Healing for our Wounds

Mary Magdalene was something of a celebrity among Christians in the first years after the resurrection. As the first person to have encountered the risen Christ, everyone wanted to hear from her and learn her story. That included, according to legend, the emperor Tiberius. That story tells of how she used her celebrity to gain an audience with the Emperor; the same emperor who reigned when Jesus was crucified and, the emperor who was, basically, Pilate’s boss. 

To Tiberius, she brought an egg, which had become a symbol in the early church of new life in the resurrection. Holding the egg out to Tiberius, she greeted him by saying, “Christ is risen!”

Tiberius scoffed and said, “Christ is no more risen than that egg is red.” And at that moment, according to the legend, the egg turned red as a sign from God. This is why, ever since, Christians and non-Christians alike have been dying eggs to mark Easter. And this is the lesson our children were taught during Sunday School, as they made eggs of their own. We remember Mary Magdelene’s witness and God’s miracle of turning the egg red. 

Indeed, today is a miracle! Jesus Christ is risen! That’s reason to celebrate! It’s reason to be together as a church family. For Christ saved us all, as individuals, as families, and as a world. 

So, on this Easter Sunday, let us hear the story again, but with ears to hear it afresh and anew, in Luke 24:1-12.


For the eleven remaining original disciples, this is an idle tale as the scripture says. They don’t believe the news when the women share it with them. Which is odd. They know, they can remember, the same teaching that the women remember. Standing at the empty tomb, the angels told the women to remember Jesus’s teaching: that he would be, “crucified, and on the third day rise again.” The disciples know this teaching just as well as the women. So why don’t they believe the women when they hear the news? 

The women who deliver the news are trusted by the male disciples as compatriots of Jesus; women whom the Gospel of Luke often refers to as disciples, just like the male disciples. There’s no reason to doubt them. Especially considering this: these female disciples stayed right by Jesus’s side through the whole drama. They’re more than likely at Jesus’s trials and they’re at the cross as Jesus dies. It’s these women, along with a “righteous man named Joseph,” who tenderly care for the body and lay him in the tomb. And it’s these female disciples who, on this first Easter morning, are headed to give Jesus a proper, honorable, burial, after the sabbath had passed, by bringing spices. 

In fact, the women mentioned here in Luke as the first witnesses to the resurrection show steadfast faith and dedication to Christ. When Jesus was arrested, all the other disciples fled in all directions. During the trial, Peter famously denied that he knew Jesus three times, and the cock crowed. By the time the crucifixion is over, eleven of the original twelve disciples can be found hiding out in a room; the twelfth dead by his own hand. When the women who first witness the resurrection go to tell them of the news, these eleven are still hiding, probably unsure of what to do next.

It’s fair, in fact, to say these twelve all betrayed Jesus. Some betray him by fleeing from the scene, refusing to remain steadfast and stand by their leader. Others betray him by denying him, as Peter did. And then there’s Judas Iscariot, who betrays Jesus by selling him out for “some money,” as the gospel of Luke puts it. It’d be good and right and true if these disciples feared retribution from Jesus for their cowardly betrayal. So perhaps this is why they don’t believe these female disciples; these witnesses to the resurrection: they don’t want to believe it’s true because they have guilty consciences for having betrayed Jesus at his greatest moment of need. 

If they believe Jesus is raised from the dead, they can imagine Jesus would be furious with them, or perhaps something even worse than that. Betrayal, regardless of form, wounds deeply. Imagine yourself as Jesus, going through his passion, knowing your closest friends have abandoned you and denied knowing you. Imagine the depth of betrayal. We can, because we’ve probably been betrayed ourselves at some point in our lives. We know what that’s like. Betrayal wounds deeply; and we can imagine Jesus wounded deeply by the betrayal of his disciples.

Betrayal is hard. There’s something powerful about being betrayed that makes it harder to forgive, harder to move on. Especially if the betrayal was by someone close to us: a spouse, a parent, a lifelong friend, a cherished family member, a trusted coworker, a business partner. For when it’s someone close like that, the betrayal sticks with us, haunts us, gets into our bones and refuses to let go. We can confront the betrayer all day long, but very often it doesn’t resolve things. Betrayal sticks with us for betrayal wounds deeply. 

Think back to a betrayal you’ve experienced. Perhaps the person who betrayed you will be sitting with you at the family table as you pass grandmother’s Mac and cheese and the honey ham. Perhaps it comes from another source. But we’ve all experienced betrayal. There are deep wounds related to betrayals, wounds so deep and difficult that, even if the person who betrayed us wanted to reestablish relationship, we couldn’t just jump back in. Forgiveness, if we could offer it, would take time. The wounds are too deep, too painful, for it to be otherwise.

And if, this morning, we can’t easily bring to mind a betrayal, we do know what it is to have a wound that cuts deeply; the way that someone mistreated us or abandoned us; relationships that have gone sour, losses of friendships and family relations, workplaces that went bad or even terminated our relationship with them. The loss of significant relationships in our lives, however they happen, can cut deep and leave us with unhealed wounds. 

It’s easy to imagine that’s the case here with Jesus; he would rise from the dead and have this deep cut, this unhealed wound, from the betrayal of his closest friends, his compatriots, his most trusted advisors, the heirs to the kingdom he’s come to establish. Through them, he expected to build the church. And at his moment of greatest need, as he’s brought before sham trials, beaten, tortured, and finally crucified, they’ve betrayed him. 

So maybe the eleven disciples in hiding think these female disciples, these witnesses to the resurrection, are full of “idle talk” because they don’t want to believe that it’s true. If it is true, if Jesus really is raised from the dead, the disciples probably expect Jesus to be righteously angry with them. Perhaps we’ve been in the same boat: hiding our wounds from God, thinking that we’ve somehow upset God and not wanting to experience divine retribution. Many a human over the course of millennia have feared the wrath of God. It’s reasonable if the disciples felt that way, too. It’s understandable if we, who think we may have wounded God, feel the same way. 

If Jesus could be righteously angry with them, Jesus could be righteously angry with us! 

So what happens when Jesus shows up before the eleven in hiding? 

Later in this same chapter, Luke records Jesus showing up randomly in the room where the disciples are gathered. After the disciples, and those with them in the room, get used to the idea that Jesus really is back from the dead and that they are not, in fact, seeing a ghost, Jesus begins to teach them again. He treats them just as he always had. He opens up the scriptures to them, as Luke puts it, to better understand who he is, what he means, and what that means for their lives after he goes back to heaven. 

There’s no mention of their betrayal. There’s no mention of any ill feelings or ill will on the part of Jesus. There’s nothing like that. He doesn’t even tell them they’re forgiven. He just acts like it. He acts as if nothing at all had ever happened. They simply move on. 

So what happens when Jesus shows up before the eleven in hiding? Nothing. No retribution. No shaming. No anger. No righteous indignation. No fury. Nothing.

For all of us who carry wounds from betrayals in our past, that’s radical. How could he trust these disciples again? How could he simply treat them as if nothing had ever gone wrong, as if there had been no history of betrayal. How could he do that? 

We might be tempted to say he could because he’s Jesus, which means he was God. That’s true. God certainly forgives! Even if we think we’ve wounded God ourselves, and fear divine retribution, the good news of Jesus Christ, the good news of the resurrection we celebrate this morning, is that we are already forgiven! Just like Jesus in the upper room, holding nothing against the disciples who betrayed him, God holds nothing against us. We are forgiven and God is always ready to receive us back into his open arms. God loves us, God always wants relationship with us, even when we hurt the heart of God. That’s good news; that’s good news born of the resurrection from that first Easter Sunday. Whatever you may have done to hurt or wound God, whatever pain you’re carrying around from guilt, grief, or shame, you are forgiven this morning.

Jesus was God in his earthly life. But Jesus was also human. He experienced pain, just as we do, even the emotional pain of betrayal. He experienced all the same pains that we know, so he certainly experienced the pain of the betrayal of his disciples. So how could he simply go on as if nothing had happened? As if there was no water under the bridge? As if all was well? In his human state, experiencing pain and wounds as we do, how could Jesus just forgive and move on?

When we experience betrayal or deep wounds of our own, too often we seek healing from our betrayers, from the person who wounded us. We look for an apology or contrition before we can heal. We hold onto the wound because we think it gives us power over the person who wronged us. As long as we’re hurt, we can justify being rude or unkind or difficult to the person who betrayed us. As long as we’re hurt, we can get the attention we crave. As long as we’re hurt, we think we can force the person who caused the wound to come to us apologetic, contrite, humble. 

And so we hold onto our wounds. But when we do, we give the person who wronged us tremendous power. If they never apologize, if they’re never contrite, if they never come to us humbly, we will have the wound forever. That’s a tremendous amount of power to give someone else.

Jesus didn’t handle his wounds that way. He sought healing from the right source: his, and our, Heavenly Father. God can heal us of all our wounds, regardless of the other person. If we will give God the power to heal us, instead of the wounder, we will discover our wounds healed and we will be set free, able to forgive and move on, even if the person who wounded us shows no remorse, no contrition, and gives no apology. 

That’s how Jesus could move on with the disciples, as if nothing had happened: he brought his wounds to God. Here, in the Easter story this morning is a tale of the wounds of betrayal but it could just as easily apply to any of a number of wounds. We are all wounded people; we have wounds from our past from conflict, dismay, depression, despair, hatred, and many other kinds of wrongs done against us. We have all lost cherished relationships and experienced the pain and wounds that come from those. We all have those wounds, even if we’re good at hiding them. 

Jesus was no different; he had wounds, too. And not just the physical wounds from the cross; he knew what it was to be wounded in our souls, to struggle with relationships because it feels like there’s too much water under the bridge; because it feels like the wound has cut too deeply. These are the dead parts of our souls, the places where we need the healing power of resurrection. 

And that’s just the point this morning: the resurrection on display today, the resurrection power we celebrate today, isn’t just about life after death. It’s about bringing life into the dark parts of the human experience; into the places where we feel dead. It’s about resurrecting us from despair to hope, from conflict to peace, from dismay to joy, and from hatred to love. God’s power of resurrection brings us back to life in this life as well as the next. 

But, just like in our salvation when we brought ourselves humbly before God and confessed Jesus Christ as savior, we have to be willing to bring our wounds of betrayal before God, vulnerably exposing those hard places. We have to be willing to die to ourselves, die to clinging to our wounds, die to our desire for control over our healing process; we have to be willing to die to ourselves to find life. It’s just as the apostle Paul says in Romans: “For if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his…For whoever has died is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:5,7) When we give God the dead parts of our souls, those deathly wounds are given new life through Christ’s resurrection power.

We have to give God our wounds, dying to the habits of giving the person or people who wounded us power over our healing. And when we do give God our wounds, we will receive healing, because our Heavenly Father will come in with resurrection power and bring the dead parts of our lives, indeed, our very wounds, back to life.

Resurrection will heal the dark parts of our human existence. I wonder, do you know that power in your life? 

If you don’t, bring out your wounds of despair, conflict, dismay, and hatred. When you do, when you show those wounds to God in prayer, when you talk to God about them, God will resurrect your wounds into hope, peace, joy, and love. Tell God exactly how you feel. Tell God all about the wounds. Then boldly ask for healing. Pray with that kind of boldness. Those who recently finished the class I was teaching on prayer remarked how helpful this practice is: to go to God and tell God exactly how you feel. Sometimes, we think that we have to pray in a particular way or that we can’t fully express ourselves because it might be disrespectful. God knows how we feel; it’s not like by not expressing it in prayer, we’re somehow hiding our feelings from God. No, God knows they’re there, but there’s healing power in telling God exactly how we feel because, when we do, we offer those wounds to God. We give up our control, trying to hold onto our wounds thinking that we can fix them or that they give us power over the person who wounded us. No, we must give those wounds to God. And when we do, when we release that control, God is faithful to bring resurrection power to bear on our wounds, bringing the dead parts of our souls back to life. 

Healing will come because God is faithful to us. No other power can match the power of resurrection to heal the dead places in our soul, places deadened by wounds, and bring us back to life. We can know the strong power of resurrection in our lives and thus live as God has always intended for us to live: free. 

Free from worry. Free from fear. Free from anxiety. Free from despair. Free from depression. Free from the shackles of old wounds. Free from the weight of unconfessed sin. Free from the burden of being unforgiving. Free from the pains of betrayal. Free from giving others power over our healing. Free. Simply free to be. And simply free to forgive those who have wounded us. 

Healing is available this morning if we bring God our wounds. In the early church, being anointed with oil was a sign of the power of God’s healing presence in our lives. Just a couple of weeks ago, we offered that anointing to tremendous response. This morning, we will do it again. If you have a wound in need of healing, if you have a dead place in your soul in need of God’s resurrection power, if you need to be set free this morning, come forward during the final hymn to be anointed with oil. It’s a simple, yet profound, act that symbolizes the presence of God’s Holy Spirit working to heal us and bring us to freedom. It’s a way of praying with that boldness: telling God exactly how you feel and bringing your wounds before God. 

This is no idle tale. Jesus is risen! He has defeated sin and death and destroyed their power forever. We are forgiven and saved this morning, even from the wounds of betrayal, even from the dark parts of human existence, even from those wounds that cut deeply. And so, we can be healed like Jesus by giving God our wounds and experiencing resurrection power bringing the dead parts of our soul back to life.

Resurrection will heal the dark parts of our human existence. I wonder, do you know that power in your life?

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Amen.

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