John 20:19-31
May 19, 2019

One of the most beautiful languages is not spoken. It is the language of the hearing impaired. In addition to its ability to assist the deaf in communication, sign language can be beautiful in its presentation.

Some of the signs for words are very logical and easily remembered.

For example, the word “fear” is communicated with both hands in front of the chest, one on top of the other, with the fingers spread apart. The hands tremble to indicate fear.

“Love” is communicated by crossing the arm over the heart as if you were hugging yourself.

The word “friend” is communicated with the right and left hands interlocked at the index fingers. The hands separate, change their relative positions and come together again as before.

Would anyone like to guess how you say “Jesus” in sign language?

Place the middle finger of each hand is placed into the palm of the other. What do you suppose that symbolizes? It symbolizes the nailed-scarred hands of Jesus.

Someone said the scars of Jesus is the only man-made things in heaven.

Even after God raised Jesus from the dead, his scars remained. That has always intrigued me.

You cannot tell the story of Jesus without mentioning the scars he embodied.

The crown of thorns pushed into his forehead left their marks.

His hands and his feet were pierced with the nails of the Roman soldiers. Even though he hung lifelessly on the cross, his side was punctured with a spear to ensure that he was dead.

Most people have a scar or two. Each scar tells a story.

Your scar might be a reminder of a cesarean section you had to give birth to your child.

Your scar might tell a story of an accident you had as a child or teenager, or it might tell the story of an injury you sustained in a war or a car accident.

Some scars are emotional, psychological and can be buried deep within you.

Scars remain with us as reminders of something threatening and out of the ordinary that occurred.

Sometimes a scar is a reminder of how fortunate we were and sometimes is a reminder of our grief.

It is safe to say that many people have scars that no one ever sees.  They stay covered, hidden by our clothing or our past.

Some scars leave marks on the skin, while others show up in our emotions, mood, and how we interact with others.

If we could, most of us would get rid of our scars. If we could, we would erase from our memories how most of them occurred.

But scars remain with us, each with its story.

With the passing of enough time and healing, we can carry a scar and seldom think about it. Other times, we remain subconscious that we have it. There are other times our scars impede our peaceful existence.

Many years ago, when I read John’s account of Jesus appearing to his disciples after the resurrection, I was struck by the fact that Jesus’ body was not free of scars.

I wondered why didn’t God fix him up.

Although Jesus was recognizable after his resurrection, he had a body like the one we can expect to have in heaven, free of decay, free of pain, and free of suffering.

So I find it interesting that when Jesus ascended into heaven, he carried his scars with him.

Do not worry about carrying your scars into heaven.

If heaven is anything good, it has to be a place where we will leave behind anything that reminds us of bad days, pain and suffering when we leave this world.

But Jesus carried his scars with him and that intrigues me. Why?

First, Jesus kept his scars to show his disciples that the suffering he endured on the cross was real. It happened.

Remember, John was the only disciple present at the cross. None of the other disciples saw Jesus crucified or watched him die.

It was difficult for them to accept that he was alive. Since it was in their DNA to doubt, what if Jesus had come to them without any evidence of ever being crucified?  Would they have believed he even died?

Suffering defines Jesus’ nature. His suffering frames his purpose in coming to this world.

Without suffering, Jesus could not have fulfilled the will of God. Without suffering, Jesus could not have revealed to us how deep God’s love for us is.

Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah told us the Messiah would be a suffering servant. These words in Isaiah 53 were written centuries before Jesus’ birth.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53: 3 (NIV).

For Jesus to have come back from the dead without his scars would have been a denial of the reason that he came to us in the first place—to take upon himself the iniquity of us all.

Second, when Jesus first appeared to his disciples after the resurrection, they were locked in a room together, fearful that they might also receive the same fate as Jesus. Jesus suddenly appeared to them.  He said, “Peace be with you!” Then he showed them his hands and his side.

The cross that had scattered the disciples just a few days earlier now brought the disciples peace. By showing them his scars, Jesus proved to the disciples that there was nothing he could not overcome, not even death.

If you haven’t discovered it by now, you will — this world is filled with suffering.  But there is good news!

Peace is possible when we have the One on our side who cannot be defeated, not even by death. Jesus’ scars brought the disciples peace and joy.

Even in suffering, we can find peace.

I wonder if any of the disciples recalled Isaiah 53: “The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed.”

The scars of Jesus let the disciples know the healing power that Jesus exhibited in their ministry had been interrupted only by death, but not destroyed. Because of his scars, the disciples knew their wounds, both physical and emotional, could be laid at his feet. He died to bring healing to us all.  He rose to prove that it to everyone.

Thirdly, by displaying his scars, Jesus reminded his disciples that he defeated death, the ultimate enemy. When Jesus came to them, they were afraid. They were afraid for their own lives.

Jesus once said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 (NIV).

The scars of Jesus helped the disciples begin to live their lives so that fear gave way to courage. Courage became possible because Jesus empowered them with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The disciples were able to minister with courage, under the threat of death, because death no longer had a hold over them. They ministered with the power of the resurrection. They believed that the same God that raised Jesus from the dead would one day do the same for them. The fear of death no longer held them hostage.

This is powerful.  Before seeing Jesus’ scars, they huddled together in fear.

When they saw the scars of Jesus, and received the Lord’s Holy Spirit, they knew that even if man should take their life for preaching the gospel of Christ, or even if man should inflict wounds upon their bodies that would leave permanent scars, in the end, God would work it all out to His good conclusion.

They had seen the resurrected Lord. They had received his Spirit, and they were empowered to minister in his name.

Do the scars of Jesus make that kind of difference in your life?  For us to appreciate this kind of love, we really must personalize his death and know that what Jesus did on the cross was for us, each of us personally, such that if you were the only person alive, Jesus would have made the same sacrifice for you.

Are you willing to make sacrifices because of your love for the Savior and your commitment to him? You know, some of the scars we receive in this life might come after our salvation experience. It’s possible that we might endure some suffering because we take up our cross and follow Jesus. But if we stand firm in our faith till the end, the scripture promises great rewards for us.

Do you have peace in your heart that passes all understanding because of what Jesus did on the cross? There is little more satisfying than living with peace in our hearts.

The way to peace is not by trying to live a life of self-preservation. We are not to be like the disciples who locked themselves inside and closed out the world.

Instead, we are to be like the disciples after they met Jesus who showed them his scars. It was then that they were willing to subject themselves to their own set of scars for the gospel’s sake. That is when they found peace in their hearts.

Does death or the fear of death have a grip on you? Does the fear of death keep you from living your life filled with joy?

It had a grip on the disciples. But that all changed when they saw Jesus scars and after that, they were willing to lay down their life for him.

An orphaned boy was living with his grandmother when their house caught fire. The grandmother, trying to get upstairs to rescue the boy, died in flames. The boy’s cries for help were finally answered by a man who climbed an iron drain pipe and came down with the boy hanging tightly to his neck. Several weeks later, a public hearing was held to determine who would receive custody of the child. A farmer, a teacher, and the town’s wealthiest citizen all gave the reasons they felt they should be chosen to provide the boy with a home. (Autoillustrator ).

As they talked, the lad’s eyes remained focused on the floor. Then a stranger walked to the front and slowly took his hands from his pockets, revealing scars on them. As the crowd gasped, the boy cried out in recognition. This was the man who had saved his life and whose hands had been burned when he climbed the hot pipe. With a leap, the boy threw his arms around the man’s neck and held on for dear life. The other men silently walked away, leaving the boy and his rescuer alone. Those marred hands had settled the issue. (Ibid).

That’s what settled the issue for Thomas. He was a doubter. Not being present with Jesus the first time he appeared to the disciples, he said he would not believe unless he saw the scars in his hand and his side.

It was Jesus’ scars that made Thomas a believer. Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 26:27-28.

Perhaps this morning there is someone here that will join Thomas and make that same confession.  Stop doubting and profess Jesus as your Lord and God. Allow Jesus to take your suffering and use it, transform it, and find lasting peace, even to the point that the fear of death does not hold you hostage, because you have the power of God working in your life.

photo credit: