I Touched His Wounds

By Sarah Hinlicky Wilson

Hello everyone! My name is Thomas. You probably know me by my nickname, “Doubting Thomas.” Let me tell you, I’m pretty sick of being called that. If you don’t mind, today I’d like to tell you my side of the story. Then maybe you’ll change your mind about my nickname.

I was one of the 12 disciples right from the start. Jesus called me by name along with the other 11. I followed him as he walked all over the countryside. I saw all his miracles: healing, feeding, and teaching. Trust me, his teaching was just as miraculous as his healing and feeding!

It was as if the truth about the whole world and heaven above and God in heaven became clear to me at last. Being in Jesus’ company was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. I could go on for hours telling you all the amazing things Jesus did, but the one that made the biggest impression on me — and the other disciples, too — was when he called Lazarus out of the tomb.

Lazarus was the brother of our good friends Mary and Martha. We weren’t around when he got sick and died, but news came to us about it. Lazarus was still a young man, and a kind one. We were all so sad. Jesus was especially sad! But then he said something strange: “I’m glad I wasn’t there when Lazarus died. Because now I can do something that will help you believe. Let’s go to his tomb.”

Well, to be honest, none of us had any idea what he was talking about. Death is death! We all know that. I figured Jesus meant that we should show solidarity with the dead. I figured he meant that we should accept our own death someday. We should humble ourselves spiritually and accept our fate. I was really trying to learn Jesus’ lessons.

In a burst of enthusiasm I said, “Let’s go along with Jesus, so we also can die with Lazarus!” I thought that was the right answer — acceptance of death, and, I admit, I liked the idea of Jesus being as sad at my death as he was at Lazarus’ death.

Well, that’s not how things turned out at all. We got there, and boy, were Mary and Martha ever upset. They said strong words to Jesus! I was kind of shocked that women would talk that way to him. I was more shocked that Jesus accepted it! In fact, Jesus was so emotional that he actually began to weep over Lazarus. But the sisters weren’t very impressed. “If you’d been here,” they said, “Lazarus wouldn’t have died.” I admired Jesus too, but come on, nobody escapes death! And even Jesus can’t prevent people from being claimed by death. That’s what I thought.

But then the unbelievable happened. Jesus made them take the stone away from Lazarus’ tomb. The sisters protested: he’d already been in there four days, and everyone knows how bad a dead body stinks after even one day!

But Jesus insisted, and then he called to Lazarus in a loud voice. Honestly, I thought Jesus had lost his mind. But imagine my shock when I saw Lazarus come out of the tomb! Alive! Walking! Pulling off the graveclothes! I just about fainted. I wasn’t quite sure I was even happy.

Is that what it means to live beyond death? To have our dead bodies forced to stand and walk again? Later on, all of us asked Jesus about this. Was Lazarus the first of the resurrection of the dead? Jesus disagreed: “I am the resurrection,” he said. “I am life itself.”

Lazarus was rescued from death just for a little while. But he will die again someday — hopefully, at a much more advanced age! But Lazarus has not escaped death completely. By contrast, said Jesus, the real resurrection will be something different. Our bodies raised from the dead will be different. We will still be bodies, but not the same as this flesh we have now.

To tell you the truth, most of what Jesus said just made me more confused. How could we still be bodies and yet not be like Lazarus? How could we be different but still be ourselves? And what did Jesus mean when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life”? How can a person be the resurrection?

Well, after that, events started to move fast. The religious leaders were really upset about the Lazarus incident, because it made so many more people follow Jesus. They actually planned to kill Lazarus — to get rid of the evidence, I guess. But in the end they decided it was better to go to the source and get rid of Jesus himself.

I’m sure you’ve heard this story before — how Jesus boldly came into Jerusalem and knocked down the moneychangers in the temple; how our fellow disciple Judas sneaked off and betrayed Jesus; how Jesus got arrested, and was examined by the Roman governor, and finally sentenced to death; how he was crucified.

I couldn’t stand to watch. I only saw them drive the nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. His words came back to me: “I am the resurrection and the life.” I don’t think so, Jesus, is what I said in my mind as I ran away from Golgotha. Maybe you can bring a whole and undamaged body back from death a few days later, but how can you live with those huge holes in your body? How can you live with all the blood drained out of you? How can you live — how can anyone live — when death is everywhere and all around and taking us and our loved ones away at every minute?

I was so upset that I couldn’t even face the other disciples. I went into hiding by myself. I thought about the Lazarus episode again. It just made me depressed. So what if Jesus, while he was alive, called every single person out of the tomb? They’d just have to go and die again someday. Exactly like Jesus himself. Death always wins.

These same thoughts kept running in my head for the rest of Friday, and all through Saturday. I was so depressed and empty, I couldn’t even participate in the Passover Sabbath. I just stayed alone, in bed, in the dark. Sunday came and the world was no different. I stayed alone. I was alone on Monday and Tuesday, too.

And then on Wednesday a weird thing happened. A couple of my fellow disciples found me. They knocked on the door until I let them in. They exploded into the room full of smiles and laughter. I was paralyzed by the strangeness of their behavior. Had they forgotten Jesus so fast?

But they all started talking at once: “We have seen the Lord! He’s alive! He was right! He is the resurrection! He is life itself! We’ve seen him and he’s blessed us and he gave us his own Holy Spirit and told us to tell everyone! Come on, come on, let’s go!”

Now listen closely, because this is the part that people always misunderstand. They think I’m some kind of hard-hearted doubter, or a skeptic, or a cynic, who refuses to accept any good news because I only believe in what’s terrible and sad. But remember, I was there at Golgotha! I saw Jesus crucified. I knew he was going to die. The Romans know how to kill people! And nobody survives death. Even Lazarus only got a temporary reprieve, and only because Jesus called him out of the tomb. If Jesus was dead, who could possibly call him out of the tomb? And how could his body even move and function after all the whipping and the nailing and the bleeding?

I figured that depression and fear had just made the other disciples lose their minds. Probably they were seeing things. Maybe Jesus had sent a ghost version of himself to comfort them. Maybe some other spirit had deceived them. But a raised, living body? The resurrection? The life? No. That I couldn’t believe, because it had never ever happened before! I’m sure you can see my point. I wasn’t going to believe in a cheerful lie just to cheer myself up. I was ready to be an adult—a sad adult, to be sure — who could accept the terrible truth about life: that it always ends in death.

And I expected the other disciples to grow up and face the truth too. So that’s why I said to them: “Don’t bother me with your silly tales of spirits and visions. The only Jesus I’m interested in is the real resurrection Jesus, the Jesus with a body, the Jesus whose body is really and forever beyond death, not just temporarily rescued. Unless I see with my own eyes where the nails pierced his skin, unless I can stick my finger right into the hole, which will prove that he is really a body and not just a ghost, I will not and cannot believe a word you’re saying.”

Well, you can imagine, the other disciples were disappointed in me. I asked if they had touched him. They said no—he’d only breathed on them, but no hands or touching. Mary Magdalene hadn’t touched him either. “You see?” I said. “You saw a ghost or something. But it wasn’t really Jesus.”

They couldn’t argue with me, as much as they wanted to. One good thing came out of their visit, though — they insisted that I shouldn’t be alone any longer. They made me join them. Even if I didn’t believe what they’d seen, at least we could be together, remember Jesus together, pray, and try to figure out what to do next.

It was on the following Sunday that everything changed for me. We were in a locked room, because rumors were going around that the authorities were hunting down all of Jesus’ followers. As if it wasn’t bad enough that I’d lost Jesus, I was afraid for my own life too. So the other disciples and I were sitting together, talking quietly, making plans to get out of Jerusalem safely. And then — well, I don’t blame you if you can’t believe what I’m about to tell you, because I didn’t believe it either! Not till I saw it myself.

Jesus was in the room with us. The locked door didn’t stop him. He stood there, his full size, his recognizable body, and then came his voice: “Peace be with you.” That’s the last thing I expected him to say! Peace to a bunch of terrified men hiding in a locked room, peace to us who were looking at someone who used to be dead? Yet even as he said it, I felt it: peace in my heart. Peace all the way through my body, to my fingers and toes.

And then, Jesus looked right at me. Me! He took a step closer. He held out his hands to me. I could see in them the holes where the nails had gone through. He wasn’t bleeding anymore, but there was no mistaking the mark of violence on his body. Then he showed me his side. I found out later that right after he died, a soldier stuck a spear into his ribcage — that’s where the wound came from. Jesus said to me, “Go ahead. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Make sure that it’s really me, really my body. There’s no need to doubt or disbelieve anymore. Touch me, and believe.”

So I did. Yes, I really did. I couldn’t stop now. I reached out my own hand and touched Jesus’ wounded side. I put my finger in the holes in his hands. Your sight can play tricks on you, you can hear things that aren’t really there, but there’s no mistake when it comes to touching. I touched a real body, Jesus’ body, and what I know now is a resurrection body: a body that lives beyond the reach of death. Not like Lazarus; like something new, created out of nothingness and death and despair and darkness. Whatever happened to Jesus wasn’t an alternative to death. It’s what lies on the other side of death.

And that’s when I knew. This wasn’t a ghost or a vision or an illusion. It was: “My Lord and my God!” I’d always admired Jesus, I’d even called him Lord, but now I knew for real who he was: my God. My God who took on this mortal human flesh, and walked with it all the way to death — and a terrible death, at that. And my God who stayed human in the pit of death so that he could rise up out of it again. And having done that, so he could call me out of it again, someday, after my own death.

Dear friends, I got to touch the risen Jesus with my own hand. But you don’t get to do that. And Jesus realized that there would be many, many people in the future who would wonder about him, or doubt the stories like I did, but they wouldn’t be able to check for themselves. That’s why Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.”

Blessed are you, who are listening to my story, who can only hear but can’t see or touch. Blessed are you for believing. Trust me, I know how hard it is to believe! But that’s why I’m telling you my story. Jesus lives, the same Jesus who died. He is not a ghost or a spirit or a vision or a delusion. He is my Lord and your Lord, my God and your God. Do not doubt, but believe!

The Rev. Dr. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson is assistant pastor at Tokyo Lutheran Church.


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