Summary: The wounds of Jesus were very visible after the Resurrection of His body but not always. Why didn't the disciples always recognise the risen Jesus? Was He different in some way?
The Wounds of Jesus – Luke 24:40
There is a statue of the Risen Christ called the Majestus in Llandaff Cathedral a sculpture by Epstein, in South Wales UK and it predominates the nave of the cathedral but can by familiarity be unnoticed.
But if you take notice and look at the detail – Christ is showing you His hands in a gesture of welcome, you can almost hear the words on His lips:
Come unto me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest… Come unto me.
But you will also notice that there is something missing …. There is no mark of the nail neither in His hands nor in His feet.
And yet this evening we clearly read, ‘Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
Jesus shows them the marks of the crucifixion.
So which is right – does the risen Christ have the wounds of crucifixion or not?
And strangely enough I think the answer is yes and no.
The answer is NO because we believe in the resurrection of the body rather than a physical resurrection.
The answer is YES in that the exhibition of those wounds of crucifixion was infallible proof to the disciples that the person standing in front of them was Jesus.
Confused – so am I, so lets unpick this.
Ironically St. Paul gives us the answer because he goes into great detail about the resurrection of the body, in 1Cor.15: 42 – 44, it is a long explanation about the resurrection body being different to that of our human bodies:
So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
The appearance of the resurrection body is far more glorious than our own human bodies and if we examine the gospel accounts of the risen Christ we soon come to a similar conclusion.
He was different – He could appear in room without opening the locked doors.
The disciples didn’t recognize Him.
Mary thought He was the Gardner until He said Mary; the disciples on the road to Emmaus thought He was a stranger until He broke bread.
The disciples in the upper room thought He was a ghost until He showed them his hands and feet.
This is bodily resurrection - I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.
For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
A Physical Resurrection does NOT mean this, it is better described by resuscitation – the bringing back to life of someone who has stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating.
A physical resurrection would mean that Christ would have a broken body, rent asunder by severe suffering.
After what He went through in His passion it would take months, if not years of convalescence – if He would recover at all.
That is why we say in the creed that He died; He descended into Hell – a bad translation that really means He descended into the grave.
Our affirmation of faith: Christ HAS DIED; Christ has risen.
All implies a bodily resurrection and this is resurrection that one day we shall enjoy.
If you think about it we would NOT want a physical resurrection, to be resuscitated at the point of death with broken, aged and sick bodies.
It would be like some horror film like Invasion of the body snatchers, or Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery.
NO – at death we break free from the prison of our old and decrepit bodies to inherit a new and more glorious body.
So the marks of crucifixion would NOT be part of Christ’s risen body – hence the Majestus is a correct image of the Risen Christ.