciples engage in a kind of scar show and tell. He shows them his hands and feet, showing them signs of his suffering. This was his way of proving to his followers that he is truly alive- a survivor, one who defeated death and has the scars to prove it. He shows his startled and confused disciples, with doubts in their hearts, that he is not a ghost, but flesh and blood. They are able to see with their own eyes that he stands among them as one who has suffered, and has lived to tell the story of where he has been, the strength he has shown, and the victory over death that begs to be celebrated.
Jesus’ scars tell a story of profound suffering and death, yet that led to new life and a message of amazing love. Jesus’ scars tell a story of the awesome power of our God, and the grace that is poured out for each of us. His scars tell a story of one who loved the world and its people so much that he is willing to bear them as signs of forgiveness for every person. Jesus’ scars tell a story of a savior that knows what it’s like to bear scars, who suffers along with us, and who gives us the strength to come to terms with the scars we carry.
We know that not all scars are visible to the human eye, but are written upon our lives and our hearts. Sometimes, perhaps most of the time, our biggest scars are not seen at all. They are within us. One of my very best friends was a victim of sexual assault during our second year of seminary. It was someone she had just met that particular night, and things went terribly wrong. She had months of healing and processing ahead of her, trying to figure out what the next steps would be, filing charges, etc. But the most difficult piece for her was the emotional scar that was left behind as she continued to rebuild her life. She ended up leaving school, moving back to her hometown with her family, and took some time to figure out the next steps. In her courage and persistence, she decided to go back to a different seminary, graduate, and is now a pastor of her own church. She is happy, successful, and in a loving relationship with someone. She did not let her scars get the best of her. She did not let her attacker win.
I asked her recently to tell me about how her story has left a scar, and how she now sees it from the other side of her trauma. She said, “As far as a scar I would say it reminds me that I am not a victim anymore. I am a survivor!!! It is kind of like when one has physical scars you have a choice to look at it and be depressed and be the victim or you can work through it and choose to be a survivor. I choose for my emotional scars to be a reminder of my survival not my victimization.”
One of the most moving moments I experienced when I was in Auschwitz with survivor Eva Kor, was when she showed the tattoo of her number to a group of German high school students.
Eva will tell you, as a ten year old girl entering Auschwitz, she threw a fit when the Nazis began to give her the tattoo. They had to have an entire group of people hold her down to finish it. When she shows it to people, they ask her if it has faded over the years. She will tell you that it has always looked like that because she was not going to get that tattoo without a fight. She was not going to let them win. Talk about a scar that tells a story of survival, courage, and the strength of the human spirit! Let’s take a look at another survivor and the story behind his tattoo.
Sometimes it takes people awhile to fully embrace the scars, either physical or emotional that are upon our hearts, lives, or bodies. But our scars can be a means not just of painful memories and suffering, but of life and hope for those who can learn from them.
Just this past week, Eva was one of the survivors to testify at the trial of Oskar Groening, who was the so-called accountant of Auschwitz and charged as accessory to the murder of 300,000 people. Eva took the stand to share her story, reveal her scars, both physical and emotional, and share that while she has forgiven the Nazis, she still believes that Groening should take full responsibility for his actions. Eva’s story of courage and will to survive never ceases to amaze me. Even more, I admire her courage and persistence in sharing her story, revealing her scars for the world to see. When we are able to show our scars and share our stories, real life change can happen. Eva’s story has changed lives. Our scars can change lives, too. Maybe even our own.
The beauty of this text from Luke’s gospel is that Jesus was willing to show his scars. When we are willing to show our scars as Jesus did, we allow ourselves to be opened to greater understandings. It’s no wonder, then, that after this scar show and tell, Jesus opens the disciples’ minds to understand the scriptures. Jesus was vulnerable with them, and, in turn they felt they could bear their scars, doubts, and questions to him as well. They had reached that point of belief that he was really with them- that he bore scars just like everyone else. It’s a humbling experience to know that everyone has scars. Everyone has a story of life, and death, and rebirth. Everyone has a scar to show and a story to tell.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned to you that I have a friend who struggles with drug addiction. I offered to go with her to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. I walked in with her, having no idea what to expect, and was welcomed warmly. Throughout the meeting, I kept thinking to myself how amazing it was that here was this space where people share both their scars and their open wounds out in the open. Where vulnerability, brokenness, and brutal honesty about life’s struggles is simply the norm. This was a place where true humanity, sometimes at its worst, is welcomed, listened to, and where support is offered, no matter what scars or burdens or wounds you are carrying. To me, it looked more like the church than many places I have seen. To me, this seemed like the kind of place where Jesus would come and stand among the people and say, “Look at my hands and feet. See that it is really me,” and invite others to do the same- without judgment of any kind.
After all, the church should be a place where we can bear our scars and share them with each other. Where we can share our stories with one another of how we got that scar, where it came from, and how we see it now. Church should be a place of scar show and tell, where all are comfortable sharing pain, hope, struggles, and the courage to overcome. It is the place where we help each other to see our scars in new ways- where we realize that we are no longer victims, but survivors with a courageous new life ahead of us. Where we realize that our scars do not define us, but remind us that pain and suffering do not have the final word.
So what scars do you carry? Whether emotional, physical, or spiritual scars, Jesus says to us, “You show me mine, I’ll show you yours.” He shows us his scars so that we may have joy in believing, and so that we may embrace those imperfections and broken pieces of ourselves. He shows us his scars so that we may rejoice in the grace and acceptance of a loving God who bears scars just like we do. When Jesus comes among his disciples and shows them the scars of his hands and feet, they expressed joy even as they were disbelieving and still wondering. As we look upon the scars of Jesus with joy and disbelief as those who have been witnesses to his life, death, and resurrection, how will we show our scars to the world? How will we then turn them into the marks upon our lives that lead not to suffering and pain, but instead marks of helping, healing, loving, and giving strength to other people? How will we turn our scars into marks of the courage and healing of ourselves so that we may be made whole through Jesus Christ?
It starts with the vulnerability and willingness to share our scars and the stories behind them with courage that leads to transformation and healing. And it starts with professing faith in a savior that bears scars just like the rest of us, who comes alongside of us, looks at our hurts and pains and says, “I have been there. See the scars that I carry with me.” When we open ourselves to this kind of love and understanding that Jesus offers, our minds are then open to the possibilities of understanding the world in new ways. Our scars take on new meanings and perspectives. Just as Jesus opened the minds of the disciples to understanding the scriptures, so our minds may be opened as well to joy, hope, and deeper meaning in our lives. This happens when we are willing to accept his scars and reveal our own.
We all carry scars. We all carry pains, burdens, and stories of suffering that have left marks upon our lives. Jesus stands among us, ready to show us his hands and feet, ready to accept both our joy and disbelief, and ready to open our lives to new understandings and fresh perspectives on the stories that our scars reveal to both ourselves and to a world who needs to see and hear them. We also carry the sign and seal of the waters of baptism on our heads and on our hearts as reminders that God leaves a permanent mark upon our lives and claims us as God’s own. May the peace of the Risen Christ dwell in you richly this day, as you claim your scars and look upon the marks of our Savior. And may you hear him whisper, “I love you, and you are mine.” Scars and all. Amen.