The fact is, I was nearly halfway through my 20s before I got my ears pierced for the first time. My father had disapproved when I was young, and so the choice to pierce my ears came much later in life. I also have no tattoos to adorn my body, hidden or obvious for two very simple reasons; one I never felt the need to get a tattoo solely out of rebellion, and two, I was never completely satisfied with any piece of art enough to think that I would want it on my body for the rest of my life.
My mother used to say to me, “Imagine what that tattoo will look like when you’re 80.” She meant it purely as a deterrent, and perhaps it worked, but I found it a most humorous exercise to try to find a tattoo that would be able to grow with me as my skin inevitably sagged or grew wrinkly. In my mind’s eye, if I could just be creative enough I could get a tattoo that would look like Pangea and when I was 80 I would end up with the seven continents in their current configuration. I was never creative enough, or decisive enough to make that decision.
Tattoos and piercings throughout history and between cultures have had a myriad of meetings and uses. In some cultures, body piercings, tattoos, and mutilation were, and still are, a way to worship, while in others it is a sign of slavery.
Exodus 21:5-6 ESV “ But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.
Looking at our own culture, we tend to think of these as expressions of the individual, a public statement of themselves, or as a creative means to convey a message.
I find myself asking strangers on a semi-regular basis about their tattoos. Something about their commitment to change their bodies in a permanent way begs my curiosity as to their motivation, granted they were in their right mind when they obtain them. (No judgment for the person who has had a sordid past.)
What was so meaningful? Who are they trying to honor? What is the statement that they’re trying to make? How outlandish or kitschy is the design? How much pain and discomfort were they willing to endure to have the look they wanted? How has it changed the way that they are perceived by others? Has it changed how they live now in a practical way? What amount of time, effort, and money did they put into their idea? Are they planning on getting more tattoos? Was it an enjoyable experience? What is important about how they marked their body? And maybe just as importantly, why did they choose their body as a canvas to broadcast it?
I’m sure not everyone with body art has put this much thought into their tattoos or piercings. But when you ask the question, sometimes you’re surprised at just how much thought has gone into how a person looks.
Of all the amazing lengths we go through to mark and change our bodies, all pale in comparison to the markings that Jesus, Himself, have borne and none are more beautiful than those he has chosen to keep.
Part of our problem is, we don’t think of Jesus as a man with piercings.
Scripture, however, does not shy away from describing the evidence of his sacrifice. Isaiah even prophesies when he refers to Jesus’s “stripes”, the cuts made across his back as he was being flogged, saying, “By his stripes, we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
Is there still evidence of these left on his resurrected body? We were told we are inscribed, engraved on his hands in Isaiah 49:16. This is referring to the place where the nails pierced him.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.
I believe there is definitely some sort of remnant left, an ebenezer of sorts. Like the stones erected by Samuel in the Bible, Jesus’s scars are a testimony to his legacy, and a reminder of his sacrifice. I imagine Jesus as he walks around after the resurrection, feeling the inside of his new piercings. I imagine he sees past them to myself, as if my literal name is tattooed or barred in that very spot, a reminder to him and the world of his promises. And every believer can say the same. This is a symbol of his vow to love and redeem you(Christian), as well as a sign of his devotion to his people, and it clearly decorates his body.
After Jesus’s crucifixion, there must have been tangible evidence shown through the appearance of piercings or scars. If this were not the case, he would not have instructed Thomas to place his fingers where his hands were pierced.
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” John 20:27 ESV
No, Jesus bears the ultimate body piercings, and they have a richer and more meaningful message to broadcast; they show the depths of God’s love for us and provision for our sin. Jesus, with his piercings honors his Father. It is his statement of love and the consequences of sin- his message rings loud and clear. How far was he willing to go? He followed completely willing, even to the point of death. His marks are the proof of how much pain and discomfort he was willing to endure, not just his physical sufferings, but the weight of all the world’s sin, and the entire wrath of God the Father. This, all, to reconcile us to himself. We who are unworthy and unfaithful, who, too often trample under foot that which is holy.
Was the choice made in haste like so many of our own adornments? Absolutely not! It was planned before the beginning of time. Has his piercings changed the way that we perceive him? I hope so. Can you imagine encountering your Savior? What would it be like to have him physically in front of you as you become aware of his scars for the first time, knowing that he endured them on your behalf, and having to come face-to-face with the reality of what he has accomplished and the means by which he has accomplished them?
It is holy ground.
There is great cost portrayed in those markings. And if we are honest, we will say, truly, we love ONLY because he FIRST loved us. Because of this, Jesus has the most beautiful and profound body art of all time. It cost him more than is communicable, and gained us more than can be conceived this side of heaven. We often use tattoos to make personal statements, to aid in our memories, to show change, and to adorn ourselves. Wow! In all of these things God certainly does it better!
Written by Melanie Barnfield. Melanie Barnfield is an artist, closet introvert, wordsmith, and lover of Christ. She has been married 14 years to the love of her life, and has been blessed with 4 beautiful children. Residing in Benton, IL, she is an avid reader who enjoys teaching, gardening, and photography.