I woke up this morning with a heavy weight on my chest. I knew it wasn’t a heart attack because I could feel purrs coming from a 15-pound cat who decided it was time for me to wake up and get on with the day, namely breakfast. I don’t really mind the cat on my chest; I mean, it’s kind of nice from time to time. It’s like an eyeball to eyeball conversation where the cat doesn’t say anything, and I usually don’t either; however, it is still a conversation of sorts. Once they see that I’m awake and begin to stir, whichever cat it is gets down and waits for me to do the first couple of things that I have to do first thing in the morning before they get their breakfast.
I wouldn’t mind it so much, but now and then one of them wants to what we cat people call “making biscuits” on my chest. I have dead spots on my chest from my mastectomy surgery, so I really don’t have a lot of pain in those areas even though I can feel pressure, but if they decide to make biscuits on my scars, I’m glad I don’t have a full feeling in that area because those claws are sharp! There are live spots that hurt! I can’t explain to them that no, they can’t do that because they don’t understand. Scars mean nothing to them, and so I try to gently deflect them to the blanket next to me or the floor where I will soon be walking.
Everybody is familiar with scars of one form or another. There are different kinds, some of them grossly deforming, some very slight. All of them represent some event in the lives of those who bear them that was traumatic, painful, and debilitating, even if for a short time. Depending on the type of injury that is causing the scar, it can take weeks or months for it to heal, if it ever does. Still, there is usually a mark somewhere that has lost some feeling if not all of it, and that serves as a reminder of the incident that caused it.
I’ve been thinking about scars the last few days, even though it isn’t even Easter yet. I was thinking about Jesus when they took him from the cross and put him in the tomb. Maybe it’s somewhat sacrilegious, possibly blasphemous, but I wondered about when he rose, which was a miracle. Did his wounds heal immediately? Did they leave scars? Did they stay open wounds, an invitation to infection and necrosis, even in the human man that was Jesus? There’s so much about the resurrection we don’t know or understand that this seems a bit trivial. What difference does it make if the scars were present when he rose or whether the wounds were still open?
When Jesus first came to the disciples after the resurrection, what exactly did they see? They probably saw the marks on his hands where the nails had been, and they were convinced. About a week later, Thomas, who had been absent at the previous appearance, made a declaration that he would not believe in the resurrection until he saw the wounds in Jesus’ hands and could put his hand in Jesus’s side. We know how that story ends. Jesus showed up, Thomas saw the nail holes, put his hand in the injury caused by the spear, and believed. But was the wound still fresh? Had Jesus healed himself as he had so many other humans?
Many of the statues that we see showing Jesus after the resurrection show him with scabbed knees, circular holes in his palms, and also in his feet. We don’t usually see the side or the puncture wounds that would’ve come from the crown of thorns. But how much do we actually think about them on the living Christ?
I know it probably doesn’t matter whether Jesus showed people his scars or his actual wounds. He received those wounds; we meditate on that on Good Friday and then usually forget about them until after the resurrection when Thomas questioned them. Since none of us have gone through a resurrection like Jesus, we have no way of knowing what happens. Whether it was a corporal resurrection, complete with healed injuries, with or without scars, or a spiritual one, which allowed him to move about freely and to walk through walls and doors and appear wherever needed at that time, we believe Jesus did come out of the tomb and appeared to disciples and followers on earth.
Still, I wonder, do scars have the same impact as open wounds do? I know many of us, myself included, would probably turn away from seeing injuries such as Jesus endured, but with scars, we would probably look and wonder what had happened. Perhaps open marks of trauma were necessary so that people believed that Jesus was once again among them, more so than just scars would do.
Thomas couldn’t believe until he had seen. That’s something in common with a lot of us; we don’t accept something is true unless we can prove it at least to ourselves. That’s what makes Christianity so hard sometimes because so many unexplained things require us to take them on faith rather than just by sight. The wounds/scars of Jesus are just an example. Do we need to see them or can we accept that he did what was said of him, namely the resurrection, without seeing some sort of permanent mark that indicated he had undergone torture and death and come back to give us hope?
As we approach Easter, maybe it’s time for me to ask myself if I am looking for wounds or scars? I know what scars are, and I know there’s invariably some pain involved in obtaining them and even pain involved with them long-term. But am I in too much of a rush to Easter to think about what came before it? Am I too busy looking to see Jesus and not so much thinking of him as a sacrifice? I think perhaps for me to remember Jesus as a human, rather than a purely divine being, I may need to see those wounds to confirm his humanity. Heaven knows, resurrection should be enough to prove the divinity that was his inheritance.
Image: Wundmale Christi, Author: Anonymous (1486); Detail aus dem Waldburg-Gebetbuch, WLB Stuttgart, Cod. brev. 12, fol. 11r; Found at Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is also estate manager and administrative assistant for Dominic, Phoebe, and Gandhi.