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The Glorious, Risen, and Wounded Christ

Posted on Saturday, March 30, 2024
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by David P. Deavel
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13 Comments

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Easter Day is upon us. For Christians, this is the day of victory over sin, death, and the devil. Christ’s victory is not just a one-off miracle of a dead man brought to life again. Lazarus, whom Christ himself raised from the dead, was brought to life and died again. Christ comes to life in a body that is now transformed, powerful, glorious, and immortal. He can appear where he wants, seemingly passing through walls and vanishing at will. He is also different enough that even those who knew him best do not recognize him until he reveals himself to them. And, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, it is Christ’s resurrection that makes possible and heralds our own resurrection like his: “For as by a man came death, by a man has also come the resurrections of the dead” (I Cor. 15:21).  

New, glorious, transformed, immortal…and yet there is something that may seem odd even to believers: the Lord of Glory who has defeated death is still wounded. Doesn’t his defeat of death and his new, glorious form exclude such displays of weakness? If he is so glorious, why does he have the wounds? Like every aspect of his existence, the answer is that those wounds are for us.

We know that they were there for his first Disciples in order to prove to them that he was really the one they knew in the flesh—and not a mere ghost. Luke tells us that when he appeared to them, the Disciples “supposed they saw a spirit,” to which Jesus asks why they are “troubled” and why “questions rise in your hearts. See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24: 38-39).  

John’s Gospel gives more detail, informing the reader that Thomas the Apostle was not there at the first appearance of the resurrected Lord—and that he wouldn’t believe until he too saw and touched this wounded, risen Lord. It is Christ’s invitation to see and touch those wounds that convinces Thomas to confess, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).  

Yet if this were all the wounds were for, it would seem that the Lord might well lose his wounds once all those who knew him during his earthly journey were convinced. Perhaps he could have done an act of miraculous healing/divine plastic surgery before he ascended into Heaven. And yet there is no record of him having done so. And the visions given to John in the Book of Revelation indicate that he saw a “Lamb, standing as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6). This seems a pretty clear sign that the marks of the Lord’s death remain. Indeed, Augustine says in his treatise on the Lord’s resurrection, “I believe our Lord’s body to be in heaven, such as it was when he ascended into heaven.”

Thomas Aquinas quotes those lines in his great Summa Theologica when he treats the questions of the Lord’s resurrected body. Like Augustine, Thomas thinks that the remaining scars on the Lord’s body are not just for the Disciples’ immediate needs of identification. They are also for all eternity as a sign of Christ’s own glory. He quotes Bede the Venerable, who said Christ kept his wounds “to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.” He redeemed the human race by suffering; the wounds are themselves precious and indeed glorious.

This glory itself serves several purposes. The continued sign of wounds remains the sign of love for all those who believe in Christ. For those who don’t believe, this love will serve at the Last Judgment as the sign of their own condemnation. And for his Father in Heaven, before whom he stands as the eternal high priest “to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Hebrews 9:23), Christ shows himself, the one who has offered all—with the wounds to prove it. Thomas quotes Bede again, who explains: “that when He pleads for us with the Father, He may always show the manner of death He endured for us.” The great hymn writer Isaac Watts put it this way in the seventh and eighth stanzas of his “Jesus, in thee our eyes behold”:

But Christ, by his own powerful blood,

Ascends above the skies,

And in the presence of our God,

Shows his own sacrifice.

 

Jesus, the King of Glory, reigns

On Zion’s heavenly hill;

Looks like a lamb that has been slain,

And wears his priesthood still.

These considerations lead us to see even more reasons why Christ might carry those wounds. The nineteenth-century English Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon suggested in a sermon on Christ’s wounds that not only are those wounds on Christ a sign of his love for us, but a sign of what our reception of that love means. Christ means to teach us that he was serious when he told his followers to take up their crosses:

He means this that suffering is absolutely necessary. Christ is the head, and his people are the members. If suffering could have been avoided, surely our glorious Head ought to have escaped; but inasmuch as he shows us his wounds, it is to tell us, that we shall have wounds too. Innocence ought to escape suffering. Did not Pilate mean as much when he said, “I find no fault in him, therefore let him go?” But innocence did not escape suffering.

True Christian life is not free of suffering. In fact, it seems, the more one conforms one’s own thoughts, will, and actions to Christ, the more one suffers. Teresa of Avila, the Spanish nun and mystic, famously prayed, “If this is how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!” And yet, it is this suffering, particularly that which is on behalf of Christ, particularly when we are innocent, that is so powerful in making us like Christ and benefitting others spiritually. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col. 1:24). Though Christ’s obedient, suffering sacrifice was infinitely valuable, he chooses to apply the benefits of that sacrifice through the obedient, suffering sacrifices of Christians acting by his grace in the power of his Holy Spirit.    

If his wounds remain as an everlasting and glorious sign of his love and also inform us of our own wounds, this suggests something important to Christians. Our own wounds, particularly those caused by our true innocence in the face of malice, may well be everlasting but transformed. Thomas Aquinas cites Augustine’s speculations in The City of God about our own future state that look in this direction. “Perhaps in that kingdom,” Augustine writes, “we shall see on the bodies of the Martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.”

We do not know exactly what the New Heaven and New Earth will be like. Paul cites the Prophet Isaiah about this mystery in I Corinthians 2:9: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” But Augustine’s logic seems sound. “Beloved, we are God’s children now,” we read in I John 3:2; “it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” If he bears the glorious wounds of his fight, and we are like him, then it seems we too will bear our wounds.

If this is correct, it suggests something further about how our own sufferings will appear to us then and can appear to us now. If the signs of those sufferings are to be glorious then, we can see, through the eyes of faith, how glorious they are now. C. S. Lewis’s character George MacDonald in The Great Divorce explains to the narrator how it is that humans misunderstand eternity and time: “That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

The Dominican theologian Andrew Hofer explains this “working backward” quality of Heaven well: “Already, during this life on earth, God’s grace pours over the soul’s wounds in its conformity to Christ’s cross. In heaven, God’s glory will be making the body a visible sign of the interior victory achieved on earth.”

Easter is a day of triumph. Jesus the glorious Lord is risen and reigns. He promises redemption and the fullness of life to those who follow him. Yet this promise is not merely for the future. The human present can take part in the Eternal Present. And when it does, wounds, scars, trials, difficulties, and even agonies are seen in a new light. These burdens upon us are the first, light, and momentary aspects of what Paul calls in II Corinthians 4:17 “an eternal weight of glory” that we will carry forever.

David P. Deavel teaches at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, and is a Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. Follow him on X (Twitter) @davidpdeavel.

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Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
12 days ago

Good article you wrote here David , I do believe that two stories from the story of Christ have significance in a very understandable way – When Christ calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee , the lesson from that is that Faith will promote Courage and other important good qualities will follow. And in the story of Christ speaking about the lamp on a stand , how the light represents being a good example , and instead of putting the lamp under a basket the light represents doing what is morally right so it should be shown ,put on a stand so as to be an example to others how to do what is good and right. ( I am thinking that is possible that the lamp story could have been considered humorous – the idea of putting a lamp somewhere where the light would not be seen does have some humor to it ! ) Being open minded about the life of Jesus Christ is an approach that makes sense to understanding what the teaching of Christ was all about . When I use the term open minded I am referring to considering possibilities , not the anything goes meaning of that term. Considering possibilities is important in reasoning ,in determining the right way to solve things of a mathematical nature, in law enforcement, such as detective work, in medicine , mysteries of all sorts can be solved through being open minded in that sense. It is important to keep in mind how Mary had a place in things too. There is very much to give thought to at Easter . Well done with writing this article David.

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David Millikan
David Millikan
12 days ago

Excellent article. Happy Easter everyone.

GTPatriot
GTPatriot
12 days ago

If aethists demand guarantees, then show me that tomorrow is guaranteed to any of us.

Χριστόφορος
Χριστόφορος
13 days ago

Since I am an Orthodox Christian who celebrates Great and Holy Pascha on May 5th ~ I am still in the midst of Great Lent where we fast 40 days of Fasting for Great Lent.

The strict fast – no meat, fish, dairy products, wine or oil during the entirety of Great Lent
**Fish is allowed on March 25 (Annunciation) and Palm Sunday; oil and wine are allowed on Saturdays and Sundays, except for Holy Saturday.

Some things I definitely agree with, others, maybe not. However, I am open to learn as much as I can.

To my Western brothers

GTPatriot
GTPatriot
12 days ago

You may not believe in eternal life but I do. . So who gets to live with the most
positive outlook ?

GTPatriot
GTPatriot
12 days ago

The negative freaks who has chosen to comment here are proof that fools are abundant among us. I would like to know what these lost souls believe. If its just that you die and rot in the ground knock yourself out. I know I will be in the eternal kingdom of Christ and even if that is not true I get to spend my life on earth happily confident in life after death.
I did not attend church today and these remarks give me the message that I needed.

Steven Hamburger
Steven Hamburger
13 days ago

Although belief in Christ Jesus is through faith, we are blessed that antiquities strongly support that Jesus was indeed a real human who indeed died and whose resurrection has never been disprove
Hallelujah
Steve

Dorothy Snow
Dorothy Snow
13 days ago

I would love to share this on Easter Sunday. How can I print it? I need to make copies.

New revalation
New revalation
13 days ago

you Know why Jesus isn’t back?
he found out he had to Shepard over you Morons and put a nailgun to his head lol

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