Visible wounds

This Sunday, as we celebrate Jesus’ Ascension, we get to sing one of my favorite hymns, “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” The third verse goes:

Crown him the Lord of love, behold his hands and side, rich wounds, yet visible above, in beauty glorified; no angels in the sky can fully bear that sight, but downward bend their burning eyes at mysteries so bright.

The risen, flesh and blood Jesus was taken to heaven with his wounds still visible in his hands, feet, and side.

And his wounds are still visible in heaven. 

It’s an incredible claim. I get emotional every time I think about it.

When Jesus was raised from the dead his wounds were the proof that it was really him and not somebody else. 

Now Jesus is in the heavenly dimension. He’s glorified, and humanity is glorified with him. 

Meaning us and our wounds. 

Jesus takes all the things we suffer in this life, the hurts, the scars, visible and invisible, and transforms them from hurt into glory. 

I don’t know why there is so much hurt and suffering in the world. Most of it is due to human sin, rejection of God. But in becoming one of us, suffering with us and for us, it has to mean Jesus cares. It has to mean our wounds matter to God.

That’s why he was taken up for us, wounds and all. 

Do you know any retired hockey players? Have you seen them up close? I’m pretty sure they wear their scars and their false teeth as a badge of honor.

The scars say “I did this. I had a full life. I really lived the life of a hockey player.”

If a hockey player’s wounds are a badge of honor, what do you think God can do with our wounds? 

The wounds we suffer in this life become a source of glory in the next. 

The things we’re tempted to cover up in this life become a source of beauty in the next. 

Believers don’t suffer in vain.

Jesus glorifies our wounds, and because of the Ascension, one day our joy will be infinitely greater for the wounds we suffer here.   

Bible stories your mother never told you

More than once in my Air Force career my boss assigned me to lead an investigation into charges of sexual abuse. It turned out that in each case, a predator used a position of power to hurt someone who was vulnerable. I saw up close the pain inflicted on victims and families.

As the massive scandal of abuse by priests, and its cover up, continues to devastate the Catholic church (no religious tradition is immune), where can you find the resources to even begin to understand what’s going on?

I suggest those resources are in the bible, in the stories your mother never told you.

David and Bathsheba isn’t exactly a bedtime favorite among parents. Neither is the story of David’s son Amnon, who became obsessed with his sister Tamar “to the point of illness” (2 Samuel 13:2).

My mother never told me the story of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19).

Is the problem just men in power? Consider Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7), or Lot’s daughters (Genesis 19:31). The bible stories your mother never told you encompass people in nearly every category imaginable.

So why are these stories in the bible?

Because they’re true, and because the bible is completely realistic about human depravity.

We tend to avoid the truth when it offends us. Not the bible.

We tend to take the protagonists of the bible and turn them into moral examples. We teach kids, “Be strong like David.” But ultimately that’s not the message of the Bible. The message of the bible is, even “the best of us,” even people like David, are capable of the worst kinds of evil. On our own, we’re helpless to save ourselves. We need someone who really was perfect to pay the price for the evil in us and save us from ourselves.

The bible stories your mother never told you are proof that the worst human behavior is no surprise to God.

The bible stories she did tell you—the miracles, the healings, the cross, the empty tomb—are proof that God cares, and is doing something about it.

What all the stories—the ones we love and the ones we overlook—point to is Jesus Christ. Jesus stepped into the world he created and took the worst kind of abuse on himself. And people in power were his chief abusers.

And he defeated them.

A story I love is the one from late in the day on the first Easter, of the risen Jesus showing his bewildered disciples his wounds. The wounds inflicted by his abusers were the proof to his disciples that he was who he claimed to be.

They’re the proof to us that our wounds matter to God, and that Jesus can take the worst things we suffer in this life and weave them into the new reality he’s creating.