Isaiah 53:5 (NIV) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
There are two trails that pass through Great Meadow, a small section of Acadia just outside of the town of Bar Harbor. It’s so close that they are easily accessible for people like me to walk to and through. I try to walk daily, though I probably average more like 4-5 times a week. Both trails make their way to Sieur de Monts Springs, which is at the base of Dorr Mountain. The Jesup Trail, after cutting about halfway through Great Meadow, becomes a long, narrow boardwalk through a marshy and wooded part of the meadow. The other trail is called the Hemlock Road. From Sieurs de Mont it has a feel of a carriage path, and the term “road” fits somewhat. It leads to the Hemlock Trail, which is an access route to the North Ridge Trail up Dorr Mountain. It crosses the Jesup Path about where the boardwalk ends and continues on toward the loop road.
It would be wrong to say that Acadia is beautiful just in the summer or fall. I walked these trails a couple of times last week. On Saturday I noticed a beautiful grove of trees with rough, gray bark in front of a background of brown grass and a gray sky that seemed to be saying, “Guess what… I have the first snowfall of winter on the way in me.” Joanne and I have snow-shoed these trails in winter. They are always beautiful. A good-sized portion of the Hemlock Road is lined with white birches. It is a fine-looking stretch. There have been times over the years that I have tried to photograph the path there, but have found it difficult. The reason is that a number of the birch trees have been defaced at some point in the past when someone (probably different people at different times) peeled a section of bark off them – in some cases up to a couple of feet long. These comparatively unsightly trees cannot be avoided in the viewfinder of your camera. As a teenager I was taught never to remove bark from a birch tree because it will never grow back. Doing so leaves a permanent scar on the tree. In a grove of birches, even one tree with such a scar stands out. As much as the photographer wishes it were different, the unsightly blemish will inevitably show up in his photo – if he takes it.
As I walked on the path through these trees I began to think about the scars of Jesus. We learn in reading the Gospels that after His resurrection Jesus still bore the scars of the crucifixion in His body. They were not removed. They did not magically disappear. In fact, they are a permanent reminder of God’s love and grace, which extended far enough to cover our sin. A human being scarred those birch trees. And human beings (including us all) were responsible for the scars on Christ’s body. Many people love Christmas, and rightly so: the birth of Jesus, angels singing, obedient Joseph and Mary, shepherds hearing and seeing. On the surface this is a picture of a “nice” baby Jesus and a “pure and innocent” group of people. The story has had staying power for twenty centuries. Those who like to think of a “nice” baby Jesus growing up to be a “nice” man who did “nice” things for a lot of people,… but then aren’t willing to go any further with Jesus are merely pretending not to see the scars, or are unwilling to look at them. The Incarnation of Jesus only begins with the Nativity scene. Christ came with purpose and intent… with a plan to go to the cross. You cannot get Good Friday out of the same picture in which you find the Nativity, just like you cannot get the whole picture without the empty tomb. Photo shopping is the digital alteration of photos with image-editing software. It’s amazing how easy it is to tell a lie with a photo if you can edit it. I could make myself look thin. I could remove my wrinkles, bumps, moles, blemishes, crooked smile, hairlessness… anything I want. But when this is done, the image no longer depicts reality. It has been altered artificially. It is important spiritually to avoid at all costs a “photo shopped” view of Jesus.
In the upper room Jesus held out His hands to Thomas with an invitation to touch the scars. This was after His resurrection. You cannot get those scars out of the picture. The image of a birch tree with a permanent scar is a sad one. But the image of the Savior – Jesus the Christ – with a permanent scar is actually glad one – for us. Don’t try to photo shop it or “airbrush” it out of the picture… out of the whole story of Jesus. Rather, rejoice, for those scars are the most beautiful thing you will ever look upon. The manger is empty. Jesus fully experienced humanness. The cross is empty. Christ is no longer on it. And just as important, the tomb is empty. Christ is no longer in it. Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus.
John 20:24-29 (NIV) 24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
PRAYER: Lord God, thank you for the beauty of Christ’s scars, and for the greatness of the love they remind me of. All glory, honor, and praise to you. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”
Jesus Christ is Lord!