Distinguishing Marks


“She supposed they were imperfections, those marks, but they didn’t feel that way to her; they were a history, cut into his body: the map of a life of endless war.”  Cassandra Clare, City of Glass

There’s a curious requirement on every passport. We have to confess to “distinguishing marks.” When push comes to shove, they are the things that set us apart as different from anyone else. Everybody has them. No one is “undistinguished.”  On my left hand I have a scar which is the  reminder of a teenage encounter with a broken wine bottle.On my left leg there is a burn mark which reminds me of a five-year-old poking a biro into a gas fire and watching, fascinated,  as the end melted into a blob and slowly dripped onto my bare leg…

We are marked by our past. War wounds, stretch marks, operation scars…Beneath the surface too, we carry  the inherited dispositions and even habit patterns of our genetic makeup. We are marked by our family history.

And we are marked by our emotional journey, with our faces criss-crossed with laughter-lines, set frowns, and the wrinkles of that speak of a hundred nights of anxiety!

The apostle Paul closed his letter to the Christians in Galatia with a rather chilling aside: “I bear in my body the marks of Jesus.”  What did he mean?

He meant, in one sense, that he bore the physical evidence of walking with Jesus. And it wasn’t pretty. In 2 Corinthans 11, rather against his will, he tells something of his own story:  

“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?”

Paul isn’t [just] moaning in self-pity, but thinking through the fact that he bore the marks of his past. In Cassandra Clare’s phrase, “Cut into his body [was]the map of a life of endless war.

In the Acts of Paul and Thecla, Paul is decribed thus: “he was a man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were projecting, and he had flashing eyes and his eyebrows  met and his nose was somewhat long, and he was full of grace and mercy; at one time he seemed like a man, and at another time he seemed like an angel.”

He was marked, inside and out, by his walk with Jesus.




The Bible introduces us to someone  who was probably intellectually brilliant, learned and argumentative. Emotionally, he was zealous and determined. All these were the traits of his personality,  and psychologically as well as physically, Paul bore the marks of his past.

But the marks of Jesus go deeper…

I was reading this week of Jacob wrestling with God. The passage says that after that, he always walked with a limp! Is that an Old-Testament version of the “marks of Jesus”?  God affects the way you walk!

And think of the disicples who were in trouble with the authorities in the book of Acts. The Bible mentions that their persecutors “took note that they had been with Jesus.”  God affects the way you speak!

And Saul said, ‘Who are you Lord?’” God affects the way you see!

So what are the “marks of Jesus”? It’s true, Paul may have meant the marks of the whip on his back… but he also meant his will and determination.


When Paul said “We have the mind of Christ,” he meant that we share the character and attitues of the One with whom we walk,  in His love for the broken; compassion for the multitude….

And this is reciprocal.

In Mark 5, a woman grabbed at the hem of his robe, seeking healing. Jesus turned to see who it was, saying “Who touched me?” The point is that faith always touches Jesus. Hebrews 2 and 4 remind us that Jesus is “touched with the feeling of our pain.” He “bore our griefs” and “our sin was laid on him.” The marks of Jesus are redemptive and powerful. He bears our very lives upon and within His own life.

If we bear the marks of Jesus, it is because He bore our marks first.


But for this morning, do you bear the marks of Jesus?

In your character?

In your attitudes?

In your desires and ambitions?

You are HIS workmanship, created for good works

You are HIS witnesses, to the ends of the world

The marks of Jesus are on you. And the world will take note that you have been with Jesus.

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