Where is God in my Deepest Wounds?
How does God respond to our deepest wounds? Author David Mathis extends strength and comfort from the wounds of a fully-human Jesus.
About the Guest
desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis. He is a husband and father of four and author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines. Most recently, he is author of The Christmas We Didn’t Expect for Advent 2020.
How does God respond to our deepest wounds? Author David Mathis extends strength and comfort from the wounds of a fully-human Jesus.
Where is God in my Deepest Wounds?
David: What’s so significant about the resurrection isn’t just that the resurrection vindicates the accomplishment of His death—oh, it does that, for sure!—I mean, the resurrection vindicates what He did: He was sinless; He died for our sins, not His own. But what is so amazing about the resurrection is: He is alive! You can know Him!
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: I recently sat down with David Mathis. Do you know him?
Ann: Yes; I know him, because he has written some books.
Dave: Yes; and he has written one called Rich Wounds, which is a look at the life, the death, and the resurrection of Christ, which is perfect as we move into Lent season and get ready to celebrate Easter. I mean, this guy is a deep theologian.
Ann: Well, I’m excited for our listeners to hear this; because you get into the death of Christ, so Good Friday. We often jump forward to Easter and the resurrection; but we don’t, as often, sit in the death of Jesus.
Dave: And I tell you—as I listened to him, and I think our listeners are going to love this as well—it’s like you get a vision of the glory of God in Christ. He also did a great job of explaining the humanity, which we often miss about Jesus. That is what today is all about, so I’m excited for our listeners to hear this.
Dave: David, we’ve already talked a little bit about how you walk through Lent: through the life, the death, the triumph of Christ. Let’s talk about the death—but really the humanity of Christ, which so often I think we miss because He is God; but He is God in flesh—I remember in seminary the first time I ever heard the phrase, “hypostatic union.” That’s a phrase most people don’t hear, but let’s talk about how He can be fully God and fully man and what that means. You’re the theologian sitting in here; enlighten us.
David: For the apostles, and for those who saw and touched and knew Jesus in His human life on earth, that He was human was the given. What He showed them over time was that: “This is God Himself.”
David: This is not just a fully-human person; this is God Himself in the flesh. However, once Jesus ascended—and the next generation of Christians and on through us—to be Christian is to begin with: “Jesus is Lord.” The thing we typically take as the given is that He is God; He is Lord. He is Yahweh Himself in human flesh.
Dave: Interesting; we do flip it; don’t we?
David: We do.
Dave: We start there; they couldn’t have started there.
David: Sometimes, what we don’t work at is His full humanity. It might be the case—at least, in my little experience: the churches that I’ve been at South Carolina and Minnesota probably would be stronger on the full deity of Jesus than they would be on the fullness in the extent of His humanity—it gets kind of uncomfortable when we are talking about the One we worship as God and how fully human He is.
He is shockingly fully human—so not just fully human in His human body, which is an amazing thing to think that God Himself became human/took [on] these bodies—He didn’t do this for angels. In Hebrews, Chapter 2 talks about: “He has not become [an] angel.” It is not angels that He helped; He helped the offspring of Abraham. So angels long to look into the redemption that is ours, because the God of the universe became one of us; He became human.
So Jesus had a fully-human body. It didn’t just seem human—it wasn’t a hologram or a projection—He was fully human with His feet on the ground—but not just His body—Jesus has human emotions as well. Now, that doesn’t mean He doesn’t have the divine equivalent of emotions; but He has fully-human emotions. One place that we see that so clearly is in John 11 as He weeps with Mary and Martha, and those who grieve the death of their beloved friend, Lazarus; maybe, we can come back to that. Let me just finish the fully-human equation: He has a fully-human mind, and that’s not in conflict with His divine mind.
You mentioned hypostatic union. It’s the fancy Greek term for personal union. Hypostasis is referring to the word that became identified with person. What’s meant by hypostatic union is that—in one person, personal—is the union of two full and complete natures; so Jesus is fully God, and He is fully man in one person—it’s united—the God-head and man-hood united in one person: hypostatic union, one person.
What that means is, with respect to His divinity, Jesus is omniscient; and with respect to His humanity, He is what is called nescient—meaning He doesn’t know it all—Jesus says to His disciples of that Second Coming of that day, only the Father knows, not even the Son. All that Jesus knows with respect to His humanity—He knows without error, but He doesn’t know everything—the human mind is finite and with limitations. So with respect to Christ, one person, we can say He is both nescient as human, and He is omniscient as God.
And then even church history pushed this further into the 7th century, Sixth Ecumenical Council, talking about His divine will—that as He acts in the Garden of Gethsemane to say, “Not Your will”—“Not My will”—get that right!—“Not My will but Yours be done.” He is speaking there as a human. We hear His words through the Gospels as a human speaking, “Not My human will but Yours, Father, be done.”
And as God Himself, we know in theology, He is saying, “My will as God but not My will as man be done. I don’t want to die.” God made humans not to want to die; we rightly recoil from pain and death. Even though Jesus, in His humanity/in His flesh, He recoils from death. In embracing the divine will—which is His own will as God—in embracing the divine will, He steps forward in obedience in Gethsemane.
Dave: Okay. I can envision a wife or a husband listening right now, going, “Okay, so, help us understand: ‘How do I live that out? As I hear that, and I reflect on that, how does that impact me in real time, right now?’”
David: There is a sense in which the whole of the Christian faith goes through the hypostatic union. However, we need to flesh out some particular manifestations. We could talk about the dignity of humanity: that of all the creatures, God Himself in the person of His Son took our humanity. There is a remarkable dignifying of what it means to be human. Christians need not feel like our humanity is this error or problem; or that God means to free us from our humanity—that eternity will be: “We are freed from this human body and all the terrible things of being a human, and now we can float around like the angels,”—no, no, no; angels long to look into what we are, remarkably, because of Jesus. So there is a remarkable dignifying of humanity in it.
Dave: —which, by the way, when you say that, I think of a number of times—I’m guessing I’m not alone—that I look in the mirror, and I don’t feel that. I don’t always look in the mirror like—I don’t know—you’re not old enough to remember the Fonz in Happy Days?
David: I’ve heard of him; I think I saw reruns as a kid. [Laughter]
Dave: Well, there you go; I just dated myself. But he would look in the mirror at the beginning of the show with his comb; and he was just like, “Oh, I look so good. There’s nothing that I can make better.” We usually look in the mirror and think, “Oh, you know, I would change this and that.” We don’t appreciate the dignity—
David: That’s right.
Dave: —of who God says we are—and like you just said—of Christ taking on human form; it means that we matter.
David: That’s right.
Dave: We do have dignity. That changes our identity; because we are a son of the King/we’re a daughter of the King. That’s a beautiful thought—that’s real—that changes how I live today.
David: Absolutely; when you stand in front of the mirror, like: “Am I being informed by Instagram®; and tabloids; and a general, worldly cultural sense of what really matters of humanity; or am I being informed by God?” I mean, Jesus, in worldly terms—“He had no former majesty that we should take awe of Him,”—that’s from the prophecy of
Isaiah [53:2]; and “O what beauty that God Himself would take on human form.”
So one thing: if you have working hands, that is a marvel. What these human hands can do, and what God designed them to do: to look at those hands and marvel. I have hands, eyes that work, or a mouth, or a tongue that forms words, or ears that hear words, or a nose that smells—we can go on and on about the amazing part of humanity—that isn’t necessarily fully Christian yet until I make those applications to Jesus and His salvific work.
Maybe, the next place I would go is to the extent to which God Himself went in the person of His Son to save you all the way—not just save your spirit to free your spirit from this world and your body when you’re done—He took a body to save your body; He took a human mind to save the human mind; He took human emotions to save our emotions—our hearts, our feelings—and He took a human will to redeem your will. He means to change us from the inside out. He is/in Christ, our wills are being redeemed; our emotions are being redeemed; our minds are being redeemed.
A famous line from a great father of Christian theology, way back in the 4th century—Gregory of Nazianzus—he said, “That which He has not assumed, He has not healed,” meaning if He doesn’t take a fully-human body, and a fully-human soul, and its mind, and emotion, and will, then He doesn’t redeem us all the way. Christ took all of what it means to be human to redeem us all the way—heaven and new heavens and new earth—and it’s important to say there, excepting sin.
To be human doesn’t mean to be a sinner; sin is a blight on humanity. Sin is going to be wiped away, and you are going to be all the more human when you do not sin when God has made you fully holy. So Jesus, in this sense, has experienced and is more fully human than we have yet to taste. One day, we will taste, in Him, as our sins are fully wiped away/are fully purged; but Christ, in living out the human life, apart from sin, experienced a glory of humanity we have not yet fully tasted. He will draw us into that all the more when that humanity is glorified. That’s just a little side note about sin.
But the main thing to say is Jesus, in taking our full humanity, is saving us to the uttermost/all the way. He wants to save and redeem and rescue every aspect about you, and do so forever, and draw you in to the great joy, to the happiness, to the bliss for which you were made and you long for. Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.” Jesus, as man, experienced that restlessness; He experienced that sense of: “I want to know My Father better in My human flesh.”
And in coming to save us—all the way/fully human in mind, body, emotions, will—He saves us to the uttermost to bring us to Himself and His Father for everlasting joy.
Dave: So, when we offer our bodies, and our minds, and our will to Christ—because He doesn’t take them unless we offer them—when we offer, help us understand what it means when He—and you walk us through, in Rich Wounds, His death and His triumph—we receive a resurrected, triumphal Christ through His Holy Spirit into our temple/our human body. How does that transform us?
I mean, the way you think and talk—I just know I’m going to hear something rich come out that isn’t often said—like, “Okay, the living Christ lives in this body/in this human form. What does that mean?”
David: Well, one thing to say—so many things—again, you can run the whole faith through it. What is so significant about the resurrection isn’t just that the resurrection vindicates the accomplishment of His death—oh, it does that for sure!—I mean, the resurrection vindicates what He did: He was sinless; He died for our sins, not His own; and that His work was complete and finished at the cross is vindicated by the resurrection.
But what is so amazing about the resurrection is: He is alive! You can know Him!” He is sitting right now on the throne of the universe. When we read the Gospels, we are not reading about a great religious hero—who died, and isn’t alive now, and isn’t available to know by the power of the Holy Spirit and by His Word—Jesus reigns on the throne of the universe, and He is putting His foes under His feet. He is going to bring history to a great close; but right now, He is available to know by the Spirit through His Word. This is what is so precious about lingering in the Gospels—lingering in the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation—but in particular, the Gospels are sweet in that we see Jesus living out human life, human emotions, in a human body, with a human mind, human will. We glory in this Friend that we have in Him, seated on heaven’s throne.
Now, He’s not—“Buddy, buddy,” and “Me and Jesus, we went to high school together,”—He is the King of the universe. Yet, rightly, do we sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” like He has drawn near to us in coming and in saving us; and He draws near to us now through His Word by the power of His Spirit. So when we come to the Bible, it’s not a dead word—this is not a history book mainly—the history in it is reliable and true, but this book is far precious beyond saying true things about the past. This book is the Living God, Christ Jesus Himself on the throne of the universe, speaking to us by the Spirit in real time.
Dave: You know, as you say all that, I can imagine you sitting—and I don’t know if this is true or not—in your family room or at your kitchen table. I met your 11-year-old twin sons; is this how you talk about Christ in your home?—the way you are talking right here, adult to adult. Does it change at all?—because I think it is so beautiful.
I just wonder what it looks like in your home as you talk about—as you wrote His life—we haven’t even talked about His death. We sort of end it there with the wondrous cross.
David: That’s right; we do.
Dave: We just talked about His triumph and His resurrection; but when you talk about this in your home, is this how you do it? Because I’m hoping you are sort of a model for us, as men and women, of: “How do we talk about these grand things in real time in our families?” Is that how you do it?
David: Dave, I’m trying to figure it out—figuring out what is the right rhythm, and frequency, and depth with an eight-year-old,—
David: —nine-year-old, ten-year-old, eleven-year-old. I think, with the boys at eleven-and-a-half, more and more of the filters are coming off, where it’s I am just talking to them more and more closely to how I just talk to adults.
Dave: Yes; when you were saying that, I was thinking, “Eleven-year-old/twelve-year-old/they could handle the way you just said it.”
David: That’s really encouraging to hear.
Dave: I think so.
David: I want to do more of that with them. I hope that is what is coming out, even as we travel together on a trip, to increasingly have those very frank and direct conversations with them about everything in the world. They see/when they get up in the morning, they see Dad at the kitchen table, hunkered down over the Book. There is an opportunity to provide more and more explanation for that.
I do hope—in family devotions—I try to think that I’m not mainly here—explaining this text; I’m not preaching this text—they hear Dad preach;—
David: —that’s a part of the picture for someone who is a pastor—
David: —is they hear you talk in public about Jesus. That’s an aspect of it to consider—one that I don’t deluge them in private in a way that is suffocating—but also that, in private, I need to back up what I say in public.
Dave: Yes, they are going to remember, as men and as women, Dad sitting with the Book.
David: That’s right.
Dave: That visual is never going to go away. If Dad is living what he is reading and studying, it’s going to be cemented in their brain.
We’ve got to end with this: Good Friday is coming up. Easter is just on the horizon on the calendar. Why is Friday good?
David: From one angle, Good Friday—the day we call Good Friday—was the worst day in the history of the world: God Himself was crucified. This is the most rebellious, insidious act of insurrection by the human race in the history of mankind. We killed God Himself, and nobody called it Good Friday on Holy Saturday. When His apostles were experiencing the longest day of their life, from sun up to sundown on that Saturday, nobody called it good.
But He rose on Sunday morning. What He accomplished on that Friday—in all the blood, in the horror, in the gruesomeness, in the shame—the crucifixion was such a public shame. Hebrews 12:2 highlights that: “Despising the shame, He went to the cross.” In all that, we see the good that God was doing. Rightly, do we call it “good”—not flippantly: “Oh, Good Friday,” “Good Friday,”—no.
God painted “good” on the otherwise worst day in the history of the world because of what He was accomplishing in Christ. So get this—whatever wound you have; whatever pain you’ve experienced; whatever scars you have in your emotions, in your mind, on your body—God can write “good” on it; He did it in Jesus.
One thing I love to celebrate on Good Friday is how our God does some of His best, some of His sweetest—the greatest expressions, in Revelation, of His goodness on some of the darkest and hardest times in our life, which doesn’t mean they are not hard—like let the pain stand; let the difficulty stand—that is going to be the dark strokes that accent the beauty of His glory. He will shine out all the more beautiful in His deliverance/in His rescue when we let the horror stand as it is and see what God is doing with His banner of good over the wounds in our lives.
Dave: I mean, you stated it so well—I love the picture of the wounds that we carry being healed because of His wound—again, that’s why it is rich wounds.
David: That’s right.
Dave: His wounds heal us; they give us hope.
I know there are men and women, families even, in 2022 walking into Easter without hope because it’s been a hard year—maybe a hard week, maybe a hard decade—in their lives. Yet, this bad Friday that is the best Friday in the history of the world—even though it was a terrible moment—is made good on our behalf because of Sunday. It is the greatest story ever told, and it’s not a story—it is history—and it can change you and your family right here, right now.
I’m hoping that people walk through Lent, understanding Rich Wounds—take your book and just sit down as a family—I can envision a husband or a wife; but I can envision a family. Did you have that vision in your mind?—going through it together and understanding, maybe for the first time, His life, His death, His triumph—and Passion Week in a way that transforms—not only them, but their legacy.
David: Whether we’re a dad/mom reading our Bible to our kids—or reading a book/a short devotional that is short enough to keep the kids’ attention span—the most important work there is, as a dad, is, then—in finishing the reading, being able to apply that to our children—I think most four-year-olds are not going to understand my little short devotions here. But when Daddy, then, looks at the four-year-old and says, “You know what is really precious to Daddy about this?” and talks about how it struck [his] own heart and makes that translation to the four-year-old—to the six-year-old, to the eight-year-old—I think that would be very significant.
Shelby: As parents, probably, the best way to help our young kids understand the truth of what Scripture communicates about how to know God is to do it through our own experiences and talk with our kids about what it actually means to us: we live as if we actually believe what the Bible says; we unpack the wounds that Jesus experienced; we unpack His death and resurrection through our relationship with Him; and our kids are able to see that in powerful new ways.
Dave Wilson has been talking with David Mathis, and he has written a book called Rich Wounds. This is a 30-day Lenten devotional that leads us toward the Easter season, the day that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s a book to help you reflect and meditate on—marvel at, really—the sacrificial love of Jesus as we count down the days to celebrating His resurrection.
This is a book that you can go through just by yourself. This is a book you can go through with your family; with your kids; as well as a group leading up to the Easter season. We want to make this book available to you as a way to say, “Thank you for any gift that you give to us at FamilyLife Today.” You can head to our website—again, that’s FamilyLifeToday.com—and make a donation of any amount. When you do, we will send you a copy of David Mathis’s book, Rich Wounds. Again, you can make a donation online; or you can call us at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, when we come back tomorrow, our very own Ron Deal sat down with Laurie and Jere Short and talked about what to do when you find yourself in a brand-new situation as a stepparent: “What does it look like to stepparent with grace?” That’s coming up tomorrow.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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