Typically, we're ashamed of scars. We even take great pride in our ability to hide them. We'll cover them up, conceal them, use photo cropping techniques and filters, and we even lie about them. We are terrified of imperfection because our culture has demanded an unrealistic expectation. The bible teaches a different approach to scars in the 20th chapter John. By this point Jesus has already been crucified, buried, and resurrected. He has appeared to multiple people and almost all of His disciples except for one, Thomas. Obviously Thomas was deeply discouraged by this and couldn't get over the hurt and doubt that accompanied his lack of seeing the resurrected Christ. After all, he'd spent years following Jesus, learning form Jesus, experiencing the miracles and wonders which He did. No doubt, there were low days in Thomas' life as he sees all of his closest friends able to participate and share in the greatest event in human history while he stands on the sidelines of unbelief wavering in his faith.
Just as Thomas was reaching his lowest point, the scriptures tell us that Jesus came to visit Thomas as he gathered with other disciples. All of Thomas' doubt gave way as Jesus approaches him and asks him to reach out his hand and touch the scars in our Lord's hands and side. Immediately, the minutes, hours and days of unbelief faded away in pure joy as Thomas had his faith restored and it was all due to seeing the scars.
Those scars in the hands and side of Jesus told the story of redemption. They told the story of salvation and grace which the Lord would pour out on all those who called on His name in repentance and faith. They told the story of a perfect Savior who was once buried, but three days later conquered death, hell, and the grave for all eternity. This story teaches us to view scares as our greatest testimony. You see, scars are received by being in a battle and every battle worth fighting produces scars. We ought to wear them like a badge of honor. Scars are also a sign of healing. They show us what nearly defeated us, but didn't!
We'd be foolish to walk around and act as if we've never had any battles. However, we should also see the scars from those battles and throw it back in the devil's face that by the grace and mercy of God we're still standing. Those scars are the constant reminder that the enemy almost won, but we're still standing on the rock solid foundation of Jesus Christ and no weapon, strategy, or battle wound will prosper against God's true people. Thanks to the unchanging grace of the Almighty our hardest days can be turned into our greatest victories. (Romans 8:28)
When I think about the passage from John 20 I'm always reminded of a story I read years ago which perfectly illustrates this truth concerning scars. The story begins with a fire which began to engulf an apartment complex in a crowded neighborhood. The bottom two floors were nearly all but destroyed and there was still a third floor where people were trying desperately to get to safety. Because the firefighters were only able to use one ladder from their trucks due to tight spaces and the bottom of the building being denied as an access point, time was running out for residents on the opposite end of the third floor. One young boy in particular had managed to open the window of his complex facing the street and cried for help. Immediately, one of the firemen noticed there was a pipe which scaled the side of the building and ran just beside the window where the boy was. Without regard for his own safety, the fireman began to climb the pipe and finally reached the boy's window. Sadly, he noticed the boy's parents had already succumbed to smoke inhalation. The fireman quickly reached for the boy and held him in his right arm as he began to work his way back down the pole.
Unfortunately, because the pipe was so hot the fireman's gloves were not able to hold up to the extreme heat and he had to slide down the pole as quickly as he could to avoid further burns or falling. Thankfully the boy and the fireman reached the ground safely, but the fireman had to receive immediate medical attention for his severely burned hands. The story took an even more heartbreaking turn as the authorities discovered not only did the boy lose his parents in the fire, but he had no immediate family or distant family to care for him. The boy was then turned over to the state and a hearing was held to determine his future. During the proceedings, multiple families from the boy's school showed up in hopes of fostering or adopting him. One by one, well established and capable families made their case to the judge as to how they could care for the boy and provide a loving home. Just before the judge was about to make a ruling, the young boy raised his hand and asked the judge if he could say something. The judge smiled in agreement and the boy asked if he might pick out who he could live with. The judge asked, "Well young man, who did you have in mind?" The boy turned to the back of the courtroom and there sat the fireman who had rescued him just days prior and had followed up on the situation to make sure the boy was cared for.
As the boy made eye contact with the fireman he asked the judge if he could live with the fireman. The judge replied, "Son, do you even know that man's name?" The boy responded, "No, but I recognize his hands." I so thankful that although I may have never seen the Lord Jesus Christ with natural eyes, I can certainly recognize His hands. Those nail-scared hands are the reason you and I can be redeemed in they eyes of God and set free from the penalty of sin. Much like that young boy, we too can be saved from sure ruin if we put our trust in the scared, but beautiful hands of our great Savior.