The Hands of Jesus
January 14th, 1973 @ 7:30 PM
THE HANDS OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1-14-73 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor bringing the message from the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John, entitled The Hands of Jesus. And these services on Sunday evening I always preach from the life of our Lord. And we are now preaching through the Gospel of John and have come to chapter 20. And we read beginning at verse 24 to the end of the chapter [John 20:24-31]; John, the Fourth Gospel, chapter 20, beginning at verse 24. And if on the radio you share with us this hour, get your Bible and read with us. Read it out loud. The Bible was written to be read out loud. Now everyone together, beginning at verse 24:
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.
And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book:
But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.
In this story of the appearance of the Lord raised from the dead, and meeting in closed rooms with His disciples, the first time that He met with the eleven Thomas was not there [John 20:19-24]. The first Sunday evening he missed that glorious rendezvous with our risen Lord.
And when the other nine came to Thomas and said to him, “We have seen the Lord, He is alive,” Thomas, being a true skeptic and a representative of our modern generation, Thomas said, “Dead men don’t live again and dead men don’t rise out of the grave, and I would not believe that Jesus is alive, that He is raised, unless I were to see the scars in His hand and put my fingers in them, and take my hand and thrust it into His side” [John 20:25].
Eight days later, that is the following Sunday night, as the Jewish people counted time Sunday to Sunday, eight days, the following Sunday night the Lord appeared to the disciples, Thomas being present [John 20:26]. And said to Thomas the first thing and repeated in his ears what Thomas had said [John 20:27] which shows that the Lord knows every word that we speak and sees everything that we do. And He turned to Thomas and repeated to him that crass and crude and rude word of unbelief. And He showed him His hands with the scars, the print of the driven nails [John 20:27].
And those hands, as I read the passage and prepared for the message tonight, the hands of our Lord figured so prominently in His life and certainly so here in this proof that was demanded before Thomas would believe [John 20:25]; the hands of Jesus [John 20:27].
So many times our Lord is drawn in the artist’s imagination as being emaciated and thin and certainly always effeminate, effete. Actually, as I read of His life and the tremendous burden and strain of His ministry, when the other disciples were weary and worn, when they fell asleep, when they ought to have been awake and watching, our Lord was most active and alive. He must have been very strong, most virile and especially His hands. For thirty years He was known as the carpenter’s son [Matthew 13:55]. And for many of those years He was known as the carpenter [Mark 6:3]. He worked with His hands.
Almost certainly, Mary was a widow. Joseph must have died because from the cross our Lord presented His mother to the care and keeping of John [John 19:25-27]. Joseph most certainly was dead. As such, the Lord Jesus being the eldest son was responsible for the livelihood and the support of His mother and His four brothers and His sisters. He worked with His hands. And His hands must have been strong.
One of the interesting stories you read in the ecclesiastical histories was one from Heggesippus, who lived way back yonder before 200 AD, way back yonder. And it was picked up—the works of Heggesippus had been destroyed—it was picked up and repeated by Eusebius in his ecclesiastical history. And Eusebius says in quoting from Heggesippus that “In the days of Domitian,” and Domitian died in 96 AD, “In the days of Domitian that the grandsons of Jude,” who was the half brother of the Lord Jesus, “the grandsons of Jude were brought before the Roman Caesar Domitian, for the authorities had heard that they were of the descendants of David a king, and that they were related to Christ who Himself was a Messianic King. And less there be seed of revolt in the empire, they were arrested and brought before the imperial majesty in the Roman court. But when the Romans looked at them and saw their hands” and the ecclesiastical history says that, “and saw their hands, and learned that they were farmers in a little commune in Galilee, and that the kingdom that they looked for was not on this earth but from heaven, that they were dismissed by the Roman Caesar in contumacious contempt.” But reading that story, the grandsons of Jude, the half brother of our Lord Jesus, when they looked at their hands they were working men’s hands. And the hands of our Lord were that. They were strong. All the days of His life did He know toil, being poor.
Those strong hands are hands of judgment. When John the Baptist stood announcing the kingdom and the King, he said, “God’s winnowing fan is in His hand, and He shall purge the threshing floor, gathering the wheat into the garner; and the chaff will He burn with unquenchable fire” [Matthew 3:12]; the hand of our Lord, a strong hand of judgment! And the Scriptures say that He made of the throngs a cord, and He drove out of the temple the moneychangers and those who did traffic in the house of God [John 2:13-16]; strong hands of judgment. “For it is a fearful thing,” said the author of Hebrews, “to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebrews 10:31].
They are strong hands of authority. In the third chapter of John it is declared the Father loves the Son, and has committed all things into His hand” [John 3:35]. “All authority is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” [Matthew 28:18]. They are hands of authority.
And they are hands, strong hands of destiny. In the first chapter of the Book of the Revelation, in verse 16 it says: “And He had in His right hand seven stars” [Revelation 1:16]. “And the stars are the angels of the churches” [Revelation 1:20]. In my preaching through the Revelation it came to my conviction that the angels are the pastors. The leadership of the church lies through the pastor in the hands of our living Lord.
I don’t think there is a more effective statue in the earth than that one you will see on the lawn before the Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts. There in bronze stands the great Phillips Brooks with an open Bible, preaching the gospel of the Son of God, and right back of him is a figure of the Lord Jesus, and the Lord has His right hand on the shoulder of His preacher. In His hand the seven stars, and the seven stars are the angels, the pastors, of the churches of Christ [Revelation 1:20].
And they are saving hands, strong hands to keep us forever and forever. In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, in the twenty-eighth verse, our Lord says, “I give unto my sheep eternal life; and they shall never perish, never; and no one is able to pluck them out of My hand” [John 10:28], the strong hand of our Lord. “My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” [John 10:29-30], the saving, keeping hand of our Lord.
When Simon Peter began to sink in the boisterous waves in the Sea of Galilee, he cried to the Lord saying, “Master, save me!” [Matthew 14:28-30]. And Jesus walked over and took him by the hand, and lifted him up [Matthew 14:31]. So does God do with us. He holds us in His unchanging hand.
One of the most dramatic stories—oh I remember this, so many years ago—one of the most dramatic stories I ever heard was of a man who was describing an Alpine trip, climbing the face of one of those awesome peaks in Switzerland. And there was a place in the journey, he said, where the guide knowing the narrow passage, the guide swung around the edge of the cliff to the other side and then reached forth his hand to him and said, “Step on my hand and so come around.” And the man said, “I looked down the thousands of feet below me, that yawning abyss. And the guide said, ‘Step on my hand and swing around the cliff.’ And when I hesitated the guide replied, ‘Sir, this hand has never lost a man. Step!’” And if that could be true of an Alpine guide, how infinitely and immeasurably more is it true of our Lord? That hand has never lost a human soul. Never! “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of My hand” [John 10:28].
The strong hands of our Lord; they are healing hands. And Jairus, one of the elders and one of the rulers in the synagogues of the people, Jairus came to the Lord Jesus and said, “Master, my daughter, a twelve-year-old girl” [Matthew 9:18; Luke 8:1-42]. Wasn’t it a beautiful thing to hear that girl? I asked her, “How old are you?” She’s a teenager. This sweet child of Jairus died, and the father in his grief and sorrow went to Jesus, and said, “Master, come and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live” [Matthew 9:18]. Why His hand? There are many hands. “Master, lay Thy hand, lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live” [Mark 5:23]. There is no hand like the hand of our Lord. For Jairus had seen— and this is a beautiful passage from Dr. Luke: “And they brought unto Him all the sick and afflicted; and He laid His hands upon them, and healed them” [Luke 4:40]. The healing hand of our Lord; “Lord, come and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live” [Matthew 9:18]. The hand of our Lord Jesus; oh, blessed healing hands! [Luke 8:54-55].
You know, I can just see, and you can also, that dramatic story that is told in the first part of the eighth chapter of Matthew, right after the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29]. The throngs around Him; immediately the Lord comes down and the crowds and the multitudes are around Him, and behold a leper came up to Him [Matthew 8:1-2]. Now how could a leper get up to Him? Thronged and pressed on every side, the Scriptures say, and a leper came up to Him. Well, if you know the Old Testament and the Old Testament law, it would be very simple to understand how that leper just stepped up to Jesus, thronged as He was on every side by the thousands and the thousands [Matthew 8:1-2]. That leper just walked right up to Him.
For you see, by the law he had to put his hand over his mouth and cry, “Unclean, unclean, unclean” [Leviticus 13:45]. And wherever the leper walked, there was that awful widening circle as the people fell away from him. He just walked right up to the Lord [Matthew 8:1-2]. Did the Lord fall away? No, the Lord just stood there. And the leper came up to Him and the Lord asked him, “What is it you want?”
And he said, “Lord, that I might be clean” [Matthew 8:2]. Now do you remember the next verse? And the Lord touched him. And the Lord put His hand upon him [Matthew 8:3].
My brother, I don’t deny the ableness and the power of God to heal. I’m just pointing out that I think the touch of His hand was half the cure. That leper had forgot how it felt to be touched by the warmth of a compassionate hand. And the Lord touched him [Matthew 8:3]. I can just hear the people gasp as they see the Lord extend His hand and touch the loathsome, vile, and unclean leper. He wasn’t so to God. And the Lord touched him with His hand, and immediately his leprosy was cleansed and he was whole again [Matthew 8:3]; healing hands.
I could not tell you the number of times that I kneel by the side of a bed whereon lies somebody who is sick and I say this sentence “Lord, lay Thy hands of healing upon them.” Hands that have in them the divine prerogative of health and length of days; they are healing hands [Matthew 8:3].
The hands of our Lord, they are nail-scarred hands. Isn’t that an astonishing thing that after His resurrection from the dead [John 20:1-16], He still bore in His body the signs of His suffering and His crucifixion? [John 20:25-28]. There was a great, there is a great scar in the side of our Lord where the Roman thrust the spear into His heart [John 19:34], and there are jagged wounds in His hands, the nail prints of the cross [John 20:25-28]. Ah, a thousand times a thousand times have I lived through in mind that agony. The soldiers, the quaternion, a centurion guiding the four men. They nail His hands to the wood, lying flat on the ground. Then I suppose, as they started to raise it up, one of them says, “Lynos, wait; Lynos, wait; wait, Pilate gave us a superscription [Luke 23:38], wait. We must nail that above His head.”
So they nail that superscription on the cross above His head. And then with His hands fixed by iron to the wood they raise it up and let it fall into the socket. Ah, the horror and the agony of crucifixion, the most devastatingly agonizing of all of the instruments of execution, reserved just for felons, and malefactors, and criminals, and traitors, and insurrectionists, and slaves, and for Jesus the Son of God. Nail-scarred hands [John 20:25-28].
They are hands of missionary outreach. I saw a picture one time, and you’ve seen it too, the Lord with His hand outstretched; and before, you can see the whole world. And the Lord is saying, “Go ye therefore and disciple, make Christians, of all nations, preaching the gospel to every creature” [Matthew 28:19-20]. And the Lord’s hand is extended, and here by His side is the young disciple John, and the older disciple Simon Peter, and the other disciples in the background. And there is a look of dedication on the face of John and Peter that the artist caught which portrays the complete commitment of the lives of those apostles to the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19-20]. And the hands of our Lord point today in outreach to the ends of the earth. They are missionary hands.
This last week, a day or two ago, I dictated for a magazine a word about the missionary emphasis of our church. And in that little dictation I reminded those who would ever read it of the great pastor of the church, Dr. George W. Truett, who one time said at a Southern Baptist Convention that a man who was not missionary in his heart and in his soul would be out of place in the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And I added, “What was true then is no less true now.” The heartbeat of the church is its outreach, its missionary evangelistic emphasis, an invitation to all men everywhere, here to the ends of the earth, in the homeland, on the foreign field, in the continents, in the isles of the sea, in Dallas, around the earth.
Look and live [Isaiah 45:22; John 3:14-15]; believe and be saved [Acts 16:30-31]; wash and be clean [2 Kings 5:10-14; Revelation 1:5, 7:14], come, come, come; missionary hands, evangelistic hands, extended hands, hands of invitation and appeal.
And last of all, they are hands of benedictory blessing. “And the Lord stretched forth His hands and blessed them. And while He blessed them He was taken up from, them and a cloud received Him out of their sight” [Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11].
The last scene of Christ in this earth before His return to heaven, those blessed hands stretched out, reaching forth in benedictory blessing [Luke 24:50-51]. Like the hands in the days of His flesh laid upon little children, and He put His hands upon them, and blessed them [Mark 10:16], so the Lord blesses His little children today. His hands rest upon you, upon me, upon us; strong hands, healing hands, nail-scarred hands, commissioned hands, benedictory hands, the hands of our Savior.
Have you failed in your plan of your storm-tossed life?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.
Are you weary and worn with its toil and strife?
Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.
[“Nail-scarred Hand,” B. B. McKinney]
Let Jesus lead in the way. Let Jesus be strong, able, mighty for you. Let the hand of the Lord sanctify and hallow your days. Let the hand of our Savior sanctify and bless your life, your home, your house, your heart, your work. Let Jesus come into your heart. Let Jesus be Savior to you [Romans 10:8-13]. Would you tonight?
In a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, a family you, to come to the Lord and unto us; a couple you; or just one somebody you, while we sing this song, while we make this appeal, while the Spirit presses the invitation to your heart, come now. Make it now. Choose now. And on the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways or into the aisle and here to the front, “Here, pastor, I am coming. I do decide for God now. I’m coming to Christ now [Ephesians 2:8]. I’m on the way, the minute you have done that invitation, I am ready to stand up and come.” Do it. Make it now. Come now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Strong hands
A. He was a carpenter;
He worked with His hands
B. Strong hands of
judgment (Matthew 3:12, Hebrews 10:31)
C. Strong hands of
authority (John 3:35, Matthew 28:18)
D. Strong hands of destiny
E. Strong hands to save
(John 10:28-30, Matthew 14:28-31)
II. Healing hands
A. Daughter of Jairus (Matthew 9:18, Luke 4:40)
of a leper (Matthew 8:1-3)
III. Nail-scarred hands
His resurrection He still bore the signs of His suffering
horror and agony of the crucifixion
IV. Missionary hands
A. He commissions us (Matthew 28:19)
B. His hands point in
outreach to the ends of the earth
A. At His ascension (Luke 24:50-51)
B. The little children (Mark 10:13-16)