It doesn’t take long in any group before people start telling scar stories. One person mentions a broken arm or leg, a concussion, and pretty soon everyone is rolling up their sleeves or pant legs to tell another “I can top that” story. Getting older doesn’t make us immune to showing off either. My sister caught sight of Grandpa doing just that with her neighbor across the street. She witnessed two old men in coveralls unzipped to the waist comparing their scars from open heart surgery.
Their scars saved their lives, but most of our scars are from childhood injuries or stupid stunts we pulled. My oldest daughter has a perfect two-inch circle on each leg from leaning against a motorcycle exhaust pipe when she was young. The horrible burns weren’t enough for her though; she picked at the scabs until they became infected. Then she would really have something to show off.
Although you have to dig through her hair to find it, my younger daughter has a scar on her head from stitches she got at age three. She and her friends played in the back while we moms visited inside. My girlfriend didn’t know her boy had dragged his father’s pick axe into the sandbox. Suddenly the whole tribe came running in the house with my daughter screaming wildly. Crimson blood streamed through her white-blonde hair. One of the children had picked up the axe and fell backward under its weight cutting her head.
Imagine what the boasting might sound like in heaven if a group of top name Christians started comparing their scars.
“These stripes on my back,” Paul might say, pulling back his robe, “are from the time I was lashed 39 times for preaching about Jesus. I got these rope burns when the believers in Damascus snuck me out of the city.” He gives a sideways glance. “They lowered me in a basket through a hole in the wall.” The men around him laugh. “And these scars are from the shipwreck off the coast of Malta, and here’s where the viper bit me...”
When one of the men is distracted by the obvious deformity of another, Apostle John explains. “My skin just hasn’t been the same they boiled me in oil. They thought they could get me to denounce my faith. When I survived that, they exiled me to the Island of Patmos rather than risk any further embarrassment.”
Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, everybody gets in on the act. For days on end, Christians persecuted throughout the ages show bullet wounds, saw marks, seared flesh, spear marks, and tell how they were hunted like wild animals. Everybody tries to top the last guy…until Jesus walks into the room. Suddenly everyone is silent.
I see myself in the crowd. Jesus approaches me and points to the scar on my knee and asks, “How did this happen child?
I am embarrassed. I don't have any grand stories of persecution, escape, or endurance. My scars are small in comparison. But He persists, so I answer. “You already know, Lord. You were there. You know all about me.”
His eyes are warm as He smiles and nods. “Tell me anyway. I want to hear it from you.”
“I got that from rollerblading. I skinned my knee, cut my thumb, and wrenched my shoulder when I fell. My daughters’ laughter hurt more though. They thought it was pretty funny, their forty-two year old mom on roller blades.”
“Yes,” replies Jesus. He touches the scar at His temples. “I know how it feels to be made fun of. They put a crown of thorns on me and laughed at the thought of my being a king.” He takes my hand and we begin to walk. He notices the scar on my finger. “How about this one?”
“That’s from high school wood shop. The person before me took the safety arm off the table saw and forgot to put it back. I didn’t notice until my board started to kick back. I panicked and let go. The board sliced through my finger, hit me in the stomach, and bounced off the wall in front of me.”
“Hmm,” Jesus sympathizes. “People don’t realize what they’re doing sometimes. See these scars on my hands and feet? The men who nailed me to the cross didn't know what they were doing. They had no idea.”
I feel so insignificant compared to my Savior, and yet here He is identifying with my pain. He leads me to a grassy spot and we sit. “What about this dent in your leg; what caused that?”
“Oh,” I laugh, “that’s kind of embarrassing. I got pinned to the ground by my yard debris bin.” Jesus laughs a kind hearted chuckle. “It had a lot of dirt and rocks mixed with the weeds and branches. When I tipped it to roll down the driveway it fell back on me and smashed my leg.” He looks sympathetic, so I continue. “I couldn’t lift it off or squirm out from under it and was afraid I had broken my leg. It was dark and cold, and no one around. I screamed until my voice almost gave out before my neighbors heard me. It took three men to lift it off. I felt scared and so alone.”
I see a tear coursing down Jesus’ face. “I remember how it is to feel alone. I had never felt that before. Even though there’s no scar to show you, that was my deepest wound of all. When the weight of the world’s sin was heavy on me, my Father had to look away. It is the only time we have ever been separated. That was the worst part of my death. I have never felt so forsaken.”
Seeing Jesus’ grief gives me courage to lean against His chest and wrap my arms around Him. “I am sorry, Lord. I know how it feels when the one you love the most turns away from you.” My heart hurts in remembering and He reaches out His hand to soothe my pain.
He nods. “Yes, Judas betrayed me, all the disciples except John ran away in fear, and even my Father had to turn away. I gave up my spirit after that and a soldier thrust his sword in here to make sure I was dead,” Jesus opens his robe and shows me the crimson scar. I touch it gingerly and melt into His chest weeping. I am embarrassed of my small scars. They are so insignificant compared to His. Yet this whole time Jesus has shown only compassion.
I look up at His face and Jesus is smiling! I pull back in surprise and He laughs - a glorious, head-back, joy-filled laugh. “All the pain is over now, child. None of your scars can hurt you anymore, because I wear these scars for you. I suffered shame, cursing, abandonment, cruelty, and uttermost darkness for you – I have conquered sin and death! I am alive to give you life. Your scars will all disappear when you receive your new heavenly body.”
“But what about yours?” I ask. “Why do you still have scars?”
“Because I am the perfect Lamb, slain for you. I will always wear these scars to remind people of what I have done. Everyone who comes to me for forgiveness will have all their scars healed.”
I didn’t want to leave, but the vision ended. I discovered myself back in my chair reading Revelation, “Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne… (5:6)” The Lion of Judah, the King of Kings, the sacrificed Lamb; my Savior. He is the only One who has scars worth bragging about. He didn’t get them by doing something stupid, or even to save His own life. He earned His scars by loving us to death, and back to life again.
© Beth Vice, March 2010