When you think of heaven, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of John the Revelator’s description in Revelation 21-22: New Jerusalem with walls of Jasper, gates of pearl, streets of pure gold, the crystal sea before God’s throne, the Tree of Life, the River of Life, the Lamb’s Book of Life, myriads of angels, millions of glorified saints, perfect peace, and continuous joy. Maybe you envision no more sin, sorrow, sickness, pain, death, devil, evil, and no more heartbreaking goodbyes. Everything in heaven is God-made and perfect in every way—a pristine paradise! But there is something in heaven that is man-made—the scars on the body of Jesus!
Jesus spent forty days appearing to His followers after His resurrection, showing them His scars and proving He had truly risen from the dead (Acts 1:3). “Then . . . Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said unto them, ‘Peace be with you.’ And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (Jn. 20:19-20, NKJV). One small problem: Thomas was absent (maybe he overslept, maybe he didn’t get the memo, maybe he was scared or played hooky, we don’t know why he wasn’t present). When they told him they saw Jesus and he missed it, Thomas insisted, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25). He wanted to see Jesus’ scars with his own eyes.
We’ve dubbed him “doubting Thomas” for 2,000 years but he gets a bum rap. He only asked to see the same proof all the other disciples got to see. So, exactly eight days later, Jesus appeared to them again, and this time Thomas was present. It seems to be a special appearance just for Thomas. Who is Christ concerned about the most? Those who are struggling in their faith. Those who have doubts and questions and need reassurance. Notice Thomas’ bold confession of faith after he saw Jesus’ scars—“Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (Jn. 20:27-29) He was convinced by seeing Jesus’ man-made scars.
A scar is “a mark left by a healed wound, a sore, or a burn, any blemish remaining as a trace of an injury.” Scars are reminders of an injury or a surgery. Consider this passage in Isaiah 49:14-16, “But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.’” How many times a day do we look at our hands? Dozens? Hundreds? Well, every time Jesus looks at His hands, He is reminded of us and the price He paid to purchase our redemption. Here’s the amazing thing, God could have healed every scar on His body when He was resurrected and glorified, but He left them on purpose as eternal reminders of His supreme love for us.
How many scars were on the body of Jesus? Hundreds! Isaiah 52:1, ETRV, states, “He was beaten so badly that he no longer looked like a man.” Isaiah 50:6, KJV, describes His suffering, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” Jesus was whipped, beaten, kicked, punched, slapped, abused, and tortured for hours. He looked more like a piece of meat hanging in a butcher shop than a human.
The Romans used a sadistic instrument of torture known as a flagrum (a whip with leather thongs on a handle, lined with metal, nails, bone, and hooks). It would literally fillet the flesh off a victim’s skeleton. The goal was to maximize pain. Mosaic Law only allowed a prisoner to be whipped thirty-nine times (the proverbial “mercy rule”—Dt. 25:3). But the Romans were not bound to Moses’ Law; they were merciless. Hundreds of lacerations were brutally inflicted on Jesus’ battered body. Isaiah (53:5) prophesied some 700 years earlier, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”
As a song says, “I should have been crucified, I should have suffered and died. I should have hung on the cross in disgrace, but Jesus, God’s Son, took my place! Whatever sickness you have, there was a stripe placed on Jesus’ back for your healing. There is no sin too big for Jesus’ blood to erase and there is no failure too great for God’s grace to overcome. The only man-made things in heaven—the scars on Jesus’ body—are what made it possible for all of us to go there!