I Have Branded You on the Palms of my Hands

Imagine spending three years on mission with Jesus.  Bringing the love of God to people, traveling, being in close community, going through hardship—these are some of the most bonding things when shared, and Jesus’ disciples lived it all with him.  He was the promised Messiah, but he was also their dear friend, their close companion, and the person whose deeply present love made them feel more cherished than they’d ever known.  Imagine being one of them!

Then suddenly, the one you’ve placed all your hope in, the one you’ve come to love more deeply than you ever thought you could love anybody, is killed.

It’s no wonder Thomas had trouble believing it was Jesus.  Even though he’d been told Jesus would rise again, nobody’s heart is just ready to know that.  He’s in the midst of such profound grief.  And then the one he loves who was just violently killed shows up?  We have trouble believing the smallest things—how is it May already?  How is this child who seems to have been born yesterday already graduating high school?  How can this man who just died possibly be standing in front of me right now?  Our heads know things our hearts are slow to catch up on.

Jesus did it all to bring us home with him.  But he just prepared the disciples at the last supper by talking about how he’s leaving soon—“I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return and take you with me, so that where I am you may be too.”  It’s all for us to be with him.  But if I were Thomas, I’d be so grieved by his leaving.  I’d feel abandoned.  It would be hard to believe he actually wanted me with him in that place when he wasn’t taking me now.

So now Jesus shows up.  It’s hard to believe it’s actually him, and it’s hard to believe he actually loves me when he’s talked about leaving and is in the process of it.

So Thomas asks Jesus to show him his wounds.  He needs something to grasp onto just to get a handle on this being Jesus.

Jesus shows him the wounds.  The wounds which not only are proof that it is Jesus, that this is the man who was crucified—but the wounds he bore for Thomas out of love for him. His love for Thomas, for them, for us, for me is engraved on his body, on his very being.  The interior wounds that he suffered from all the sin and pain, rejection, abandonment, fear and everything else on the cross? Surely if he retains the wounds on his body, like us he has wounds on his heart too.  His heart is carved by his time among us, by his love for them, for us, for me. For you.  In the resurrection.  In the resurrection—so he carries us in his own being into eternity.  Those wounds are places in his very being in which he is carved with and experiences such profound, personal, intimate love for each one of us, unceasingly, forever. “Love never fails” looks like that. “You will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.” – John 14:20

“Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed.  Touch me and see for yourselves,” Jesus tells the disciples in Luke.  But in this painting I also see him saying to Thomas, “See, I have branded you on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49: 16. “Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm.  For love is strong as Death.” – Song of Songs 8:6

He became human so totally that it is a part of him for all eternity.  The intensity of the love he had for those he was close to on earth is so deep that he couldn’t bear to lose his connection to us.  As Thomas puts his fingers deeply into Jesus’ flesh, looking up timidly to see if it’s still him, Jesus looks intensely into his eyes, grasping his hands, his love for him burned deep on his heart.  Oh, he loves Thomas fiercely.  He desperately wants Thomas to know it.