The Scars that Stay

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“Mom, do you think this scar will ever heal?” Cole stared down at the one-inch jag of bumpy skin on the top of his right foot as he climbed the ladder to his bed.

“It’s disappearing as your foot grows. It’ll probably be mostly faded by the time you’re a teenager.” I shook Chase’s comforter out, in a hurry to tuck them into bed this last evening before spring break disappeared on the horizon in shades of dusky nostalgia and golden-hued longing.

The memory of Cole getting the scar years ago came back like a flash of lightning over the Gulf. My sister, our three boys, and I had ventured out to Ft. Myers Beach on a muggy summer afternoon. We built sand castles, barely avoided gray-blue water walls of summer’s flash storms, licked melting ice cream cascading down our cones and in between our fingers, and enjoyed watching our youngsters run around like bathing-suit clad wild men, wrestling and digging in the cooled off sand and shells underneath the setting sun.

During one of the last playful jaunts around the sand playground that evening, four-year old Cole let out a yelp and hobbled in my direction. I noticed trickles of crimson on his foot and rushed toward him, imagining a broken shell stuck in his tender sole.

Squinting through the descending twilight, I tried to figure out what Cole had stepped on. He pointed to a few-inch long, greenish brown stick lying near his feet. Upon closer inspection, I realized he’d been poked on the top of his foot, not the bottom.

I found a band-aid, stopped the bleeding, and we began packing up for the night. After tucking the strange green branch in my beach bag, we headed home.

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Later, I found out that Cole had inadvertently stepped on a Red Mangrove propagule. One end of the propagule is a relatively sharp, pliable barb intended to stick in the sand in order for the plant to begin new growth. The green bean-on-steroids seed pod had somehow jabbed the top of his foot, causing a decent puncture and a scar that’s still visible a couple of months shy of his tenth birthday.

Scars.

First they hurt, then they heal. Eventually, they fade. Some are tiny, others gruesome, but always they’re marks of physical trials and emotional pain where healing occurred but memories remain.

During a sermon last year, our pastor noted that the only physical scar from earth we’ll see when we’re home in heaven are the scars on our Savior’s hands. Jesus’ scars. The scars that stay. For you. For me.

Thomas and the disciples saw these scars after Jesus rose from the grave and spent time with them in His glorified body, before returning to His Father’s right hand in heaven.

“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘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.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, ‘Peace to you!’ 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!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (John 20:24-29)

Instead of anger or indignation at Thomas’s stubborn skepticism, Jesus immediately offered Thomas the opportunity to see and touch His scars. To believe. Thomas’s disbelief vanished upon seeing his beloved Teacher’s wounds — undeniable evidence that obliterated his doubt and quadrupled his faith.

As Easter draws near, and we’re inundated with chocolate, bunnies, and spring dresses and outfits that impress, don’t forget His scars. Even to the skeptic Jesus will show them – His pain that became our eternal gain. His sacrifice, for our salvation. His world-weighted load of our sin, shouldered by the strength of grace and God’s love for His creation.

Jesus.

 “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands…” Isaiah 49:16

 

Clearing the Temple

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“I’ll be the merchant first, then you can each have a turn.”

I explained what we were doing to the two second grade girls in my Sunday school class. They grinned, their excitement contagious. Though the class was small in number, we had just enough to do the planned activity, a skit about two travelers entering the Temple to worship God during Passover, only to be cheated by a money-hungry merchant. Both girls hugged and squeezed the stuffed animal birds (rather, a duck and a pelican) that I’d grabbed from Chase’s overflowing stuffed animal stash at home, eager to begin acting out the scene.

Our lesson came from John 2:13-25, a surprising section of scripture detailing Jesus’ righteous anger toward the money-loving merchants corrupting His Father’s house during Passover. The Jewish people celebrated Passover in remembrance of God’s deliverance from Pharaoh and heavy-handed Egyptian rule over a thousand years prior, and many traveled great distances to offer praise and sacrifices to God.

When Jesus, His family, and His disciples arrived in Jerusalem, merchants inside the temple walls were cheating the travelers coming from far and wide to worship. Many of the Jewish people had no choice but to purchase poor quality sacrificial animals at inflated prices, creating a money-focused and greed-driven environment that displeased the visiting worshippers and infuriated God. Filled with righteous anger at God’s holy house becoming a marketplace of money-grubbing, Jesus made a whip with rope and drove out the people and animals, symbolically sending the money flying in all directions.

“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” (John 2:13-16)

In his commentary, Matthew Henry noted: “The first public work in which we find Christ engaged, was driving from the temple the traders whom the covetous priests and rulers encouraged to make a market-place of its courts. Those now make God’s house a house of merchandise, whose minds are filled with cares about worldly business when attending religious exercises, or who perform Divine offices for love of gain.” In an act of biblical foreshadowing, Jesus clears the Temple - the place where God’s people come to worship their Creator in awe and reverence, just as he’ll later clear the slate of sin from our hearts through His finished work at Calvary.

Today we don’t need stone or concrete temples to worship God; instead, our hearts are His temple through our faith in Jesus Christ. Because God’s word is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12), the lesson I taught to my 2nd and 3rd grade students hit the bullseye of my heart that morning. Conviction squeezed in a tight-fisted grip, loving and painful. I spent needed time praying about my heart’s condition and for God’s help to clear away the material mess cluttered up inside my heart, stealing my security in my Savior as a want of worldly goods walled everything else out.

We have to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), daily fill our mind with God’s word, and give thanks for what He has given us (1 Thess. 5:16-18, James 1:17), in order to keep the temple of our heart clear for Jesus.