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Showing Off Battle Wounds

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This article is written by guest contributor, Aaron Boerst

There’s something about showing off scars that always makes for a good story. In 1989, the legendary motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel was caught in a lawsuit over his own scars. During a court case against a hotel where Knieval claims he was beaten up, he took on the testimony of a police officer who stated he had not seen any scars on the former motorcycle daredevil during the night of the incident. That officer’s testimony - against a man who became as famous for his spectacular crashes as his successful jumps - annoyed Knievel so much that he asked permission to show the jurors his surgical scars in court, saying, “I’d like to take my shirt off right now…Those scars can be seen from here to that door!”

Sharing scars evokes the memory of how a person got them. They legitimize experience. Perhaps your grandfather shows you his battle wound from World War Two, where the point of a Japanese bayonet was pointed at his neck but never went deeper. Maybe a young boy at recess lifted his jean leg to proudly show his friends the scraped-up knee from when he learned how to ride a bike. 

One reason why we love to show scars is that it reminds us of the past. Another reason is that it reminds us of the future: a future we hope will be more meaningful and perhaps stronger with those scars.

Take, for example, Kintsugi. The Japanese practice of mending broken pottery has become a popular metaphor for the beauty found amid pain or brokenness. Instead of discarding the seemingly useless pieces of busted works of art, gold is mixed with epoxy to not only mend the pottery piece but also bring attention to the breaks. Rather than simply being made to feel whole again, Kintsugi art reminds people there is beauty in the scars, golden scars, if you will. For this reason, the Japanese give Kintsugi its name: “gold healing.” 

There are still, however, some Kintsugi artists that go even further. It is not enough to simply mend a broken object with gold. Instead, artists will intentionally leave holes or chips in pottery pieces rather than fill them with gold. Some preserve the authenticity of each break by allowing damage to stay visible after repair. Why?

When something treasured is broken and then reclaimed, an artist taps into the innermost desires of human experience. When a person who has experienced injury or trauma survives to tell others about it, the very process of overcoming difficulty often brings mending to the soul. 

The reclamation of the broken gives new meaning to both beauty and healing.

So it is with Jesus.

John 20:24-29 describes another scar-sharing scene.

Thomas tells the other disciples, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

And Thomas gets his wish. Eight days later, the resurrected Jesus appears to Thomas, saying, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve but believe.” There’s been much debate trying to answer why Jesus still has scars. After all, a resurrected body is supposed to be perfect. The glimpse Jesus gave his disciples at the Transfiguration seems to imply this. 

Some say Jesus retained his scars as a way to prove that it was really him standing there and not a ghost.

Some say it was to remind his disciples that he really was crucified.

But what if those scars are left on purpose to emphasize the beauty of Jesus through his work to save the lost and raise the dead? This is what makes those scars the most beautiful part of Jesus’ physical body: Jesus’ scars are beautiful because they proclaim the truth that sinners belong to him now.

Even in the glorification of his resurrection, Jesus’ body continues to tell the story of salvation. As the Word made flesh who dwells among his disciples again, Jesus is for his disciples and for us now a walking Gospel. Even though they have healed, the battle scars of Jesus remain. They are now remnants of holes where you and I can still be found today. 

“By his wounds, you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

What a story to tell.


This article was written by Aaron Boerst. Aaron serves as the pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Wales, Wisconsin. He received his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 2013, and has served in various ministry settings since. When not hiking or kayaking with his wife Megan, Aaron strives to be an avid outdoorsman finding inspiration in deer, turkey, bear, and pheasant hunting, as well as fishing the Great Lakes.