Your Scars…Your Story!
Josh McDowell in ‘The Evidence for the Resurrection’
(Josh has spoken in 650 University and college campuses, and more than 7 million people in the last 21 years!)
After 700 hours of studying the subject of Jesus’ resurrection…it is the most wicked, vicious, heartless ever foisted on the minds of human beings…or…it is the most remarkable fact of history.
The resurrection of Jesus, who is the Christ, was prophesied in the Jewish Scriptures, Jesus was arrested, judged, a political prisoner and criminal, and then was crucified on a Roman cross. Three days after His death and burial, some women who went to the tomb found His body gone. In subsequent weeks His disciples claimed, that God raised Him from the dead, and that He appeared to them at various times before He ascended to heaven.
From that foundation Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and continued to exert great influence down through the centuries.
They were living witnesses, more than 500 people, who for forty days after Jesus’ resurrection saw, talked and ate with Him. Some of them were still alive when Paul wrote part of the NT. It became very difficult for critics to defend their position that Christ did not rise from the dead.
The Roman seal broken, the guards hit by light, the huge 2 ton stone rolled away, the empty tomb, the folded linen cloth, the Presence of angels and their testimony…are irrefutable proof that the resurrection of Jesus took place, and we who live today are the ultimate proof with God’s Word being true.
And when this is true…then His returning is also sure and certain!
And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive.
And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not.
Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further.
But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?
And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,
Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.
And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.
And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
And he took it, and did eat before them.
The risen Christ appears in a room that is locked tight and shows himself to his despondent disciples. He spoke to them, as he had spoken so often before, saying “Peace.” But they don’t recognise that this is really Jesus. In fact, Luke reports that when the disciples first see Jesus, ‘They were terrified, thinking that they were seeing a ghost.’ Luke describes Jesus eating with the disciples, something not done by ghosts. There can be no doubt about it – Jesus is standing there in the room in the flesh. He is genuine. They saw, they touched and they believed.
Thomas shows up a little later. He wasn’t with the other disciples for the Easter appearance. The other disciples tell him of the risen Christ, but Thomas says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe”
He is going through the same concerns as the other disciples had.
A week later, the risen Christ again surprises the disciples. Thomas is there this time and Jesus obliges, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put in into my side,’ says the risen Christ, ‘Stop doubting, and believe’ (John 20:37)
· All of us have scars.
· Scars tell us something…! Most people like to talk about them and how they got them.
· Scars are connected to memories. Injuries, operations, foolishness and mistakes…outward scars.
· But there are inward scars that cannot be seen.
· Some scholars say: Most psychological scars are acquired in the first seven years of our life, and inflamed by circumstances occurring later in life. This scarring can lead to bizarre behaviour later in life.
· The point is that to be human is to have scars. And most scars are the result of sin in one way or another.
Scars are part of our life as humans. Jesus received scars because he was truly human. He told them to look at his hands and feet and said, “Feel me, and you will know, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones (and we might add: holes in my hands and feet where I was pierced by nails), as you see I have (Luke 24:39).
Jesus makes a point of showing his scars both to the disciples and a week later in the presence of Thomas. The risen Christ wants to show that the resurrection doesn’t make the cross meaningless. There is an interconnectedness between the cross and the empty tomb.
1. What is your personal Image of Jesus…?
· There are some Christians who only want to know the glorified and risen Jesus.
· They know he died on a cross but that isn’t relevant now because he is alive again.
· Their image of Christ is a Christ in glory with his raised in blessing over the church and the world. The scars are there but they are hardly noticeable on the king with a golden crown and royal robes.
2. The Scars are eternal reminders of sacrifice and love bound together
When we hurt He hurts.
He is our Saviour who hurts when we are hurting, who agonises with us in our pain, and sympathises with us in our weakness. As we suffer scars of pain and hurt in our lives, we know we have a Saviour who knows what it is like to bear the scars of suffering.
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
3. The scars on the body of the resurrected Christ tell us that even though we share in the new life in Christ, our scars are still with us.
Many are abused and hurt…but finding Jesus releases a new life of fulfilment and power. We carry the scars. Some memories will fade…others will be wiped out, still others that remain will become a source of victory and conquest.
The way we carry those scars and bear them through our life will show to others the faith that we have and witness to others that the resurrected Lord is very real to us.
4. Are you branded for God?
On his first missionary journey (ca. A.D. 46-48), in the company of Barnabas, Paul and his friend established several churches in the Roman province of Galatia. (Acts 13:14-14:26).
Perhaps a year or two later, the apostle penned a letter that was designed to be circulated among these congregations (Galatians 1:2). Quite frankly, the epistle reveals a certain level of frustration. As Paul concluded his letter, he wrote: “Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus” (6:17, ASV). Several things are intriguing about this text.
“Henceforth let no man trouble me”?
· The fact is, this epistle is punctuated with criticism for these saints’ lack of diligence.
· some were in the process of “removing from” their sacred call, and embracing a perverted “gospel” (1:6-8).
The present tense “removing” indicates an apostasy in progress.
· False teachers had (2:4), enslaved and “bewitched” the Galatians with a wrong “gospel” (2:4; 3:1; 5:1ff).
· As a result, some had turned upon the apostle;
He therefore issued this rebuke, charging them to stop heaping “troubles” upon him.
The plural noun “troubles” (kopous) derives from a term that means “to strike.” Here it is used metaphorically for distracting a person’s attention by causing him embarrassment, or precipitating worry. Paul did not need this stress; he had endured trouble enough already!
· This thought leads Paul to provide documentation—the visible credentials of his suffering for Christ: “For I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus.”
· The present tense verb “bear” suggests that the marks are visible, with almost a challenge—as if the apostle was saying, “take a look at them!”
· The term “branded” is not in the Greek text; it has been supplied to represent the action that resulted in “the marks” (stigmata – plural).
· In the ancient Greek language, stigma could refer to a brand (as when a master branded a slave).
· It has been suggested, therefore, that Paul’s allusion to stigmata could signify metaphorically that he was the Lord’s “slave.”
· The apostle on occasion did use doulos (slave) to represent his relationship to Jesus (cf. Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1).
· A stigma also could be a tattoo. The pagans sometimes tattooed the names of their gods on their bodies; this practice helps to explain the prohibition in Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you, for I am Jehovah your God.” It is highly unlikely that the apostle had tattooed words or phrases honouring God on his body. The Hebrews were not to adopt idolatrous practices.
· The term stigmata could be used also of scars resulting from wounds. The most common view is that “Paul is most likely alluding to the wounds and scars which he received in the service of Jesus”
· The Greek literally says “the marks ‘in’ my body,” which seems to imply more than a superficial surface mark.
· In Lystra the apostle was stoned. Afterward he was dragged from the city, and left for dead (Acts 14:19).
· At Philippi Paul (and Silas) were beaten with “many stripes” with rods (Acts 16:22).
· One must reflect upon the fact that while Jewish law limited beatings to forty stripes the Romans observed no such restrictions!
· Elsewhere (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23ff) Paul writes of receiving “stripes above measure” (suggesting both many in number and great in intensity).
· In addition to that, he received five beatings by the Jews (none of which is recorded in Acts). Each of these produced thirty-nine wounds—thus no less than 195 stripes from these five beatings alone.
· Further, three times he was whipped with “rods” (two of these occasions are not elsewhere recorded in the New Testament). This was Roman punishment, and was a violation of Paul’s rights as a born citizen of the empire (Acts 22:25).
· While others might well have recoiled at the thought of such hideous scars, Paul gloried in them as badges of honour for his Master.
· They were credentials of dedication, and he let them shut the mouths of his whining critics.
Evidence of Inspiration
There is only a total of only six verses in the entire New Testament was utilized in the recording of these abuses of Paul.
The human psyche clamours for colourful (blood and guts) descriptions of the grossness of man’s inhumanity to his fellows.
This is compelling evidence of the guiding hand of the Spirit of God in the production of the New Testament documents.
Paul, the apostle: what a man of God!