Thank you for all your responses so far to the “Best line of a the best hymn” challenge. Without any spoilers, I can say that Charles Wesley is well ahead with 3 different lines from 2 different hymns voted for several times! I expect, like me you are beginning to realise what a rich field it is to choose from…
A contender for me would be from “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” (CW of course); there’s a verse that speaks of Jesus’ wounds in his hands and feet, and the line is, “Cause of endless exultation to his ransomed worshippers”. And boy, is that how Thomas felt in our gospel today!
If there is one piece of evidence that would convince me more than any other (if I were to need convincing) of the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, it’s those “glorious scars”. If you were going to make up a story about defeating death and coming back to life, there would be no scars. After all, Jesus himself went around healing people, making them whole again from the scars of mortal life; and if you’re going to invent an experience of immortal life, the scars would have gone. You can’t carry wounds into eternity; they belong to this mortal life. So if the disciples had got together and made up a hurried story about encountering the risen Jesus, he would have been presented as saying, “Look! All better!” and showing hands all healed and whole.
But the resurrection of Jesus is true; and it appears that you can carry wounds into eternity.
The scars are still there and always will be. If you know Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, The Selfish Giant, you’ll remember the little boy who heals the giant saying, “Nay, but these are the wounds of love.”
Thomas encounters these, “wounds of love” in the most powerful passage in the whole of John’s gospel. Indeed, that’s the whole point of the gospel. “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe,” says Jesus, and Thomas’s response is exactly what John wishes yours and mine to be – and indeed, every reader of the whole book. Not only should we recognise the “Word made flesh”, as he set out at the beginning, but we should know and experience just how God’s love reaches and heals us.
It is in those scars.
Jesus’ power to save Thomas, and Nicodemus, and Peter, and the man born blind, and Mary Magdalene, and the woman at the well, and you, and me …. and everyone, is in those “wounds of love”. That’s what John is getting at. These are the stripes by which we are healed; Jesus has borne everything that everything might be renewed. The Wounded Healer has triumphed.
Thomas is lost for words (there aren’t any for such occasions) and can only say, “My Lord and my God!”, meaning, “Yes; I see it now; Amen; I’m sorry; I offer up my life, my everything …..” and a thousand other things that Thomas wants to say but can’t quite spit out.
So there he will be. Thomas, I mean. He’ll be in the multitude that no one can number, along with you and me and the selfish giant and all the other ransomed worshippers. Just gazing, gazing, gazing for all eternity, on the unfathomable mystery of those glorious scars.