John’s story of “doubting Thomas” teaches us that Jesus’ wounds — and our own — are a crucial part of His victory over sin and death…and our own victories over pain and personal struggles.
All around us there are signs of revival, especially in nature as we emerge from a long hard winter. I marvel at the pictures of the growth in East End woods which were engulfed in flames just a year ago. We see the strength of rebuilding all along the shoreline areas hit hardest by the hurricane. It is time to tell these resurrection stories.
The story of Jesus’ resurrection is aglow with new beginnings: death to life, darkness to light, closed tombs and stones rolled away. But my favorite truth of the resurrection story is that the resurrected Jesus still has wounds. Those wounds are the sign of a promise, giving even greater meaning to rising from the grave.
The wounds of Christ were also really important to at least one of Jesus’ disciples, the one we frequently call “doubting Thomas.” John’s Gospel, (Jn. 20:19-29), is one of the accounts of Jesus visiting with his disciples after His resurrection. John records that the disciples were locked in a room because they were afraid of persecution. Rightly so, they feared their own death. Jesus appeared in their midst saying, “Peace be with you.” (vs. 21) He also showed them his hands, feet and side. Did you ever wonder why He bothered to do that? It certainly identified Him as the friend they saw crucified on the Cross.
Poor Thomas, he was too late for the resurrection party. I have often wondered if he was not there because he wasn’t as afraid as the other disciples who locked themselves up in a room. Where was Thomas? Maybe he was out looking for this risen Jesus to prove for himself that Jesus was back from the dead. Upon hearing the disciples’ claims that they had “seen the Lord” (vs.24), Thomas declared that he would not believe it himself until he “saw the nail marks in his hand, put his fingers where the nails were and his hand into his side.” (vs.25). Quite graphic, wouldn’t you say?
Jesus heard and answered Thomas’ request. Again He greeted the fearful disciples with peace and then said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Then Thomas responded in faith, “My Lord and my God!” (vs.27-28).
What is it about those wounds? Why does the risen Jesus have wounds and why are they so important to Thomas that they cause him to proclaim his belief that Jesus is “My Lord and My God!” I believe with Thomas, that the wounds of Christ are a poignant reminder of the struggle and the victory. The wounds hold a promise for those who believe; death is swallowed up in the victory of resurrection. God so intimately loves us that He dared to share in our sufferings so that we would know there is no struggle that too big, no sin too great, that Jesus’ love cannot conquer.
Think about our own lives and our wounds, those we see and those which are invisible. The paths we walk, the struggles we endure and even the tombs that we rise from are all a part of the miracles and resurrections of our lives. Our wounds help us to tell our story and remind us of God’s power to raise us from the dead.
I think about people whom I know who have lost limbs through battles with disease or enemies of war.
I remember my friend, Ginger, who died recently. Her disease and disabilities which confined her to a wheelchair could not limit her warmth, her laughter and her smile. Ginger rose from a tomb of pain and despair with her faith and her CCI Service dog Acre at her side.
I follow the world travels of my friend and Riverhead resident, Sam Cila, who faced the battle for his life and ours as a soldier in Iraq. His life threatening injuries resulted in 40 surgeries and the amputation of his arm. Sam rises from his own tomb of grief and fear as he victoriously travels around the world, with his CCI dog, Gillian. As a motivational speaker and inspiring athlete, Sam’s message of overcoming adversity inspires everyone he meets. Sam competes in triathlons and visits other disabled Vets to inspire them that life is worth living, even with severe physical impairments. You can read Sam’s story here.
These friends rose from their own tombs. In their resurrection, they bore the wounds of the battle, which become an even more powerful testimony to their story.
Thomas, like all of us, needed to test resurrection by touching the wounds of Christ. A person can tell us about their victories, but it is only when we see their wounds that we can really relate and believe. When we see their wounds, we realize that indeed it is possible for our wounds and even our tombs to become pathways to resurrection. Only then can we acknowledge God’s power at work in their resurrection and proclaim with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.”
Every one of us has a story of resurrection, even if it is only in the beginning stages. Maybe you are just beginning to come to grips with a cross before you — a frightening medical diagnosis for yourself or your loved one, the loss of a job or the destruction of a marriage. Maybe you find yourself stuck in the tomb of grief or addictions that have robbed your life of joy. For you, it is time to roll away the stone and rise to new life. God’s here to make it happen. Don’t be afraid. Just call on Him and believe. Your day of resurrection is close at hand.
Many others have experienced resurrections and are afraid to tell their stories. We’re afraid of rejection because of past faults. We’re afraid of the fact that we know we could fall back into that tomb of fear and grief or addictions at any moment, so maybe it’s safer just to be quiet. For you and for me, the best way to share our resurrection stories is to share our wounds as part of the victory. Just like Jesus did with Thomas. He let Thomas touch those wounds to realize that the battle won was real; the victory was gained in pain and the Risen Christ understands all we are going through. He gives us His peace to conquer.
When we share our wounds with our victories, others see in us the hope they need to believe. Throughout the years and especially since writing this Life on Purpose column, I have been blessed to hear many stories of struggles and victories won with faith. I am uplifted and encouraged by your stories. Keep sharing your stories, wounds and all. There is a Thomas in all of us, wanting to believe.
Eileen Benthal has a B.A. in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer, speaker and wellness coach at 40DaysToFocus.com and NOFO Wellness Center. She works with clients locally and around the U.S. who are excited about balancing their health in body, mind and spirit.
Eileen and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Their youngest, 16-year-old Johanna, is a teenager with special needs. Eileen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and facebook.com/40DaysToFocus.