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‘“There are forces that don't let you turn back and undo things, because to do so would be to deny what is already in motion, to unwrite and erase passages, to shorten the arc of a story you don't own.”’ - Salvador Plascencia[i]


“Look at my hands. Look at my feet.” (Lk. 24:39a, NLT)

Scars tell stories.

On my right cheek, there is a faint scar, which has gotten fainter as I have aged. When I was in primary school, back in the 80s, it stood out, causing the other kids in my class to ask, ‘How did you get that?’

I didn’t know how I’d got it; I’d had it as long as I could remember. But the kids in my class wanted a story, so I’d make one up. Often it was a crocodile bite. Sometimes, a zombie attack. On rare occasions, I would admit that I didn’t know. To this day, I still don’t know.

Not knowing doesn’t bother me. Having a scar with no story is, in some ways, a comfort. Ignorance is bliss, they say. It's the scars I carry with stories that bother me more. And many of those scars are hidden from view, without any outward mark.

It would be true to say that I am wounded.

It would also be true to say that I have wounded.

The scars I carry, and the scars I have inflicted, tell stories, and I don’t like the stories they tell. They seldom fill me with hope. Rather, I’m filled with fear or remorse, guilt or shame. I see the scars and I wish I had the ability to go back in time, rewrite the past and in so doing, erase the scars. But I can’t. What is done is done. They are a part of my story.

Looking at scars is not a pleasant pastime, and showing them is certainly something I do my best to avoid.

But here is Jesus, showing his scars to his disciples, saying, “Look at my hands. Look at my feet.”


I’ve always wondered why Jesus does this.

On one level, it makes perfect sense. Jesus wants his disciples to know it is really him. The same Jesus they have travelled with, ate with and listened to for three years.

The same Jesus who told parables and who turned tables, who had washed their feet and who had wept at his friend’s death.

The same Jesus they saw walking on water, healing lepers, opening blind eyes, casting out demons, and hanging out with outcasts.

This is also the same Jesus they saw arrested, beaten, mocked, and then executed via crucifixion.

The same Jesus who died, and who was buried.

“Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see it’s really me”, Jesus says.

Jesus wants them to know he is not some supernatural spectre or a figment of their imagination. He is real, he is really among them, he has a body.

He is alive!

He invites his disciples to touch him, and asks for food to eat, keen on proving to them that he is not a ghost—some apparition without a body—but that he is physically alive.

He has a real, material body. It’s different, transformed, too. In the resurrection stories, Jesus’ body does things normal bodies do not do. But it’s a body, nonetheless. That’s the reality of resurrection, it’s an embodied eternal life.

Luke, as he writes this story, wants us to know that this body Jesus has raised and transformed is the same body that suffered and died.

The scars are proof of his suffering. Proof that Jesus’ death was no trick or illusion. Jesus died. And yet, now he lives. It’s not that he lives on, beyond death in some form—that would be a ghostly existence, that’s still death. But that he lives—he has conquered death and, in doing so, raised up, taken back and transformed, what death has stolen. Jesus has taken the old, rescued it from death, and made it new.

In the Old Testament, there is very little hope of anything that could be called life after death. Within general Old Testament thought, there was no escape from death. A person would die and end up in Sheol (or Hades, to use the Greek translation); a place of no substance, no strength, without light, cut off from creation and from the ability to worship God.[ii] There are verses upon verses expressing the bleak prospect of death (e.g. Ps. 6:5; 30:9; 88:10-12; 115:17; Isa. 38:18).

But, there are also a few times when writers in the Old Testament express the hope that God, because God is God, would do something to reverse this, to overturn death and defeat it (Ps. 49:15; 71:20; Isa. 26:19; Dan. 12:2):

‘But as for me’, one of the psalmists writes, ‘God will redeem my life | He will snatch me from the power of the grave.’ (Ps. 49:15)

Isaiah looked forward to when God would swallow up death forever (Isa. 25:8)

Unlike other ancient belief systems, the Old Testament writers expressed the belief that bodies were important to God. Matter, substance, is important to God. Creation is God’s workmanship, and God acts to redeem and restore it.

When God made people, he made us as embodied people—that was the pattern disrupted by death. That Jesus became incarnate, that Jesus rose from the dead in a real body, all speak of God’s passion for creation. Bodies are important.

God does not seek to leave what is dead, dead. God, in Christ, came to take the old, rescue it from death, and make it new. So God plunges into death, and raises what is dead to life.

When Paul writes about Jesus’ resurrection, he speaks of it as being the ‘first fruits’ of the harvest (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). That although death came into the world and disrupted the pattern through humanity, resurrection life now comes through Jesus, and that what has already happened in history to Jesus, is the ‘believer’s destiny’[iii]—one day, all Christ’s people will also be raised to life again. Embodied. New bodies—incorruptible, immortal. But embodied, nonetheless.

More than this, the New Testament writers also speak of creation itself being, remade, renewed, released from all that afflicts and scars it (Rom. 8: 18-25; Rev. 21:4-6).

Again, God does not seek to leave what is dead, dead. God seeks to bring life to what he loves. God, in his love, took on our pain and suffering, facing death like us, so we could be forgiven and reborn. God, in Christ, has come to take the old, rescue it from death, and make it new.

These scars are important; they speak of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. That, ‘God in Christ triumphed over the powers that enslave and afflict the whole creation’[iv] (Col 2:15). That the powers that afflict, the powers that scar, do not have the last word.


I find it comforting to know that when Jesus rose from the dead, he choose to be known by his scars.[v] After all, he could have easily erased them. That’s what I would have been tempted to do. But the risen but scarred body of Christ is the ultimate symbol of divine compassion and identification with us.

I don’t like the stories my scars tell. But the story Jesus’ scars tell, gives me hope.

It gives me hope knowing that all things, even broken things, can be made new again.

It gives me hope, because even though we do suffer, even though scars and sorrows are a part of each of our stories, in Jesus Christ, they will never be the conclusion of our story.

Jesus stands in the midst of the community of his followers, even when they're are afraid and doubting, with his palms open, with wounds displaying, saying, “peace be with you.”

We all have scars. We have all inflicted scars. Actually, when viewed from a certain perspective, what unites us as a community is not our potential, our social standing, or our shared opinions. What unites us is our scars, and how, in bringing those scars to Jesus, we put our trust in his victory to one day transform them into something new.

We are not here to deny our sufferings, or cover up our wounds. We are not here to get a tape measure out and measure the scars we carry or those we have inflicted, either. Being an Easter people, being followers of Jesus, is about looking at his hands, his feet, knowing that our healing is in his wounds. That in his scars, there is hope assured and there is peace given.

So don’t be afraid, place your hope in what Jesus has done, and peace be with you.


'This is the lamb slain, this is the speechless lamb, this is the one born of Mary the fair ewe, this is the one taken from the flock, and led to slaughter. Who was sacrificed in the evening, and buried at night; who was not broken on the tree, who was not undone in the earth, who rose from the dead and resurrected humankind from the grave below.' - St Melito of Sardis[vi]


[i]  Salvador Plascencia, The People of Paper (Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 200), p. 85, Sandra

[ii] As per Robert Alter’s note to Psalm 6:5, ‘It’s man’s calling in the biblical world to celebrate or acclaim God’s greatness. Hence in the psalms of supplication the speakers often remind God in their entreaty for life that the dead—those who go down to the underworld, Sheol—cannot praise God.’ Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary, The Writings (W. W. Norton & Company, New York, London, 2019) p. 35

[iii] Ben Witherington, Amy-Jill Levine, The Gospel of Luke, New Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2019), .p. 671

[iv] Marcus Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teaching, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (HarperOne, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2006), p. 290.

[v] Revelation paints a similar image of Jesus’ wounds. In Revelation 5:6, John sees the lamb—recognising, somehow, by some markers on its body, that it had been slain/killed, but that it was now standing and living. Revelation 5, along with the gospels testimony to Jesus’ resurrection body still bearing the marks of his suffering (like Luke, here, and John 20:20:20, 26-27), have led many theologians to speculate that Jesus has chosen to eternally bear these marks.

[vi] Melito of Sardis, On Pascha, (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Popular Patristics Series, No. 20), (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2001), p. 56

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