The amazing human hand is so versatile!
Consisting of 27 bones, muscles, tendons and nerves—sensory nerves to warn us when something is hot or when injured and motor nerves relaying messages from the brain to enable us to move our wrist and fingers. Our hands also have ridges (we call them finger prints) to help us grip things. Some animals also have hands or paws but only primates and humans have fingers (digits) that can move. But only the human hand has an opposable thumb that can touch each of the other fingers enabling us to accomplish so many things—even picking up something as small as a pin or piece of lint. Gripping a pencil or wiping tears from a child’s eyes.
Hands can be clenched to create a weapon—a fist–or opened to give and receive something or to greet another person with a firm handshake. Some hands are callused from manual labor—others soft and even beautiful.
Anyway we look at them our hands are amazing and beautiful. Our hands not only have unique finger prints, but also, I believe, our unique hands reveal the fingerprint or our Creator. Perhaps you have visited the Sistine Chapel in Rome or seen Michelangelo’s fresco painting, The Creation of Adam. The hand of God is reaching out to touch the hand of the first human, Adam. The picture probably doesn’t portray reality but it is a wonderful reminder that we are not the product of chance.
A few weeks ago, here on the Front Porch Swing, we considered the stories of two people that had life-changing experiences through the simple touch of a hand. The woman with a chronic hemorrhage reached out to discreetly touch Jesus and was instantly healed. Jesus touched an untouchable man, filled with leprosy, and sent the man home healed in body and spirit.
This week, millions of people will celebrate two of the most dramatic events in human history: the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Human hands were involved in both the crucifixion and resurrection. So, let’s consider some of the hands that participated in Jesus death and the celebration that followed his resurrection.
Serving hands: The night prior to his crucifixion, Jesus gathered with his twelve closest friends (He called them friends for the first time that night, see John 15:15). The usual table conversation was mingled with the liturgy of the Passover celebration. Everything seemed normal—the food and the songs and Scripture readings—until Jesus rose from his place and disrobed. Wrapped in a towel like a common servant he began to wash the feet of the disciples. Think of it: the only truly holy man in the room, the teacher, was washing the feet of his students. Judas, one of the men at the table was a traitor. After Jesus’ hands had washed the twelfth set of feet, he put on his robe and took his place at the table. His hands passed a morsel of food to Judas—a symbol of friendship. The hands that had washed the disciples’ feet filled a cup with wine and passed it to his friends.
Greedy hands: Judas’ hands, that had previously gripped thirty silver coins in exchange for selling Jesus to his enemies, received the bread from Jesus. A few hours later these hands of the betrayer would embrace Jesus in the garden and seal his doom with a kiss.
Clenched hands: Jesus was dragged before the high priest to face an illegal nighttime trial. Without provocation, one of the temple officers struck Jesus’ face with clenched fist. Very early the next morning soldiers slapped and beat Jesus. Their hands shaped thorns into a crown and embedded it in his skull. Strong hands gripped whips and scourged Jesus—almost to the point of death.
Guilty hands: Wrapped in regret and overwhelmed with guilt, Pilate washed his hands, but he couldn’t cleanse his conscience.
Bloody hands: The hands of Roman soldiers drove spikes into an innocent man’s hands, securing him to the cross. These bloody hands also cast lots to see who could claim Jesus’ clothing.
Compassionate hands: The hands of Joseph and Nicodemus—once timidly secret followers of Jesus—boldly requested Pilate to release Jesus’ body to them. Their hands gently anointed Jesus body and wrapped it in linen and placed it in Joseph’s personal tomb.
Yes, human hands participated in the most grievous crime in history. Roman soldiers and politicians, religious leaders and even one of Jesus’ disciples shared responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus.
Compassionate hands placed Jesus’ body in a tomb and hastened to roll a stone in place before Sabbath began at sunset.
It was a dark Friday night, and all hope that Jesus’ was the Messiah had been extinguished. But, the story wasn’t over. Sunday’s big surprise was coming!
No human hands removed the stone from the tomb. Neither foe nor friend dared to challenge the seal of Rome guaranteeing the grave would remain secure. The soldiers and the seal of Rome could not prevent Jesus from evacuating the tomb. The stone was moved—miraculously. Not to let the resurrected Jesus out, but to permit eyewitnesses to enter and to verify that the tomb was empty. No evidence of grave robbery. Just the empty linen cloth that had once shrouded body of Jesus and the face cloth, now folded neatly in the corner.
Very early Sunday morning, a handful of women that had followed Jesus timidly approached the grave. Concerned on how they could roll back the stone. No need to worry. The grave was already open. And empty.
Believing hands: Mary was the first person to encounter Jesus after his resurrection. Assuming he was the caretaker, she asked where Jesus’ body had been moved. He responded, “Mary.” Recognizing Jesus, Mary threw all caution and décor to the wind and fell at his feet, her hands clinging to him. She was the first eyewitness and the first person to touch the resurrected Christ.
Later that evening, Jesus mysteriously appeared before ten of his disciples that were secretly gathered in fear. When he showed them the scars on his hands and his side they believed and were filled with joy.
Thomas (who had been absent at the previous meeting with Jesus) refused to believe that Jesus was alive. His response: “Unless I can see the nail prints in his hands and touch his side, I cannot believe.” Eight days later Jesus again appeared among his disciples and invited Thomas to reach out his finger and touch Jesus’ hands. Thomas’ response (apparently without needing to touch Jesus) was to declare, “My Lord and my God!”
No more doubting. No more fear. That’s the power of the human touch.
So in my Jesus Album that we have been considering the past several weeks, I want to frame a picture of the scarred hands of Jesus.
Whenever I mentally gaze on those scarred hands—those amazing hands, scarred hands— I exclaim with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”
How about you?
Have you a mental picture of Jesus’ hands? Hands that touched the leper? Caressed the faces of little children? Offered friendship to a traitor? Hands that reach out to you and me, inviting us to come if we are weary and broken and have been scarred by life! Trust me! I will give you rest.
The human is amazing, but never have there been hands more beautiful than those nail pierced hands. How beautiful the hands that shared the wine and the bread and washed feet!
I share a link to a song about the beauty of Jesus’ hands and body and bride.
Right click below and open the link to this song and give thanks to our savior and lord this holy week.