I once took a major header in a bank parking lot in Hammond, Indiana, chasing a bad guy. (True story.) I skidded across the gravel on all fours and took off the first layer of skin on the fronts of both my lower legs and the heels of both hands.
My adrenalin was pumping, so it didn’t hurt at first; I got up and kept running. But later, when the fun was over (after we caught the guy) and I was in the ER, I realized, “THAT’S going to leave a mark”. Which it did.
Even though they anesthetized the area and removed the dirt and rocks from my legs and hands by scrubbing them with what felt like a wire brush (ouch), there was some “tattooing” effect on my legs for a long time. That was awhile back now and it’s since faded, thankfully.
I’ve actually been fortunate not to have experienced a lot of injuries that would leave visible marks, even though I’ve been physically active my whole life (and my chosen profession notwithstanding).
But we all know, it’s not just shoulder surgeries, herniated discs, and road burn that leave their calling cards. The invisible scars can be worse. The damage done to one’s metaphorical heart as a result of the emotional and relational skirmishes of life are often even more insidious.
Some of us have been bullied, betrayed, abused, or marginalized. Others have felt the sting of being forgotten, misunderstood, humiliated, or unjustly ignored. It can cause deep devastation.
(You may even have been the source of the pain at some point, inflicting it on another in anger or defensiveness, and later felt the ache of shame and regret when someone else ends up scarred. I’ve done that, too.)
When I think of Jesus, who was fully human as well as fully God, I think of His scars, for He surely had them, too.
I assume He got hurt physically growing up, don’t you? He must have skinned His knees playing in the yard, cut His finger on a saw in the carpentry shop. I mean, he was a kid, right?
I even imagine when He was overturning the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13), He must have come away with some cuts and scrapes that ended up scabbing and scarring. That’s conjecture on my part, of course.
But what’s clear from the Biblical account is that Jesus also experienced the deeper kind of pain and scarring, just as we do.
After He began His earthly ministry, He was bullied, betrayed, abused, and marginalized. And He certainly was forgotten, humiliated, misunderstood, and unjustly ignored more than a few times. Ultimately, He was beaten, nailed to a cross, and pierced with a spear.
So He gets it. He understands our pain, both physical and psychological. He’s been there with us in suffering and as a result, He can enter into our experience with complete empathy.
Because He was without sin, Jesus never lashed out at anyone in cruelty or defensiveness. He never felt the ache of regret for having caused the scarring of another; rather, He chose to be bruised and scourged for us.
The fire of His anger was never a source of shame or needless damage; it was a refining fire. And even from the cross, He prayed for His tormentors’ forgiveness, longing for them to have another chance.
It’s because of His suffering that we can be delivered from ours.
I believe when I see Jesus in Heaven, the scars that formed as a result of His crucifixion will not have faded. They will continue as a mark of His love, an eternal reminder that His punishment and pain purchased my wholeness in Him.
Even though scars are part of the body’s natural healing process, I don’t always feel “healed” when I think about my own scars and the things that caused them. We live in a fallen world and our scars – the seen and the unseen – are the result of human sin and its effects.
But when I think of Jesus’ scars, I feel joy at the prospect of ultimate healing.
“But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
(Image attribution: Carla Navoa)
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