Summary: Through the hands of Jesus, we see his caring, healing, love, compassion, and blessing. We are safe in his hands. My hope is that the world is safe in our hands.

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The Hands of Christ

Luke 24:50-53

March 12, 2006

Hands tell us so much about a person. Toni loves to tell the story of her grandfather’s hands. When she was a little girl, he would take her ice fishing during the winter. When they were back at home, she remembers that he would take her socks and boots off, and hold her feet in his hands until they were warm again. If you talk to Toni about her grandfather now, she will tell you about his hands.

When I was in college, I worked at the State Hospital and Training Center, as it was called then. One of the guys I worked with was a rough and tough inner-city product who, as a Viet Nam veteran, had seen some horrible fighting. His toughness had been proven on mean streets and in dangerous jungles. One day, I remember watching him apply a bandage to one of the residents who had been injured. His hands were soft and gentle as he carefully applied the gauze and the tape. I remember being amazed that such a rough character could have such kind hands.

Hands are amazing parts of our bodies. A few weeks ago, Toni and I were eating dinner out at Mancino’s out on Dupont Road. Rob and Jenn Jackson came in and sat down beside us. Rob was carrying Celest in her seat. He didn’t hesitate, but looked at me and said, “You watch her. We’re going to go get our food.”

So I took her out of her seat (Celest and I have a special relationship ever since I baptized her a few months ago) and held her close. I realized at that point that my wife is correct when she says that babies are given to young people before they get bifocals. I had a little trouble focusing on her, but she didn’t seem to mind. She did what most babies do in that situation…she reached for my nose.

She was getting to know her world through these tiny, soft hands. Who knows what those hands will become in the future…probably the hands of a mother which will caress her own babies…perhaps the hands of a teacher which will write math problems on the blackboard for elementary students…perhaps the skilled hands of a surgeon through whom lives will be saved…perhaps the hands of a preacher waving in the air to make a point…who knows? But for a few moments, those tiny infant hands pushed, pulled, and squeezed my nose…and got me to thinking.

Hands can be used to accomplish great things…artists use their hands to create wonderful images in charcoal, paint, and sculpture…skilled craftsmen use their hands to build furniture or bridges or great skyscrapers…mechanics work with their hands to maintain the industry of the nation…writers engage in the activity of putting words on paper to give us wonderful novels and poetry…scientists of all sorts work with their hands in laboratories all around the world to find new discoveries to benefit all of humankind.

Last week, we discussed the feet of Christ as we began our Lenten journey toward the Easter resurrection. Today we are obviously going to spend some time with his hands because in his hands, we find the essence of who he was.

The first thing we learn about the hands of Jesus is that they were always open. Back in my sophomore year in college, I picked up a book by a fellow named Henri Nouwen. At that time, he was a little known Roman Catholic priest who was professor of pastoral theology at Yale University after spending a couple of years teaching at Notre Dame. He was to become, before his early death, one of the most prolific and important writers on Christian spirituality in the world.

In fact, one of his books was used as a textbook during my first semester in seminary back in 1977. But in 1972, he wrote a book titled, “With Open Hands” (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press). This was a book on prayer and in it; he wrote that it is impossible to pray with clenched fists. One’s hands must be open to receive the goodness that God has to offer, he said. Clenched fists are a sign of bitterness, disappointment, and hate. One cannot approach God with clenched fists, only with open hands to receive all that God has to give.

Think about it for a minute. There just aren’t a whole lot of things we can do with a clenched fist, except punch somebody’s lights out. Try to peal a banana with a fist. Try to play the piano with a fist. Try to plant your garden with clenched fists. You can do almost nothing unless your hands are open.

As we look at the hands of Jesus, we notice that they were always open hands. He began his training as a carpenter’s apprentice in his father’s shop. His hands cut lumber and fashioned rough boards into objects of use: tables, chairs, door frames, and hitching posts.

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