Hands and Scars

Hands and Scars


2nd Sunday of Easter, April 8, 2018

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I have a fascination with hands. I have for many years been fascinated with people’s hands from the perspective of an artist. I was most fascinated with a sculpture my grandmother had of Albrecht Durer’s “Praying Hands” which was based on Durer’s woodcut of the same. It should be familiar to many of you. It fascinated me because one Lent as a gift to the children of the Sunday School, we were all given little plastic replicas to hang on our wall at home.

The woodcut that Durer did was not of pretty or beautiful hands, but of hands in prayer, hands that were not perfect but rough with the fingers slightly bent. I was also fascinated by my grandmother’s hands because they felt so incredibly soft, and yet when you took the time to really look at them, they were worn and scarred from years of hard work on the farm.

My grandfather’s hands were big, strong and very rough, the hands of a workman and farmer.

His hands had many scars from his years working in a foundry and on the farm as well.

Scars are interesting conversation pieces, especially when you are a pastor and go visit post-surgical patients. Some really like to show off their scars. When I was on internship, my first solo outing was to Carlisle Hospital to visit two members who had had surgery. I went to see the first and was horrified by the incision. The man had had the arteries in his neck on both sides cleaned and they had stapled it up instead of sewing. It so put me in mind of Frankenstein. Then I went down the hall to the next member, and here she had the same thing done. Surgical staples all down the sides of her neck.

I have had people show me their scars many times, for many things, and some scars were in places I really didn’t think I needed to witness. I have seen just about everything, from full-blown open-heart scars, to head, foot, or hand injuries, foot surgeries, knee surgeries, I have seen a lot and I am certain this is nothing compared to what Helen or the other nurses in the congregation have seen.

I have scars myself from injuries and surgeries, from dog bites and falls, and even one from a common broken hand.

When the doctor took the cast off he accidentally cut some skin. I even have scars from burns, vaccinations and the chicken pox.

Usually, when we see Christ crucified, he has wounds or scars in the palms of his hands. Archeologists, though, have dug up bones of people who had been crucified, only to find that the nails weren’t in the palms but in the wrists. This isn’t a big deal, because the words for palm and hand in Greek and Hebrew are basically the same. The palm is the hand, and the wrist is the hand. The wounds are all real.

We all know that wounds don’t always heal without leaving a scar,

whether the wound is physical or mental. In that respect, we are all very much like the crucified and risen Christ. In many ways, we all bear the wounds and scars that life has handed us.

Today is Thomas Sunday, the day that the risen Jesus comes specifically to the apostle Thomas, who doesn’t believe the other apostles and disciples when they tell him that they have seen Jesus. Jesus appears to Thomas and shows him his scars. Marks that he will always carry with him for our sake.

As you can already probably tell, the focus for me today is not on the questions that Thomas has, but the wounds and scars that he needs to see to know that it is indeed Jesus.

Can you imagine what it was like to see the wounds of Jesus? Or even to feel them like Thomas did? It’s fantastic! It’s incredible! But we only get to imagine those scars, and we only get to see what artists think they looked like, those wounds, and so we need to be stronger than poor old Thomas. Our faith has to come into play even more.

Now when I was looking at the whole idea of the scars, the wounds, I came across an interesting Bible verse from the 49th chapter of Isaiah one of the Servant songs, Verse 16 which reads, “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.”

In Isaiah, the people of Israel were exiled to Babylon. They thought God had forgotten them. He tells them, “I can’t forget you any more than a mother can forget the child she bore.”

“You are engraved, inscribed on the palms of my hands.”

Those wounds that Jesus bears, those are us, folks! Those are our marks, our wounds, our scars. And that is mind-blowing. It is mind-blowing in several ways.

First, Christ died for our sins, so those nail marks were made for us, made by us.

Secondly, Christ carries those scars close to him, so he carries us close to him. The savior that was willing to suffer and die for us, for our sake, and on our behalf, keeps us close to him. He cannot forget us. Why? Because we are inscribed on the palms of his hands. He bears those scars so that we are not forgotten. He is reminded of us all the time. He opens his hands and there we are.

He ALSO bears those scars so that “we” do not forget. So that we remember every time we see his scars, his wounds, that they were put there by us.

It was our sinfulness that crucified him and wounded him and scarred him.

Those wounds are also there for us to be reminded that Christ is always crucified and always risen. Without those wounds, there would be no Easter. But Easter did come, and we have new life because of him. This is indeed good news for all of us. Very good news knowing that he has us always by his side and under his gaze and protection. Through his scars we have life. Through his resurrection, we too live.  That is indeed good news.