Consider the amazing dexterity of our hands. With them we care for our bodies: we wash, feed and groom ourselves. With them we work: we plant and harvest gardens, we paint kitchens, change tires, steer machines and construct roads and factories. With them we play: we perform violin concertos, shoot free throws, twist Rubik’s Cubes, move chess pieces and lift high our trophies.
Consider, too, how we use our hands to express ourselves socially. We shake hands when arriving and wave when departing. We place our hands over our lips to silence a crowd. We clap our hands to give applause and turn them thumbs down to disapprove. We wring our hands in desperation and worry, clench them in rage, wiggle them to indicate tentativeness, lift our right hand to our forehead in salute, hold our hands behind our backs to keep a secret and lay them upon another as a sign of peace. The list of symbolic gestures is nearly endless.
Think, too, of our remarkable ability with our hands to bring blessing or cursing upon others, to help them or to inflict deep hurt. The power of touch, whether for good or ill, is immense.
A vast array of hands worked together to bring Jesus to his cross at Golgotha, and to crucify him. Judas grabbed money to betray him. Caiphas and the religious leaders handed him over to Pilate. Pilate “washed his hands” of him. The crowds whipped and scourged him. The soldiers handled him roughly, and hammered his hands and feet to the beams. They divided his clothes, and cast lots for them.
Make no mistake: Our hands, too, were part of the conspiracy of those who mocked and scourged Jesus, who affixed him to the cross and killed him. Our fingers and palms are smeared with his blood and full of guilt.
I see the crowd in Pilate's hall,
their furious cries I hear;
their shouts of "Crucify!" appall,
their curses fill mine ear.
And of that shouting multitude
I feel that I am one,
and in that din of voices rude
I recognize my own.
I see the scourgers rend the flesh
of God's belovèd Son;
and as they smite, I feel afresh
that I of them am one.
Around the Cross the throng I see
that mock the Sufferer's groan,
yet still my voice it seems to be,
as if I mocked alone.
'Twas I that shed that sacred Blood,
I nailed him to the Tree,
I crucified the Christ of God,
I joined the mockery.
Yet not the less that Blood avails
to cleanse me from sin,
and not the less that Cross prevails
to give me peace within.
But—thanks be to God—after Jesus arose, his pierced hands and feet set free from the cross and grave that held them fast, he came to his disciples. He extended his hands to them in greeting, and gave his resurrection blessing.
To Thomas, who at first doubted that Jesus had arisen, the Lord Jesus spoke special welcome and offered special embrace. He invited Thomas to touch his hands. He encouraged him: “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach your hand and put it into my side.”
Jesus makes same gesture of welcome and embrace toward us. He offers us his hands, urging us to believe and trust that he suffered, died and rose again—for us. He calls us, too, in grateful response, to offer him our own hands and hearts—indeed, our entire selves—in worship and thanksgiving, in wonder and praise.
Lent is a time for self-examination, an occasion to ask ourselves centrally important questions. Among them, these two:
Lift high the cross,
the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore
his sacred Name?