JUST A MINUTE: THE ‘IMPERFECTION’ OF THE RESURRECTED CHRIST
John 20:20 “After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
A visit to the refugee camps in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon is always a sobering encounter. Firstly, you encounter yourself. You find yourself staring in a mirror and there – at the end of the void – a person stands, staring at you in dreadful silence, revealing the false realities of comfort, compromise and a lack of complete brokenness. Then you encounter despair. You are confronted by the hopelessness of what you see, and even more by what you don’t see – basic necessities, relief, hope and children dreaming of a brighter future. But ultimately, you encounter Christ. The ‘imperfect’ image of a resurrected Christ – wounded hands stretched out, scarred and broken – for all to see and for all to embrace.
Our most recent visit was no different. As we walked into a tent, we noticed the two frail bodies of a young five-year-old girl and her younger brother, about four years old. They are both physically and mentally handicapped and they lay motionless in the arms of their loving mother, a displaced Syrian from a war-torn village near Aleppo. The picture in front of us was ‘imperfect’ in every sense of the word: the father had been killed, medicine is unavailable, food is scarce, living conditions are atrocious (especially in the brutal, icy winter weather), and hope for a better future is non-existent. The only comfort is a caring grandmother who fled Aleppo with the mother.
And yet, looking beyond the hopelessness of the circumstances and the disabilities of the two children, I saw the perfect reflection of an ‘imperfect’ Christ. The two children gazed into nothingness, smiling as though they were beholding an angel, or maybe even the imperfect, scar-ridden body of the Lord Himself.
My heart broke, my spirit rejoiced. I realised anew the sin of seeking Christ only in perfection – only in healing, only in release, only in success and only when God satisfies our needs. Unknowingly, in our quest for a ‘perfect’ faith, we have created an image of a perfectly restored, victoriously crowned, resurrected Christ that erased the scars of redemption – an ‘easy-to-worship’ God who ticked all our boxes of what God should look like. The ‘imperfection’ of a scar-ridden, resurrected Christ disappeared into obscurity.
Yes, of course, Christ is perfectly God, perfectly pure, perfectly holy, perfectly loving, perfectly righteous and perfectly just. But scarred in His body, He chose to be seen as ‘imperfect’ in His appearance.
Nowhere in Scripture is this imperfection of a resurrected Christ more evident than in John 20:20 where Jesus reveals Himself after His resurrection by showing His disciples the brutal evidence of His suffering and the imperfection of His wounds. In a sense, His wounds became His ‘identity document’, for all to see and for all to embrace. His appearance of imperfection provides hope for all who live in an imperfect world.
The Christ-message of an Easter resurrection is this:
- His perfect redemption is revealed through His imperfect body
- Our perfect joy is received through His imperfect resurrection
As Christians, we are often more interested in the perfection of our faith than in understanding the brokenness and suffering of others. Suffering needs to be removed, wounds need to be healed, and we are either ‘winners’ or ‘losers’, ‘perfect’ or ‘imperfect’, totally ‘good’ or totally ‘bad’. This has resulted in a pursuit of perfection that has robbed the Church of one of the greatest blessings of all – sharing the ‘imperfection’ of Christ (Philippians 1:29). The disciples came to embrace an imperfect Saviour above an imperial king, a suffering servant above a royal ruler, and so should we.
In Lebanon, we found an ‘imperfect’ Christ deeply impacting the imperfect lives of many broken souls. May this be your hope this Easter as well.