The smell of burning coals. The hazy vision through clouds of smoke. The crackle of embers. Peter had been here before. It wasn’t long ago that he had stood by another fire and had that smell waft to his nostrils. Standing there, his heart palpitating in his chest, he had boldly declared his ignorance of the criminal named Jesus.
And here he was again by another fire. As he stood there, dripping wet from his swim to the beach in the sea, he harkened back to his words, “I tell you the truth! I don’t know him!” On the other side of the smoke, the penetrating gaze of Jesus cut him to the heart (John 21).
Was it by accident that Jesus built a fire on the beach? I think not. Jesus engaged Peter with the sensory memories of his greatest failure. The wound was still open for Peter, and Jesus was poking at it.
Then there was the woman who had the issue of blood for 12 years (Luke 8). It was a medical condition that had no doubt caused her great pain and shame, ostracizing her from a community who believed in her uncleanliness. She had lived in the shadows for those twelve years, away from any sort of recognition, hoping that no one would notice her. And when she approached Jesus that day, she did so in a most inauspicious way, again hoping to simply remain in the background.
But after she touched his garment and was healed, Jesus poked at her wound of insecurity. He forced her into the spotlight, the place she most wanted to avoid.
Then there was the father with the sick son who came to Jesus daring to hope for a miracle (Mark 9). He had spent years suffering over the plight of his boy and what it had done to his family. He had seen his son try and throw himself in the fire and the water. He was clinging to the thinnest twine of belief. Jesus poked at his wound too, saying that everything was possible for him who believes.
What kind of a Savior does such things? What kind of a Messiah sees a person’s most exposed point – their deepest fears, insecurity, and pain – and then rips the scabs off the wound and starts to dig around?
It’s the kind of Savior that refuses to settle for halfway healings and surface conversion. It’s the kind of Savior who knows that words are cheap. It’s the kind of Savior who will settle at nothing less than the heart of the one He seeks. And the surest and truest way to the heart is through the open wound.
That’s what Jesus goes for. Even if it hurts.