But Thomas (who was called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.”

In July of 2011, 69 people were killed and more than 100 wounded on the island of Utoya in Norway, and one of the most striking aspects of the tragedy, beyond the tragedy itself, was that it had occurred in such a beautiful place—not a desert or a school but on a lovely wooded island. Despite the passing of unspeakable events, the landscape continued to flourish. The trees continued to grow and the birds continued to sing and the bugs continued to hum, and it seemed as if the island had turned a blind eye to a brutal injustice.

Nature’s resilience is in this way oppressive. When we mourn a loss, or celebrate something happy, nature doesn’t take note. Funerals happen on sunny May afternoons and marriages on cold winter nights. The earth doesn’t stop for us—the trees don’t clap for us, the mountains don’t bow to us. When placed as the backdrop for the Utoya massacre, the beautiful landscape seems like a guilty bystander, maybe even a criminal.

To honor the lives lost on the island, architect Jonas Dahlberg designed a memorial—not a statue or a building to be erected in loving memory but a channel to be cut through a peninsula near the island. In NPR’s interview with Dahlberg, he said:

During my first site visit, the experience of seeing those gunshots … it was like being in an open wound, and it took me to a stage of deep sadness where it was hard to breathe. So I didn’t want to illustrate loss; I wanted to make actual loss. It’s just a cut through the peninsula. …

Dahlberg intends to hurt the landscape, severing itself from itself, calling it a “wounded landscape.” Nature will not be allowed to forget the tragic events, and neither will we.


If it’s a lesson in moving on, it’s a hard one. Often we try to move on from difficult circumstances by extending forgiveness, or trying to, in order to wrap things up so that we don’t have to be bothered by the things of the past. We’d like to forget. But forgetting is not necessarily forgiving; for me, it is just the same as everything else, namely, seeking to make the situation better…for me.

What’s special about real forgiveness is that it doesn’t have to come with a lovin spoonful of amnesia to mix into our late night cup of Sleepy Time tea. Walker Percy, in Lost in the Cosmos, writes that moviegoers love a good plot twist in which a character finds himself creating a new identity in a different country or a telenovela in which the protagonist bumps his head and forgets his past. “The source of pleasure for the moviegoer is not the amnesia but the certified and risk-free license to leave the old self behind and enter upon a new life, whether by amnesia or mistaken identity.” In the “forgive and forget” dichotomy, we long for the forget more than the forgive. Forgetting is the “way of nature.” It is growing new leaves to hide the dead ones, new branches to cover the lightning-struck bark.

Over at Artway Reinier Sonneveld connects Dahlberg’s “Memory Wound”/“Wounded Landscape” to the holes in Jesus’ hands. In the passage above, from the Gospel According to John, sins are forgiven but their effects remain. Jesus doesn’t return as updated software, new and improved. He instead bears the scars of the cross, even today, the second person of the Trinity seated at the right hand of God–wounded. He isn’t the only one. Thomas (who is approximately an extension of you and me) is wounded too, being as sinful as he is. Neither of them, in this resurrection scene, is fully ‘healed.’ Both alive, yes, and breathing, but the evidence of the cross taking shape as scars remains between them.

Thomas’s first offense wasn’t doubt. He was, before all else, a bad friend. He slept when Jesus asked him to stay awake, and he didn’t protest when Jesus was handed over to die. He drank the last of the milk in the refrigerator, maybe. He said he couldn’t hang out because had homework but partied with other friends instead. He was silent when Jesus died, and when he finally decides to speak, only then does he doubt. And when he asks to see the wounds, Jesus holds out his hands and lets Thomas touch them.

Jesus doesn’t command us to move on, to cover up our wounds, or, speaking theologically, to beat the cross level and play a more fun resurrection game. This passage serves as a reminder that we don’t need to forget in order to be forgiven–which is good news especially for those of us who can’t, or won’t, forget the things we try to forgive. Despite the wounds that won’t go away, Jesus enters into the house where all the doors are locked and says to his disciples, “Peace be with you.” Jesus is still wounded, and his disciples are still sinners, and just as there are still holes in Jesus’ hands, there are still holes in our hearts. The resurrected Christ isn’t a dentist, reappearing in the dead of night to fill cavities; neither is he a phony Hogwarts professor with a pesky proclivity for erasing memories. Instead he takes a good look at the voids within us, and shows us that he has his own painful voids, and that even with our missing puzzle pieces, and even though we can’t erase our scars and take back our punches, nevertheless, he still comes to find us and wishes us peace.