Harrowing Of Hell
April 7, 2024

Jesus Inside and Out

Kelli Martin, Lay Preacher

I come from a family that loves to dress up. My grandmother especially. She. Looked. Good. ALWAYS. She had this one outfit that she called her Traveling Suit. And she would wear it whenever she went on long trips. Her Traveling Suit was perfectly fitted: it was this pale blue tank top with thick straps and the pants were plaid, in this pattern of big squares in light pink, white and pale blue. The pants even had a slight flare to them. Whenever she wore it, she looked leisurely, and she also looked purposeful, like she always knew what to do next. 

To her appearances mattered. It was how you were taken seriously, especially during that time in the South. Whether you were going to a dinner dance or a cookout or participating in a sit-in or boycott during the Civil Rights Movement, or going to church, or even to the department store — You dressed in your Sunday best.

In the Midwest I was raised the same way. My dad would wear these elegant suits. He is a beautiful dresser, he always looked sharp. To this day, I have never seen him in jeans. Not a day in my life. He simply does not wear them. And my mother. She gets compliments on her clothes wherever she goes. She always looked so put together going to work. She would have this gorgeous statement jewelry. When I was in high school, I would ask her if I could borrow it and she always said no, and that they looked too grown for me. So I would silently go into my parents’ room and take a pair of her dangly bejeweled earrings, wear them during the school day, and then once I was got home, I would race to try to put them back in her jewelry box before she saw that they were missing. 

How you looked was important. A lot of us worshipping here today were raised like that. There’s a reason why appearances matter. You want to be taken seriously. You want to be seen as professional. You take pride in how you come across. You want to appear well and age-appropriate.

Even Easter season plays into appearances. We Christians have just come out of the grittiness of Holy Week, and yet on Easter we enter into a day of softness, with bunnies and candy and not a hair out of place to complement that perfect Easter outfit.

But there’s a shadow side to all of that. Sometimes we can be so focused on how we are presenting ourselves that it turns into the need to be perfect. To always say the right thing. To only show your best self. To always be…presentable. There’s a potential danger in that: you end up hiding aspects of yourself. And hiding yourself is the last thing God would ever want us to do.

In today’s story, the disciples are hiding in the Upper Room behind locked doors. And I can understand why they might be hiding: they have been through the ringer, they saw what happened to Jesus, and they’re still afraid. They’ve heard from Mary Magdalene that she has seen Jesus since he rose from the dead, but they haven’t seen him yet – not until now in today’s story. 

What is it that they see. 

We might be tempted to imagine that resurrected Jesus would come to them like a superhero or mythical Zeus, all shiny and polished and new. He’s coming to the disciples resurrected, so wouldn’t he want to show himself as perfect? As healed? That way the disciples would be comforted, they would not be afraid, and they would know that it was the Messiah in front of them. 

We don’t see that in today’s story.

Jesus invites us to think about appearances differently. What I was drawn to in today’s story is that Jesus turns appearances inside out. He’s not concerned with his outside appearance being perfect. 

So how is he appearing to the disciples now that he’s resurrected?

He appears to us with wounds. That’s what I was drawn to in today’s story: that even resurrected, Jesus appears to us with wounds. 

Why would someone show their wounds? Maybe out of solidarity with the other, or to show what he’s been through, or to show how he came through something. Maybe that’s where Jesus is coming from.

There’s another layer to this. Not only is Christ showing his wounds, his wounds are still fresh. Why is Christ appearing like that? 

Because Jesus is showing us his vulnerability. What we see…is Jesus vulnerable.

Even after resurrection, he is showing us the same vulnerability that we saw during Holy Week. On Maundy Thursday, Susan preached about Jesus being vulnerable when he took off his robe before washing the disciples’ feet. The same vulnerability Lex preached about on Good Friday when Jesus was hanging on the cross. In fact, “to be vulnerable” stems from the Latin word “vulnerare”, which means to wound, and “vulnus”, which means a wound.

God’s arc of vulnerability is fascinating. We go from the Old Testament with Moses seeing God though God’s face was hidden, seemingly invulnerable and impenetrable and unreachable…to this New Testament story when Jesus willingly lets us see God’s self, vulnerable because of open wounds that Jesus does not hide but actually shows people, open wounds that he urges the disciples to reach into. Impenetrable and unreachable is transformed into vulnerable. Jesus is the vulnerable man before vulnerability in men even became a thing in today’s culture. He doesn’t just invite or show the disciples his wounds. He urges them to reach out to him, to touch him, to feel him, to put their hands and fingers in his side.

He is opening himself up to us. That’s what being vulnerable means. It doesn’t mean being fragile or frail. It’s an opening up of yourself. It’s an opening up of yourself, a sharing of one’s self with honesty, and not letting yourself be held back by any outcome like pride or rejection or whether people will understand and agree you. That’s vulnerability.


We see another layer of humanity here. We’ve read Scripture where SO many people have wanted to touch Jesus and feel his healing presence. And Jesus responds. But today’s story is not a response. Here Jesus is initiating. He’s offering himself yet again! I am in awe of that kind of love. God just continues to offer himself to us over and over and over again. It’s through THIS vulnerability that we really see how God is revealed. Jesus shares his self, he opens himself up to others – knowing that his power is not diminished, not knowing the outcome of whether people will doubt or believe who he is. 

What does this mean for us in our after-Easter life? Our Easter triumph is how Jesus is appearing. The triumphant King returns…He is risen AND he is wounded. Our Alleluias don’t erase the wounds. The wounds are what make the disciples believe that Jesus has actually risen. Jesus is resurrected, and yet he is REALLY leaning into his human-ness in today’s story! Appearances have their place, but it’s showing our vulnerabilities that really matter. That’s what it means to be human.

I now have a new take on Sunday best, a new softness for it. Maybe even an opening up for it. With this Scripture, for me, Jesus blew the doors off the tyranny of perfection. So maybe we can look at Sunday best as showing our vulnerable selves, our wounds and joys, your gifts and shortcomings. It can be as simple as telling someone that you want to be their friend, or that you are going through a tough time, or having a conversation with a parishioner and friend where you share personal experiences that draw you closer together in a shared bond of compassion and trust. Vulnerability leads to deeper relationship.

Now looking back, my grandmother, and others like her, dressing up on their way to a bus boycott or to church even the Sunday best was an act of softness, an act of vulnerability, an invitation of acceptance and respect in a world that was not accepting. With the eyes of Christ, those dressy, Sunday best clothes that we wore then and wear now, invite us to respond to one another as equals. Come as you are, to church, and even to the Eucharist which is Christ and us at our most vulnerable. With the eyes of Christ, we Christians know that perfect appearance, wholeness, holiness, include all of who we are.