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Friday, 8 April 2016

Enter Into His Wounds


“Peace be with you”, when He had said this he showed them his hands and his side.

*The Following is a transcript of an oral sermon - presented by Fr Matthew to his Parish*
 
What is the connection between the blessing of peace
and the showing of the wounds? (The wounds in His hands and in His side). Jesus a few days before that had been crucified and nailed through the wrists and a spear had been thrust through his side, probably into his heart, to confirm that he was dead. He shows his apostles these wounds, in this room where they were hidden away because they were afraid. In their fear he says “Peace be with you” and immediately shows them the wounds.

So, is there a connection?
Yes there is.

The first thing, perhaps the more obvious thing, is that Jesus is confirming that it is really him because it would have been difficult for them to believe it. Even after every thing that's happened there's still this doubt. We know on a number of occasions after the resurrection, even with him right in front of them, sometimes they could hardly believe it. It was just too good to be true. So, as St Thomas famously said “I wont believe it until I see the wounds”. Even seeing Jesus in front of him he would not believe until Jesus had shown him his hands and side. For here Jesus is saying I really have risen, I am not a ghost.

But there is a second level, much deeper than the first. It is not merely to confirm his identity. “Peace be with you” then he immediately shows them his hands and his side, the wounds from the cross. We are told in Isaiah 53 that “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities” . This is a prophesy concerning Christ from hundreds of years before. (This image shows: Isaiah 53 in the Great Isaiah Scroll, found at Qumran and dated to the 2nd century BCE).
Our forgiveness brings peace with God and peace within. Our forgiveness is based on those wounds. So, there is this deep connection between this peace that Jesus gives his disciples and the wounds from the cross. We have been permanently reconciled, put back into God's family and can know that calm sense of security that The Father's love brings. That is our peace. That reconciliation, that re adoption back into God's family knowing that fatherhood of God. That peace, that reconciliation is based on the forgiveness of sins and that forgiveness is based on those wounds. As it says again in Isaiah 53, “He was wounded for OUR transgressions”.

So, in the wounds of Christ, he is carrying eternally the marks of the crucifixion, of His sufferings. They are indeed an expression of who He is. Which is why He emphasises them to the disciples to confirm His identity. Jesus is eternally The Offered One, The Wounded One who has suffered for us and understands and identifies with our suffering. He knows what it is to suffer and yet He has conquered death and has the victory as The Lord Of Life.
 
These wounds are symbolised in the paschal candles nails. Each of which has a grain of incense hidden within (I know that because I put them there). You see the paschal candle and the five nails, as they are called, to remind us of the wounds of Christ. Now, why did we put a grain of incense into each one of them? Hidden away there, what is the symbolism? Well, incense gives a sweet odour but it also represents prayer as we find in the book of Revelations in the Bible when the incense is offered up in heaven and it represents the prayers of the Saints. Incense stands for a sweetness but it also stands for prayer going up before God. Jesus wounds are the cause for sweetness for us despite the suffering He underwent because He paid the price so that we could be delivered. His suffering in a paradoxical way becomes our sweetness. His wounds are part of the sacrifice that is an offering and an intersession for us. He now lives to appear before God for us. There He is The Slain Lamb alive again His wounds still there before The Father.

His wounds are a prayer.
They are His intersession.

Isaiah 53:
“Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him,and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Of cause here we have Christ and this is exactly how He was just before the crucifixion. There He was before the people and Pilate said “Behold the man” the man who has been scourged, the man who has the crown of thorns upon his head. A man of sorrows acquainted with grief and not beautiful any more but stricken.
 
And indeed the next verse tells us:
“Surely he has borne OUR griefs and carried OUR sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” at that point the people thought God had rejected Him. Otherwise why was he suffering?

The next verse:
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgement he was taken away;” and so we are reminded of the trial and then the Way Of Sorrows. The Way Of The Cross. “and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?”
 
Moving on to the tenth verse:
"Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul" (in other words He will see the fruit of His sufferings) "and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

So, Here is the Christ wounded for our transgressions as we spoke of the wounds earlier, bruised for our iniquities. In him therefore we are righteous. There's this mysterious exchange. He takes on our sins, destroys it at the cross and we are able to take on his righteousness. 

We can in a spiritual sense enter into Christ
through His wounds, those openings in His flesh.

How can we do this?
By meditation upon those marks, those wounds. By thinking about them and knowing them as our peace, our shelter. But there is more to it than that. There is a Hymn found in the Book Of Common Praise (Hymn 120) that helps us enter into those wounds, to enter into Christ through those wounds. To meditate upon Christ's suffering and to allow those wounds he suffered to impel us to action. It is a hymn by father Andrew (a Franciscan Anglican from the 19th-20th century)

O dearest Lord, thy sacred brow
with thorns was pierced for me:
O pour thy blessing on my head
that I may think for thee.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred hands
with nails were pierced for me:
O send thy blessing on my hands
that they may work for thee.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred feet
with nails were pierced for me:
O send thy blessing on my feet
that they may follow thee.

O dearest Lord, thy sacred heart
with spear was pierced for me:
O shed thy blessing on my heart
that I may live for thee.

In the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit. Amen.

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