Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mortal Skin

I've wondered something, and presently, it's come to my mind again: why did Jesus keep his scars when he rose from the dead?
Luke and John are the only gospels that reference Jesus' scars.
For Luke, the suspected doctor, it makes sense. Luke picked up on some human elements of Jesus not detailed in other gospels- including Jesus' anger a the injustice at the temple and his weeping over the capitl ciy.
Also, Luke notes one of my favorite stories in the Bible: while Jesus is dying and struggling to even breathe, he cries out "Father forgive them!" and assures the criminal beside him that he is to be with him in paradise.
That story encompasses so much about who Jesus is, and the purpose of his sacrifice.
The forgiveness in that short sentence; it strikes me like a fierce tackle, I need to rest and breath slowly after I read those words.
Luke's version is Jesus on the road to Emmaus, where two lucky individuals get to take a walk with Jesus. As they try to explain what happened, Jesus shows up in the flesh to help them out. As the people may have been frightened that Jesus was a ghost, he assures them that he is not- pointing to his scars as proof.
Ghosts/spirits do not keep their scars. Only human bodies do.
Jesus emphasizes his humanity further by requesting some food- something no ghost would need.

When I read John, the message of Jesus being God in the flesh continues to flash through the pages. Also, John mentions portions no other gospel notes; the night-time talk with the Pharisee where Jesus explains God's master plan so simply- that Jesus must be sacrificed for the redemption of the world and that humans are to be reborn. John also seems to be a bit egocentric, pointing to the 'disciple whom Jesus loved'.
But I find it interesting that the disciple who focused so much on Jesus' deity would also write about an aspect that made Jesus so very human- scarring.
Prior to the story of Thomas, we read that Jesus presents his wounds to be observed by the disciples when he meets with them- did they, too question until they saw the scars? If so, why is it only recorded for Thomas to be reprimanded for his 'unbelief'?
On the one hand, I see the issue of faith, but I'm not sure Jesus said it as harshly as I read it. Jesus invites Thomas, of all the disciples to experience his wounds in a way perhaps no other person ever has- to stick his finger inside the nail holes and see into the spear-stabbing. Yes, it's gruesome. But crucifixion was awful and Jesus' death was not a fairy tale to be painted only beautifully. Jesus had to suffer for us to be redeemed.
I can only ponder at how that experience changed Thomas. He felt where Jesus suffered.
And I think, that that is part of why Jesus kept his scars.
Each story of Jesus presenting his scars is clearly tied to him proving himself, and verifying his death and resurrection. I posed this question to a pastor and his response was simply; to prove that he had risen from the dead. Was that really the long and short of it?
I mean, he was dead and then became alive again- scars or no scars, he's alive! There is no doubt that Jesus could have healed them.

It makes me consider why why want our own scars healed? Is it pure vanity? I have some scars I rather like, and a memory to go with them- a small white line on my hip from falling when I played hide-n-go-seek in Kenya. I consider other scars, like a person who described the brutal scar from shin to ankle because someone intentionally aimed a car to kill. Or from a fight, when a domestic despute went violent and forever her arm holds the mark. Or Biruk, the scars along his chest make me sad whenever I see them.
Why can't those painful scars be healed?

So why keep them? If you are going to rise from the dead, why would it be necessary to hold on to scars?
I think it is not only to affirm that he indeed is alive and did actually die. I think it's deeper than that. It's a connection to humanity, a choice of God Almighty to stay in a broken, human frame. It's for us- a God with perfect features and flawless complexion won't hold me while I cry- a God who willingly kept his scars can brush his hand over mine and remind me that life does go on.
Christ, who while he suffered forgave those who killed him didn't diminish that suffering, but held on to it. He didn't erase the pain. He was resurrected, as he promises for us, but he doesn't take away our scars, instead he tells us to live with them, maybe even live through them.

I think again, about him forgiving while he struggled to breathe on the cross. He suffered, and still forgave. It commands that we, too, must forgive. I would prefer to forgive when my life is in order, when the struggle has stopped. I want to forgive when I don't continue to feel the impact of the wrong against me.
Jesus forgave admist his pain, and when he rose again, he kept the scars.
Forgiveness doesn't mean the scars go away.
And right now, that's hard for me.
My husband will always carry scars- four on his chest, three on his back. Although we forgive  the pain, or consequences of pain aren't taken away. Forgiveness would be easier if it meant a ticket to prosperity and health. Forgiveness would not be negotiated if the benefit to the inflicted were clear.

I think that's part of why Jesus kept his scars; the expensive love that offers even when you're hurting, and doesn't wait indefinitely for the pain to subside. He kept his scars, because humans do, too. And he forgave, even while he bled and slowly died.
And so, he calls us, with the authority of his own experience, to forgive despite our pains, wounds and marks. To extend some part of the Kingdom of Heaven to those in reach, admist our own suffering. It sounds beautiful and reads lovely in the Bible, but in reality, it sucks.
Forgiveness sucks.
I want to know that it will make a difference. I want that assurance that my husband will be safe, that his scars will blend into his skin until they disappear and those we forgive will be changed for the better. But God doesn't bargain with us when he demands that we forgive. He only flashes the image of his own son dying- screaming out our forgiveness.
And all my excuses fall empty at my feet.
I still don't want to obey- the desire isn't there. I don't want to do something that costs so much from me, but may never meet their ears.
But, maybe, after saying the words enough times, the emotion will follow.
Maybe, as I force myself to remember Jesus' forgiveness of me, something will change.
Maybe, as I remember and that he kept his scars on purpose, I will want to forgive.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hope and Fear

Last month, my husband was stabbed multiple times by complete strangers- and their motive is still unknown. We don't know why they wanted to attack Biruk.
Biruk is mobile again, and can run and laugh like normal.
However, the police have still not arrested his assaulters. It's not just frustrating that the police seem so slow-but it's also frightening. Twice now, Biruk has seen the people who attacked him. Of course he contacted the police and even at one point was able to show police which apartment building they entered.
Biruk had gone to our favorite donair place (a donair is a Middle-East version of Greek gyros) because the owner had offered for Biruk to work there for a day to learn how to make donairs and have an insider's view at operating a restaurant. It was just as Biruk arrived that he saw the same people, same car of the individuals who attacked him that night. Biruk's not seeking out trouble, he really is trying to be safe.
So many questions and worries rush through my mind when Biruk tells me he's waiting with the police, or that he just dashed inside because he saw someone who could have been the one who stabbed him.
We're just trying to go about our life, but in doing so, we are continually faced with life-threatening risks until these people are apprehended.
At this point, I'm not even thinking about justice- I realize that that criminal trial might be a year away. All I am focusing on is safety, and wanting to not worry if my husband will be attacked again.
I don't know how better to express this fear... it's so tangible and immediate.
I just want them arrested.
That's all.

Oh. And Biruk is opening his own restaurant/lounge.
I love him- he's so brave. He's pushing forward, and turning a tragedy into a dream.
Our motto is: we're blessed.

And we are. There's no arguement there. But I would feel more at ease when I know there is no one running around our city who randomly attacked my husband and might do so again. However, I should remember Biruk has had a hair cut since then, so maybe they won't recognize

Friday, July 02, 2010

But isn't that true of all Christians?

1. The Rastafarian religion believes that Hale Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia was a descendant of Jesus Christ.
2. Biruk is a distant relative of Hale Selassie (like 5th cousin twice removed or something).
3. I am married to Biruk.
4. I am related to Jesus (through marriage).