Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dr Thomas

Today the lectionary was from the end of John's Gospel. A famous section describes how Thomas refused to believe in the resurrection unless he himself was able to put his finger in the nail holes and his hands in his side.
As a doctor, I treat wounds, and I have certainly put my fingers and hands inside peoples bodies.
It is not necessarily a pleasant experience for the patient, but, they are usually compliant, seeing the necessity of the examination. Because it hurts, we usually anaesthetise the area before examining it thoroughly.
What of Jesus wounds?
Did they hurt?
Were they caked in dried blood?
Religious art has usually depicted the wounds as fresh, with the redness of internal flesh visible.
But how these wounds truly appeared after the resurrection is hard to fathom. Thomas knows. The disciples knew.
Medically, for someone who survives a wound such as that caused by a large nail through a hand or wrist, assuming infection was controlled, at one week, the wound would be closing, or closed, and healing. There would still be some proud flesh, and scab, but fresh blood would only be present after physically disturbing the wound.
But what of the resurrected body?
It must be different in many ways, but it must also be the same in some ways.
We only have Jesus to consider.
Christians believe in a physical resurrection. The tomb was empty, Jesus did not leave his body behind when he rose. His whole body rose. It's not that he "recovered", implying that he somehow "escaped" death's clutches, like a calf escaping the lions claws. (If it was so, it would mean that the lion could potentially recapture the calf).
No, Jesus actually defeated death. The lion was somehow destroyed by the calf, and this destroying calf is now stronger than all lions. Jesus is no longer able to die. Death is now dead to Jesus. Jesus is resurrected. His body has completely undergone the death effect to it's full degree, whatever that implies, and has risen, conquering the power of death. Death is no longer the master of Jesus body.
After the resurrection, Jesus was still a man. He was able to talk to Mary in the garden and be mistaken for the gardener. He was a stranger walking beside the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He was on the shore cooking fish while Peter and John fished. He ate. These are all fairly normal things we do as non resurrected beings.
But he was also able to appear and disappear when doors were locked. But he made it very clear he was not a ghost. We are mistaken if we think we would be able to see through Jesus or put our hands through a shadowy figure. If we tried, we would hit solid flesh. Jesus body. Which was alive and risen, and better than ever. Jesus made sure the disciples knew he was made of flesh and bones.
He was able to rise up to heaven. And remains physically in heaven. But that does not mean he has no mass.
But what of his wounds?
Revelations speaks of a lamb that looked as though it had been slain, yet it was alive.
This could only mean that there were mortal wounds visible. This lamb is poetic for the risen Jesus.
Are we then imagining the horror movie zombies that continue to walk despite being shot through, with semi decayed bodies resembling corpses?
No, resurrected bodies must be better than our mortal bodies, by faith we believe this. Paul strongly implies the great superiority of our resurrected bodies at the end of 1 Corinthians. And John says that when we see him (at his return) we will be like him. Meaning we are transformed into resurrected bodies like Jesus. This will happen in the twinkling of an eye, meaning a sudden amazing transformation.
Yet we are still faced with the unhealed wounds of Jesus. The "Emblems".
I have no answers. Those wounds are there for us. They are one of the guarantees of our own future resurrection.
I don't think anyone else, resurrected, will have wounds. Only Jesus. Only his wounds are worthy.