I think that if I were inventing a resurrection story, I would have had him reappear as victor over death with gaping unsightly wounds healed up. I would not, I suspect, have thought to have him going around with a hole in his side big enough to put one’s hand into. I might, I suppose, have run to some discreet scars and a little bitterness over how he was treated.
The Jesus who bursts back into Thomas’s life is much better than anything I would have imagined. His wounds are still open, with one plenty large enough to put a finger into. His preoccupation, though, is not with the past, but the future. He is moving his disciples on to a new world, where they take up the role he has carried. Jesus’s old work of forgiving (or not) will become their responsibility, and they will struggle to make others believe what they can never see.
So we enter a world where we know something new about healing, which is that probably we will never really be healed, although we may well be resurrected. What we are offered is a new life, not a patched-up old life.
I struggle to get my mind fully around this, just as I struggle to imagine writing the story that John writes of Jesus’s resurrection. There are memories, and actions, which I would like to be able to wipe out, to fully expunge from the record. I would like the ‘forgiveness’ or which Jesus speaks to mean that these things cease to be. But I think that that is not what is on offer. I suspect, reading this story, that forgiveness actually means that I will carry these holes in me forward for ever. A hole in my side wrenched by a mercifully lance and cruel damage inflicted intentionally to hurt me. They are mine forever.
I am not offered that these things will vanish. Instead, what I am offered is that they will become for my good, and for the good of others. If, in some ways, they will always define me, they will also become creative. I think, and I say this very tentatively, I think this is true. I suspect that the more I try to turn my face towards all that is good and positive, the truer it becomes.
I think you deserve at least some example. For me, the insecurities of my childhood experiences of my peers lead me to a solitude which is not, perhaps, quite natural to me. I am not any good in social contexts, and I never will be. It has made me miss taking up careers which might otherwise have been a joy to me. But it has also led me to be a much more reflective person, and to become a writer. This has come to define me, to become the holes in my hands by which others recognise me. The future beckons me. Maybe the writer I can still become will indeed imagine a better resurrection than mere healing.
Rosemary Hannah is currently writing a Victorian Whodunnit using up characters researched but not used in her biography, ‘The Grand Designer’; she also writes religious fiction.