Wounds That Speak

For our Good Friday post, I want to end our season together with a reflection from a poem that has become precious to me. It was written in 1917, by Edward Shillito, a pastor in Great Britain during World War I. I wonder what is was like for this pastor to watch men return from the front, broken and wounded? How did he feel when faced with the emotional and psychological fallout that these men experienced? It was a war that revealed the horrors hidden within the human heart.

Rev. Shillito knew that these men needed more than physical healing. They needed more than bandages or rest. They needed to see a God with scars. So he wrote them a poem and showed them a Savior with wounds.

"Jesus of the Scars”

by Edward Shillito

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;

Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;

We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,

We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;

In all the universe we have no place.

Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?

Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.

If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,

Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;

We know today what wounds are, have no fear,

Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;

They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;

But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,

And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

Rev. Shillito had proof in these hurting men that our world is a broken place. We bear the marks of evil on our hearts and our wounds are ever present, always hurting. We know what it is to stumble weakly through life, to feel exhaustion and pain, to long to numb ourselves from the devastation that surrounds us, that lives within us. We respond in a variety of ways, but at the end of the day, everyone is looking for a balm for the deep wounds in our hearts. 

This is why we need Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ humbly accepted our place, climbed a hill and died for all of the evil we have inflicted on one another. He heard the cry of our wounds, calling out to him. He saw our pain. Our scars moved him to act, to enter into a war that would save us all. He fought the real enemy, the one that has been biting at our heels ever since we left the Garden of Eden.

It was a clever trick, getting us to focus our weapons on one another, turning them toward God himself, instead of pointing them at our real enemy. Sin, death and evil, and the one that stands behind them, this is the true enemy. So Jesus entered into the very heart of death so he could break its power from within. He plunged himself into the surging sea of wrath that the evil we have inflicted on one another has earned. For God remembers who the real enemy is. Flesh and blood have always been his prize. 

Good Friday speaks a powerful truth to our wounded hearts. Jesus isn’t emotionally detached from our pain because he is a God with wounds. He pulls up his sleeves, revealing the scars etched into his eternal skin. He invites us to trace the lines that evil has carved into his flesh. We have a God who knows what it feels like to be wounded, abused, abandoned and forsaken. He understands and is able to comfort us in a way that no one else can. 

Because no one else has entered into death and come out victoriously on the other side. Jesus’ wounds speak of comfort because he understands, but they also whisper of hope. As we trace the lines of his suffering, we see purpose and power. We know the end of the story for these wounds, and they give us courage that our scars could one day mean more. His pain speaks of a greater truth: that evil will not have the final word over us. 

The wounds of Jesus speak of pain and triumph, battle and victory, sorrow and joy. His nail-scarred hands and wounded side speak of purpose and meaning. His torn up back sings of healing. To our wounds, only God’s wounds can speak. For no other God has entered into pain, death and sorrow to break its chains from within. No other God loved us enough to suffer. No other God was powerful enough to save. 

Do your wounds cry out? Does your pain still hurt, even after all of these years? Does your doubt silence hope? Does your fear keep you in prison? Then come to the one who knows what it’s like to stumble under a heavy load. Embrace the one who suffered, so that your pain becomes something more. Come to the one who breaks chains and crushes fear, because he has faced your greatest enemy, death itself, and has won. Let his wounds speak a better word to yours. For no other God has wounds, but ours alone.