4 yo: (Handing me the children's Bible) Show me a picture of Jesus on the cross. Please you read it.
Me: Well it's very late and and we've already read stories, but okay, here's the one of Jesus carrying the cross. I'll just tell you a little bit about it. (Starts a brief story)
4 yo: What this on his head?
Me: Oh, that's the crown of thorns the soldiers gave Jesus. They were being mean.
4 yo: And he had some holes?
Me: Yes, later he had holes in his hands and feet from the nails.
4 yo: How he get them?
Me: They put nails in his hands and feet.
4 yo: But he still have them now?
Me: Well, Jesus is in heaven, where he went after he rose from the dead.
4 yo: But does he still have the holes?
Me: Ah, that is a great question. What do you think?
4 yo: I don't know. What do you think?
Me: Well, do you remember that story about when Jesus rose from the dead? He still had the holes in his hands. So maybe He still has them.
4 yo: I think so.
Me: That's how the disciples knew it was him and not a ghost.
4 yo: They thought he was a ghost?
Me: Well, yes, they didn't really know if Jesus would come back to life. So they were sad and they didn't know for sure it was him.
4 yo: They were sad for a long time?
Me: Well, I think they were sad from when Jesus died until he rose again.
4 yo: That's a long time to be sad.
Me: It's just three days.
4 yo: That's a long time.
Me: I suppose so.
4 yo: Did they see him get the nails in his hands?
Me: Ah, well some of the disciples did.
4 yo: I think they were more sad.
Me: Oh, you think the disciples who saw Jesus get the nails in his hands were more sad than the ones who didn't see that happen?
4 yo: I think so.
Someone in seminary told me to lead not from my wounds, but from my scars. It's an acknowledgement that we all have scars, and stories that go with them. Our scars give us compassion, and deep wisdom, but they've solidified into something that doesn't bleed on the person in front of us.
I've used "scar stories" as an icebreaker for Confirmation classes and high school youth group; it is a surprisingly popular activity. Kids love telling scar stories, relishing in the gorier details of a bike ride, tree climb or soccer game gone awry. Nearly every kid had a story they were eager to tell and maybe you do, too.
I find solace in Jesus' scars, because it normalizes the cost of living in human form. I love that my child noticed the scars, too, and imagines that Jesus still bears them. That's basically the theology of the cross, which Martin Luther said stands in opposition a theology of glory. A theology of glory imagines your God is out to beat up all the other gods/bad guys/people you don't like. Jesus took a hard pass on that. Where do we find Jesus, Luther asked? On the cross. Where do we find Jesus now? Among the suffering.
Luther said that divinity isn't divine omnipotence, but compassion, which is literally (from the Latin) "to suffer with." Theologian Douglas John Hall writes that God's compassion isn't pity, but rather a "continuous and utterly gracious movement toward" us. Thank God!
I didn't explain, not tonight, to my 4 yo that Jesus' scars remind us that God is with us in our hardest, most painful times. But I think my child, with those sweet observations of the disciples' sadness, is starting to get the idea.