During the weeks after Easter our staff in Melbourne CBD have been reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus. Last week we took some time to look at how John's gospel talks about the resurrection:
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.
(John 20:19-31, NRSV)
I think it's significant that, in John's gospel, Jesus' resurrected body is not 'perfect' in the way that we often think of perfection. Jesus' body still bears the marks of his execution, and his disciple Thomas is invited to touch them and see that they are real. Jesus' body has been eternally impacted by the events of his life.
In his poem 'Food for Risen Bodies - VI' Michael Symmons Roberts imagines the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, and speaks of people's bodies bearing marks caused by the impacts of their lives, just as Jesus body does in John:
Although their bodies were not
their before, there are resemblances,
and flesh retains a memory
even beyond death, so every
lover’s touch, each blow or cut
is rendered into echo on the hand,
the lips, the neck. Some fall silent,
while their own phenomenology
is mapped across them.
Others look astonished,
expecting their new skin to be!
a blank sheet, but the man
who went ahead to find a route
for them came back with wounds
intact and palpable. No pain,
but a record nonetheless, a history
of love and war in blank tattoos.
(The full poem, and the rest of the 'Food for Risen Bodies' series, can be found in Michael Symmons Roberts' collection Corpus.)
In response to the reading from John's gospel and from Michael Symmons Roberts, I made a installation for our staff to interact with. On a table I used sand to make the shape of a body. I used tealight candles to mark out the wounds of Christ.
For the wound in his side I used a bowl of fake blood (a mixture of water, cornflour and red food colouring), with a tealight candle in the middle.
I invited our staff to dip their finger in the 'blood', and to consider what it means to touch the wounds of Christ. I also invited them to consider how they thought they might have been eternally impacted by the events of their lives, and to use a taper or a stone to mark this on the body. Some of us spoke of stories of healing. Others spoke of coming to terms with the limitations of our bodies - and of the gifts that can come with those limitations. Others talked about body image, and whether human beings are supposed to look anything like the bodies we see on billboards all around our neighbourhood.
- Christop Booth, Faith Engagement Coordinator