I woke up early today. It figures. The day I could sleep in a little bit, and I am up early. I’m excited, though. I am flying away with my family today to go on a trip we have been planning and paying for a long time. We are headed to Los Angeles, then Hawaii, then San Francisco. It’s how we decided to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary and it has been a LONG time coming.
So I woke up to the idea of flying away, and how I don’t particularly like flying on airplanes. All that recycled air, and the physics involved to get that huge thing off the ground and up in the air. I never quite understood physics. Which led me to thinking about Jesus and his flying back to heaven at the transfiguration, and then I thought about the body he had at that point and how it still had the scars the crucifixion had given him. Scars on his glorified body?
(When I was at Samford, I took a lot of psychology classes, and I can remember distinctly my professor telling us that was called a “flight of ideas” and that those might indicate someone was a loony bird. So you have been warned. Read on at your own risk.)
I landed my flight of ideas on the fact that Jesus still had his scars. I sometimes think of my glorified body, the one I will get when I am finally, forever, with Jesus.
The one that will be perfectly healthy.
The one that will no longer have migraine headaches or allergies, spider veins or stress incontinence.
The one that will know no sickness or pain.
The one with a beautiful voice, perfect measurements, and the ability to dance like a Radio City Music Hall Rockette.
My mom is short. She’s all of 5’2”, or she used to be. I am convinced she has gotten shorter. Gravity. She’s holding firm to 5’2” in her head, though. She has always said that she hopes her glorified body is at least 5’7”.
But what of Jesus and those scars? His perfected, glorified, heavenly body still held the scars of the darkest day in history? Why? Why did he choose not to fix that? Certainly, being God, he could.
Thomas Aquinas was a theologian, philosopher, professor, and writer from the 1200s. He spoke to why he thought Jesus kept his scars. According to Thomas, Jesus kept His scars not from inability to heal them, “but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.” Hence Augustine says, “Perhaps in that kingdom we shall see on the bodies of the Martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.”
Thomas also thought that by keeping the scars, Jesus would be better able prove his identity to the disciples, to plead on our behalf before the Father, and finally, on that day of his return, to show them to his enemies, reminding them that by their hands he suffered, and yet for them he died, and they still refuse him.
So there is a power in those scars Jesus chose to continue to bear. They are a part of his story, an important part. The deal is, though, that they no longer affect him; they no longer bring him pain. Instead, they are like a badge worn to tell the story of his great sacrifice for us. They tell the great roll he played in the redemption of the world.
I still believe that our glorified bodies will be perfected, but they might not be perfect. I believe, like Thomas, that the martyrs of the faith will still hold evidence of the scars from their suffering, not that will keep them from beauty, but to enhance it. I think all that any of us who suffer for Christ will show that evidence in our new, glorified bodies, as badges of honor to be prized in the new kingdom.
Most of us carry scars around from the blows that life has dealt us. The great hope we have in Christ is that those scars will be completely gone one day. Those wrongs will be made right for us and in us. There is an old hymn that says,
“One glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away. To a place on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away… Just a few more weary days and then… To a home where joy shall never end. I’ll fly away.”
I still hold out hope that our glorified bodies can fly (sans airplanes) and teleport. After his resurrection, Jesus flew. Jesus just showed up places. I realize that it could be a bit precarious, all of us flying around willy-nilly, and just showing up wherever. But I’m going to be a bit let down if I can’t fly.
I do so need this vacation…