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Emmanuel Forever!

Wouldn’t a resurrection body, by definition, be better than new? If I were the one raising Jesus from the dead, I’d give Him a body that was better than new. I’d fill in all the tissue that was chewed up by nail and thorn, and I’d knit the great gash in His side back together. I’d wash away all the dried blood and smooth away every mark of the whip. I’d cover all the wounds with skin like a newborn baby’s. Then I’d ease away all the soreness and stiffness. I would put all Jesus’ wounds into the past. I would give Jesus a body that was perfectly whole in every way. A body that can go through walls should by definition be perfectly whole.

But the God who did raise Jesus from the dead had other ideas. When the risen Lord appeared among His followers on Easter evening, He greeted them with a reassuring word of peace. But then Jesus pushed back his clothes, and there all those wounds were, still deep and still red. He insisted that His followers see and touch. Yep, that certainly did confirm that Jesus was the same one who had died on Friday. Yep, the wounds were in the right place. This wasn’t an imposter. Wouldn’t it have been enough for His followers just to see His face and touch whole, unwounded flesh? Wouldn’t it be enough just to see Him eat the fish they offered?

There are some things we never get over, problems that we never completely overcome, situations in which things will never be the same. No matter how much healing you might experience as time goes on, that wound will never just disappear. It will never be erased.It’s human reality: some wounds and some scars last a long, long time, and many are permanent. And I think that’s why Jesus still had the wounds when He rose from the dead. Imagine if all trace of what Jesus had been through had been erased. Can you imagine Jesus saying, “Whew! I sure am glad all that’s behind me! I’m home free!”

No! God did not erase the wounds from the resurrected Christ. No! God did not erase the wounds from deep in God’s heart, because human experience, including all its pain, is not all behind the Lord. Jesus overcame death, but he did not leave His humanity behind. He didn’t leave us behind. He didn’t take himself out of our struggle.

The risen Christ insists that His followers see and touch the wounds. He wants us to see that He still carries all our sorrow, all our shame, all the vulnerability that we know as humans. In so doing, Christ our God declares, “No, it’s not all over, and I have not left you behind. I have not left you alone with your wounds.

“I am Emmanuel.” Emmanuel is that word we use so much at Christmas time, at Jesus’ birth, that wonderful Name meaning “God is with us.” The living Lord wants us to see that He is still Emmanuel through His death and in His resurrection. “I am your Emmanuel,” He declares. I am your Emmanuel, yes, all you who struggle, all who have been through the kinds of things that you won’t get over and you won’t forget. The risen Christ insists that we see and touch His wounds because they are signs of love. They allow us to see deep into God’s heart. Instead of coming to us in a perfect, wound-free, scar-free body, the risen Christ comes bearing the wounds that are a sign of his perfect love. His love is what is perfect. He comes with a perfect love and a perfect presence.

The risen Lord Jesus Christ truly is Emmanuel, God with us. He is Emmanuel for all of us, yes, all of us. He is Emmanuel forever! Thanks be to God!

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