Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 148; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
Rich Wounds Yet Visible Above
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.

Perhaps one of the greatest superpowers is the ability to heal yourself instantly of a serious wound. You can see this in superhero films: one of the X-men heals herself by draining another’s life power. Movie villains are sometimes shown to adapt to gunshots so that they are not injured by them. It’s a nightmare recurrence: you can shoot them, but they still keep coming. Some portrayals of Satan in film make it seem that he can recover from the blast of any amount of firepower.

What an interesting thing, then, that our Lord Jesus still has His wounds, even after He’s raised from the dead! You would think that the God of heaven and earth would dispense with the scarred holes in His hands, His feet, and His side, or that the flesh would just close up and heal over instantly. But Jesus’ wounds are still visible. In fact, they are a sign for us.


 

Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 148; 1 John 1:1-2:2; John 20:19-31
Rich Wounds Yet Visible Above
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.

Perhaps one of the greatest superpowers is the ability to heal yourself instantly of a serious wound. You can see this in superhero films: one of the X-men heals herself by draining another’s life power. Movie villains are sometimes shown to adapt to gunshots so that they are not injured by them. It’s a nightmare recurrence: you can shoot them, but they still keep coming. Some portrayals of Satan in film make it seem that he can recover from the blast of any amount of firepower.

What an interesting thing, then, that our Lord Jesus still has His wounds, even after He’s raised from the dead! You would think that the God of heaven and earth would dispense with the scarred holes in His hands, His feet, and His side, or that the flesh would just close up and heal over instantly. But Jesus’ wounds are still visible. In fact, they are a sign for us.

They were certainly a sign for Thomas. Thomas was one of the twelve, and yet he was an unbeliever at first! Often we talk about “doubting Thomas,” but he doesn’t doubt here; he disbelieves. “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (Jn. 20:25)

When Thomas says he’ll “never believe,” this is the strongest word possible. He will never – surely not – definitely not – certainly not ever believe that his friends saw their Lord Jesus Christ unless He touches the body of Jesus for himself.

Today, too, there are the obvious unbelievers. The militant atheists, the trendy agnostics, and all manner of resurrection-doubting skeptics fill our media today. Even if the Gospel account of John the eyewitness is believed, the rationalists deny the deity of Jesus, and His miracles, especially His resurrection.

For example, how can Jesus come and stand in the midst of His disciples when the doors are locked? The skeptics say, well, Jesus climbed up a ladder and through a window. Or maybe He came down a stairway from the roof. Or maybe He sneaked into the house before the doors were locked, or was allowed in by a crafty doorkeeper.

None of these are true. These appearances of Jesus are recorded faithfully by the apostle John, and they are recorded for a reason: “that you may believe…and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (Jn. 20:31) These things are written, not just so that everyone can know an historical truth, but so that everyone will believe that Jesus died, Jesus lives, and Jesus forgives. The scars of Jesus are the evidence – along with the eyewitness testimony of John – that Jesus is truly human and yet He miraculously appeared in the locked room with His disciples.

Notice how Jesus’ wounds are the turning point. The wounds are the evidence. The lack of touching Jesus’ wounds is the erroneous grounds for Thomas’ unbelief. But Jesus provides the wounds immediately upon appearing to unbelieving Thomas. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe!” (Jn. 20:27) It’s as if Jesus overhead Thomas’ conditions for belief, and then presented the exact evidence that was needed as soon as He came in the room.

Jesus’ wounds accomplished three things. First of all, Jesus’ wounds establish His identity. The beautiful hymn “Crown Him with many Crowns” has it this way: “Crown Him the Lord of love. Behold His hands and side, rich wounds yet visible above in beauty glorified.” This Jesus, the One who was nailed to a cross by His hands and feet for the sins of all people, is the same One who appeared to Thomas and to the other ten apostles in resurrected glory.

Jesus’ wounds also proclaim the reality of His human body. Jesus did not just rise from the grave spiritually. He rose bodily. He has a human body to this day, right now. It’s a perfect and glorious body, and yet His wounds are visible even in heaven as evidence of His love for us!

Finally, Jesus’ wounds proclaim the peace. “Jesus came and stood in the midst of them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” The peace is Absolution. The peace is not just, hi, how’s it going? But the peace of Jesus is the peace that comes from His atoning death and life-giving resurrection. Jesus stretched out His hands, the hands that were once pierced with nails, and then He forgave His disciples for deserting Him and persisting in unbelief.

Jesus’ physical wounds are still visible above. But indeed, down here on earth, Jesus’ suffering is shared by His children. The Christian Church is the body of Christ. And the Church is on the front lines, fighting to preserve the truth about Jesus’ death and resurrection. The fight is against spiritual powers outside the Church who want to distort the Gospel. The fight is also against the powers of darkness inside the Church – all who sit in darkness even while they claim to walk in the Light.

Each of you has been wounded on the front lines during these end times – not in the same way that Christ was wounded to take away your sins, but you do share in Christ’s sufferings (2 Cor. 1:3-7). Many of you have been wounded at one time or another for bearing witness to Christ at work or at school. Some have shared in the suffering of Christ by being persecuted by family or society for living the way Christ would have you live.

And yet at times we are the ones who wound each other by our pride and arrogance. These are not times when we are wounded with Christ, but instead when we have divided the body of Christ by our sins.  Many of us have wounded others with sharp words. Still others are wounded by private sins or by jealousy thoughts. Some are wounded by fractured marriages and families.

There is no need for you to wish for superhero powers to heal your wounds. The miracle that Jesus has promised is not that you can stop the bleeding and close up the skin by mental effort or magical power. Instead, He does the healing for you.

That is why Jesus still walks around with visible wounds on His hands, His feet, and His side. “By His wounds we are healed.” Jesus always wants your attention to be focused on His outstretched hands, nail holes and all, giving you the medicine of eternal life, here and now. Jesus comforts your wounded heart. He mends your broken life. He takes your stubborn sins so that He can crucify them and bury them.

After Jesus bestowed His peace upon the apostles, He breathed on them and gave the life-giving Holy Spirit, the one who proceeds from God the Father and from the Son. The Holy Spirit is breathed into you too. The Spirit is poured out upon you generously and without limit when you are washed with Baptism from above.

You see, God works through means. God works through people. He doesn’t have to wash our sins away through water. He doesn’t have to speak forgiveness through the words of a man. But He did promise to do it that way. You would never think to say, “Unless God deals directly with me, unless I can touch Jesus’ physical body, I’ll never believe!” For Jesus tells you what He told Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Jn. 20:29) You walk by faith, not by sight. You have God’s promises, recorded in His holy Word. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

God working through people should not create doubt and uncertainty for us. An imperfect person can no more invalidate God’s promises than can the devil himself. God uses imperfect people for His plan all the time. He speaks through His called servants to forgive your sins and pronounce Absolution. He also speaks through your mouth, so that anyone who sins against you and repents can receive the personal word of healing forgiveness. The keys to heaven are given to the entire Christian Church – to each and every one of you.

As we walk together in the fellowship of this Christian Church, the first thing to remember is our daily need for forgiveness. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 Jn. 1:6) Thomas’ sin was unbelief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Your sin may be different. But know that if you fail in one point of the law, you are accountable for all of it (Jn. 2:10).

That is why we need an advocate with God the Father. The word for advocate is “Paraclete.” (1 Jn. 2:1) An advocate is a go-between. An advocate is a mediator. Jesus is your go-between, your Helper, the One who makes your fellowship with your Father in heaven! If you sin, Jesus takes your sin before His Father and yours and says, “Here – I have suffered and died for my child, and the penalty for this sin is paid in full!”

If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 Jn. 2:1) Here is the greatest comfort you can ever have. Jesus advocates for you before the Father. Jesus holds out His hands with rich wounds that are yet visible above, saying to the Father: “I received these wounds in place of my children. Take my wounds and my death instead of theirs. Let me take their wounds and death by virtue of mine. Send me to heal their wounds and give them life by my dying and rising.”

As if it wasn’t a wonderful enough gift that Jesus Himself is our Paraclete, our Advocate, He sends yet another Paraclete to help us in our need. The Holy Spirit is our counselor, our comforter, and our helper. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit in full measure, never ceasing but always increasing, so that we will never be stuck and alone with our sins and wounds. Instead we will have healing and forgiveness from the Comforter who remains with us always.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life…so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn. 1:1-3) By His wounds we are healed. Because He lives, you live.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a