Known By His Scars
November 26th, 1972 @ 7:30 PM
KNOWN BY HIS SCARS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
11-26-72 7:30 p.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of our First Baptist Church. We invite you to turn to the twentieth chapter of John, the twentieth chapter of John. In these evening hours we are preaching through the life of Christ and have been now for some time in the Gospel of John. And we are going to preach tonight about the scars of our Lord, Known by His Scars.
And our reading will be verse 24 through 29, in the twentieth chapter of the Fourth Gospel. John chapter 20, verses 24 through 29; reading about doubting Thomas, the unbelief of Didymus, the Twin, his name means “the twin,” Thomas called Didymus, Thomas called “the Twin.” He was a twin, and we are going to read about him tonight:
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Thomas was not with the disciples when the Lord appeared to them the first time, raised from among the dead [John 20:19-24]. Why was he not with them? In the story of Thomas told by his friend and fellow apostle, it was very apparent why he was absent. Thomas had seen Jesus die. He was certainly dead, that Jesus; Thomas had seen Him bow His head and dismiss His spirit [John 19:30].
And as though that were not enough, Thomas had seen that Roman soldier take a spear and thrust it into His heart. And when the soldier pulled the spear out, the crimson of His life spilled on the ground [John 19:34]. Jesus was certainly dead! And in the death of Christ, every hope, and every vision, and every dream, every aspiration, all that the future might have held in promise was dashed inexorably, tragically, sadly to the ground. And when Thomas saw Jesus die, that meant the end of the Lord, for death is the final conclusion of life, so says every empiricist, and every experientialist, and every materialist, and every secularist, and every physicist. Death is taking out the keystone in the arch and the masonry falls to the ground. Death is taking out the hub in the wheel and the spokes fall apart. Even the poetic language of the Old Testament spoke, “When the silver cord is loosed, and the golden bowl is broken, when the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel is broken at the cistern” [Ecclesiastes 12:6]. Death is the end of all. This is the avowal of the secularist.
In a generation past, there was a very famous American agnostic by the name of Robert G. Ingersoll, and I have copied a part of a letter that he wrote to a Miss Han Selby in Smithland, Kentucky.
To me life is rather a dreary affair, more so than ever now since my father died. It seems that there is left now only for me to follow. The distance between youth to age is very short, and from age to death only a step, a short step. A few days and you and I will be either aged or dead. Our little parts in the drama of life will soon be acted, and as to us the curtain will soon fall. Yet other actors will take our places and the play will go on as merrily as though we still walked the stage. Other pulses will beat when ours are still, other hearts will love when ours are cold, other voices will talk of love and happiness when ours are hushed forever. The sun will shine as brightly and the eternal stars will gaze as silently upon our tombs as upon our cradles.
The verdict of the world is that when you die, that is the end. It is as final as a closed, slammed shut door.
In 1926, Harry Houdini died, the greatest magician who ever lived. And he said to his wife when he died, “I shall in some way communicate with you.” So in their Hollywood home, Mrs. Houdini sat a lamp under his picture, and on the anniversary of his death from 1926 to 1936, for ten years, she had there in the presence of the picture of her husband séances, trying to communicate with her husband. And at the end of 1936, she gave up in despair, saying that “There is no life beyond this death.”
In this last generation, there lived a famous agnostic by the name of Clarence Darrow, a famous lawyer who [faced] William Jennings Bryan at the trial in Dayton, Tennessee. There were three friends, Clarence Darrow, and Howard Thurston, a famous magician, and Claude Noble, another famous magician, who made a covenant together that when one of them died, he would get in touch with the remaining two.
Clarence Darrow was the first to die. So thereafter, on the anniversary of the death of the famous agnostic, Howard Thurston and Claude Noble would go to the Jackson Park Bridge in Chicago where Clarence Darrow’s ashes were scattered and there, according to a prearranged covenant, they would hold up an object known to all three and importune the spirit of Clarence Darrow to knock it out of their hands or to touch it, that they might know that he still lived. And after the passing of time and time, the other two quit, and finally they died in utter despair that there is any life beyond the grave.
This is the verdict of the Epicurean. It is the verdict of the Stoic [Acts 17:31-32]. It is the verdict of the materialistic philosopher. It is the verdict of the materialistic secular world. There is no life after death!
And Thomas belonged to that Sadducean persuasion. He had seen Jesus die, and so certainly to Thomas was the Lord dead, that had he seen His face and heard His familiar voice, he would not believe that He live. And so Thomas uttered this hard, rude, crass sentence, “Except I put my finger in the print of the nails in His hands, and except my hand is thrust into the scar in His side, I will not believe” [John 20:25].
For some reason, maybe out of deference to his friends, when the other ten had said to him, “We have seen the Lord and He is alive”—but for some reason the following Sunday night, when the ten disciples were gathered together, and Thomas the eleventh with them, in a room, doubtless an upper room, suddenly, without announcement––just as the Lord will come for us, as a thief comes in the night [1 Thessalonians 5:2]––suddenly, the doors being shut for fear of the enemies of Christ, suddenly, the Lord appeared in their midst [John 20:26].
And the first thing He did was to turn to this unbelieving Thomas and repeat what Thomas had said [John 20:27]. Can you imagine how those words sounded from the lips of the Lord? Can you imagine the shame that covered the face of Thomas when he stood in the presence of his risen Lord and there heard that bitter ultimatum, there repeated that sullen unbelief, “Except I put my finger in the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into the riven side, I will not believe” [John 20:25]. And when Thomas was invited thus to probe the very body of the risen Christ, the Lord extended His hands and said, “Reach thither thy finger, and place it in the nail prints in My hands” [John 20:27].
Oh, as I try to relive and rethink what Thomas must have thought, those gracious hands that he’d seen bless little children [Mark 10:13-16], those gracious hands that healed the sick [Luke 4:40], those gracious hands that lifted Simon Peter up from the cruel wave [Matthew 14:28-31], “Put your finger in the nail prints in My hands, and take your hand and thrust it into My side, and be not faithless, but believing” [John 20:27]. How would you have thought had you been there?
But do you think things like that sometimes? “I don’t believe the dead rise.” Do doubts overwhelm your soul? Do you sometimes stagger at the promises of God to raise the dead? The Lord knows our doubts, and He hears our words of unbelief and despair; He had heard what Thomas said, He knows all about us, everything, every word we speak, every deed we do, every thought we think; He knows all about us. And how Thomas must have felt when, standing in the presence of the risen Christ, he’s invited to put his finger in the prints of the nails and to put his hand in the open rupture of His side [John 20:27].
“And Thomas answered and said unto Him, ‘My Lord and my God’” [John 20:28]. Do you believe in the deity of Jesus? “My Lord, my Master and King and Savior, my Lord and my God.” Oh, when we come to the end of the way, how ashamed we shall be for our lack of faith! How shamed we shall be for our doubts. How ashamed we shall be for our lack of commitment, and love, and service, and consecration; “My Lord and my God!” [John 20:28].
Then Jesus said a blessing, a beatitude for all of us who look in faith to Jesus. “Thomas, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; makarios —blessed, happy—are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” [John 20:29]. Known by His scars, isn’t it an unusual thing? In the fifth chapter of the Apocalypse, of the Revelation, when the apostle John is weeping because there is no one found in heaven, or in earth, or in the netherworld who is worthy to take the book and to loose the seals thereof [Revelation 5:1-4], the book of redemption, the Book of Life where the names of God’s children are inscribed:
And I wept much, because no one was found worthy to take the book and to open the seals and to look thereon.
And one of the elders came and said unto me, Weep not, weep not, weep not: for the Lion of the tribe of Judah… hath prevailed to open the book, and to break the seals, and to look thereon.
And wouldn’t you have thought that when the elder said, “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the King of Kings, the Lord God Jesus, the Son of David hath prevailed” [Revelation 5:5], wouldn’t you have thought when John lifted up his face and dried his tears to see the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the King of glory [Revelation 5:4-5], wouldn’t you have thought he’d have seen somebody oh so marvelous, and so arrayed, and so heavenly, and so enthroned, wouldn’t you have thought that? What does the Apocalypse say? The Book says, “And I turned and saw,” what did he see?
A Lamb as it had been slain . . . And they sang a new song in heaven, saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, who hath redeemed us by His blood, out of all the families and tribes of the earth, and hath made us kings and priests unto the Lord God forever and ever.
[Revelation 5:6, 9-12]
Isn’t that a marvelous, unusual thing? “A Lamb as it had been slain” [Revelation 5:6]. That is, He bears in His body and forever the marks of our redemption. He carries them through all ages and all eternity. When we see Jesus, He will have in His hands the print of the nails [John 20:25-27], and He will have in His side the scar of that Roman spear [John 19:34].
Did you notice the words of the hymn you sang a moment ago? I did not know you were going to sing it. Blind Fanny Crosby wrote:
When my life’s work is ended, and I cross the swelling tide,
When the bright and glorious morning I shall see;
I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side,
And His smile will be the first to welcome me.
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
When redeemed by His side I shall stand,
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
By the print of the nails in His hand.
[from “My Savior First of All,” Fanny Crosby, 1891]
He bears in heaven and forever the marks and the scars of our redemption.
“Thomas, Thomas, reach thither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God” [John 20:27-28].
Can Christ mean that to you? My Savior, my Keeper, my Shepherd, my Redeemer, my Master, my God to whom I pray, to whom I entrust my soul and spirit. Can Christ mean that to you? If He can, will you avow that faith openly and publicly before men and angels, tonight? Would you?
In a moment when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, down one of these stairways, into this aisle, here to the front, “Pastor, tonight I open my heart to the faith that is in Christ Jesus; the blessing He has for me from His gracious nail-pierced hands. I’m coming, accepting the Lord as my Savior.” Or to put your life in the fellowship of this dear church, or to answer any call the Lord will lay upon your heart, while we sing this hymn of appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, would you come? Make it now. Do it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Thomas the skeptic – viewpoint of an
A. Death the end of all (Ecclesiastes 12:6)
Houdini, Clarence Darrow, Howard Thurston, Claude Noble
Asked for double proof – sight and touch
II. The epiphany
A. The wonder, joy,
glory of the presence of Jesus
B. Then He turns to
1. Joy turns to
III. The confession of faith
A. The soul of Thomas
overwhelmed, “My Lord and my God.”
B. “Blessed are they
that have not seen and yet have believed.” (John
IV. We shall know Him someday, by His scars
A. The vision of John (Revelation 5:4-10)
1. He bears in
His body and forever the marks of our redemption