The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Life leaves marks

Resurrection changed Jesus and, today, changes us

Life leaves marks, and it left unmistakable marks on Jesus. When Jesus meets his followers on the mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-20), he is a marked man. Just a chapter ago he was dead, tortured to death in public by Pilate, who had demonstrated that Rome could do what it chose. Brutality wasn’t an obstacle. Morality wasn’t even a speed-bump. Life leaves marks.

But, of course, life had left marks on Jesus long before Golgotha. Perhaps his first clear memory was of being s­natched from his bed to flee from Herod.

A crucifixion sceneIn that decisive moment, he and his family became refugees running to another place, another language, another people—hoping for safety.

All the boy babies in his hometown were killed. Not one died without being defended to the death by one of Jesus’ aunts or cousins, one of the neighbors who had cheered at his first attempts to walk, one of the community’s all-purpose grandmothers who had crowed with delight at his first smile.

No family emerges from such slaughter unmarked, and no child grows up in such a family without learning to remember the atrocity. Sometimes children are even given names that help them remember, names that mean “vengeance” or “victory.” A child with a name like that learns to remember every time the kindergarten teacher calls roll.

I wonder what Jesus remembered when he heard his name called, his name which is a form of “Joshua,” the military leader who conquered the Promised Land.

Whatever Jesus thought, he did so as a refugee. His family was twice on the run. First they fled to Egypt, to escape Herod. Then several years later the angel appeared to Joseph with the news that Herod had died and it was safe to return to Judea.

But their fear returned when they learned Herod’s son was ruling the area, and Joseph was warned away in another dream. And so he took his family north to Galilee to the town of Nazareth.

Twice the young family had to adjust to a home where they knew no one, twice they learned that communities look askance at refugees who they fear might be dangerous.

“Will the hunters search our neighborhood?” they will have asked. “Is it safe to let them live near us?”

Life leaves marks. People will have seen those marks.

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