The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the singularly most important event that has ever taken place since time began. It is such a powerful event that many people have no idea what to make of it. On the one hand some choose to ignore it, while on the other theologians, historians, lecturers, intellectuals, and artists want to explore it.
Artistic representations of the resurrection differ throughout the centuries. The earliest images are believed to be in Rome while later more westernised images appear around the world. Some of these images depict the resurrection in various ways. For many, the resurrected body is presented as clean, and free of scars, yet still containing the nail holes in His hands and feet and the spear hole in His side. While others may present a slightly more rugged body bearing the marks of a crucified man.
In many ways, these artistic representations have conditioned our minds. In the days before film and photography, paintings and stained glass windows served as the earliest cinemas. They presented Biblical stories for artists and Church goers who could not read. In our time Church buildings are not the only representatives of the Bible, movies and television programs have projected Biblical stories into our vision and in many ways have come to dominate how we see the resurrected Jesus. Biblically inspired films often depict the resurrected Christ as One who has suffered the pains of the cross yet risen as a new body with all the scars, wounds, and potential disfigurements airbrushed out. In many depictions the only damage to remain on the resurrected body of Jesus are the nail holes in His hands and feet. Many representations show nothing of the scars left from the crown of thorns, or the scourging, or the damage made to His face and body when He was hit and beaten (Matthew 26: 67, Mark 14: 65, Luke 22: 63-65, John 18: 22. Matthew 27: 27-30, Mark 15: 16-20, John 19: 1-3).
Although the gospels do not give us any graphic details about the passion, Josephus offers insight into how cruel Roman scourging could be and in one incident a man was so severely beaten that his bones were laid bare (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book 6, chapter 5.3).
In my opinion, it is possible that the resurrected body of Jesus still retained the scars inflicted during His passion. Likewise, the whole point of the resurrection is lost if a person assumes Jesus’ resurrected body was not the same body that was crucified. The point of the resurrection is that Jesus rose again in the same body that was crucified and in the same body that died. None of this is denied in the gospels and yet the texts read as though there was something different about the resurrected body. For example, in Mark 16: 12 Jesus appears to two disciples in “another form”. In Luke 24: 13-31 the two people on the road to Emmaus didn’t recognise Him. Luke claims “their eyes were restrained” until He broke the bread and their “eyes were opened” and suddenly He vanished from their sight. In John 20: 14-15 Mary Magdalene saw Jesus but did not know it was Him and supposed He was the gardener, yet in verse 16 when she turned, she knew it was Him. Yet in John 21: 7 Peter recognises Him.
Clearly there was something different about the resurrected body of Jesus and this is also affirmed in Philippians 3: 21 where Paul describes His resurrected body as “glorious“.
Yet in John 20: 24-29, Thomas will not believe until Jesus shows Him the nail holes in His hands and the spear hole in His side. On this occasion the doors were shut and suddenly Jesus appeared. Thomas sees the wounds with his own eyes and believes, so clearly the physical resurrected body of Jesus still bore the wounds of His crucifixion.
This begs the question: if His body retained the nail and spear holes, could it have also retained the scourge marks and other scars from His beating? It would seem logical to assume if the body retained the nail and spear holes it would retain other scars also, including the marks made by the crown of thorns.
Isaiah 53: 5 does not write about the stripes as though they are going to disappear, but as though by their very existence, we are healed. It is therefore possible that His body bears the marks of His passion as a witness to His death and resurrection.
In conclusion, I believe it certainly is possible that the physical resurrected body of Jesus Christ bore the marks made by the wounds inflicted upon Him when he was beaten, scourged, and crucified. It could help explain why some of the disciples did not recognise Him. Isaiah 52: 14 says “His visage was marred more than any man” so we can agree that after such a horrific beating, His appearance would have dramatically changed from His usual appearance. Also, He would have had a new robe on which would not have been the same garment and tunic He wore normally. His original clothing was destroyed at the crucifixion (John 23-24) This may have also made His appearance appear a little different to the disciples.
It should be noted that all the disciples forsook Him at the crucifixion apart from John, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus. Peter witnessed moments of trial. Both Mary Magdalene and Peter recognised Him, which could mean they knew how much He had been beaten.
Although the gospels make no direct mention of it, I believe it is possible, though I cannot prove it, that the resurrected body of our Lord Jesus Christ retained the scars and marks of the physical damage that was inflicted upon Him as He bled to death for us and our salvation.
It is a picture and a reality of hope, that no matter what life throws at you and how horrible people can be at times, those who believe in Jesus Christ will rise up and follow Him. We too will win in the end.
Believe in Jesus today. He died for you.