(Authenticated by) the Wounds of Love

I was sick last Sunday, so I didn’t get to preach the sermon I had prepared. I’d been meaning to post it because I don’t think I will be in the same place next time the lectionary gives us this passage again. Also, this sermon is adapted for my blog’s audience and format, so it’s not verbatim what I would’ve preached.

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:19-20, New Revised Standard Version

When Jesus walks into that room, he proclaims peace to them, then shows the disciples his hands and his side.

He doesn’t show them his correct doctrine. He doesn’t rattle off all the correct theological checkboxes, or recite political or theological shibboleths.

He shows them his wounds.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, by Caravaggio

He authenticates, demonstrates that he is who he says he is, by showing his disciples the wounds he received in his self-sacrifice in which he gave himself for the sake of the world.

Contrast that with the characters referred to by John as “the Jews,” specifically, the sect of the Jewish people who convinced Pilate to have him executed.

Tangent: Don’t even with that whole “the Jews killed Jesus” nonsense. It was the Romans, and people who want to kill the Jews “for killing Jesus” they’re just siding with the devil who inspired those who killed Jesus.

I see “the Jews” in this story as a stand-in for those who know they are right so thoroughly that it doesn’t matter who they hurt so long as their view of rightness is upheld.

The disciples are in the upper room behind a locked door “for fear of the Jews.” For fear of those people who knew Jesus was wrong and they were right, and had Jesus killed for it. Those people who don’t hesitate to cause harm in the name of rightness.

When they show wounds as signs of their piety, the wounds are on someone else’s body.

You can spot them a mile away. In the Bible, lepers have to shout “unclean!’ about themselves when someone gets close to them. These folks shout “unclean” about you.

The door is locked to them. Locked against them. Locked for fear of them.

But Jesus just “came and stood among them.” Because the locks on the doors weren’t for him.

How many people in our culture today love Jesus, but don’t like the church? How many people have the doors of their hearts locked against the church because the church, at least many branches of it, has proven itself to be those who do harm in the name of rightness, rather than those who bear the wounds of love? (Research from Barna and Pew show: A lot).

We’re called to follow Jesus, the one who authenticated by showing his wounds. So where are the wounds of the church?

The 20th century missionary Amy Carmichael wrote a poem asking in the title, “Hast thou no scar?”

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?

I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star,
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound nor scar?

The church today is very good with its theology. My tradition, the Presbyterian Church (USA) has a book of eleven confessions of faith. (They’re pretty great).

But where are the scars of the church?

When the world looks at the church of Jesus Christ, will they see our Very Correct Theology, our correct theological checkboxes, our rightness enforced by political power… or will they see our scars, the scars we received bearing our cross alongside our Lord, for the love of the world?

David M Schell About David M Schell
I am a doubter and a believer. I have a Master's in Divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, but because faith grows and changes, I don't necessarily stand by everything I've ever written, so if you see something troubling further back, please ask! Read More.

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