Jesus Our Lord – His Hands
April 15th, 1981 @ 12:00 PM
JESUS OUR LORD: HIS HANDS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-15-81 12:00 p.m.
Today, His Hands: in the twenty-fourth verse of the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Fourth Gospel, John 20:24:
Now Thomas, one of the twelve apostles, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus appeared. The other apostles therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails . . . I will not believe. And the next Sunday night, His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then Jesus came . . . stood in the midst, and said, Shalom, peace be unto you. Then He turned to Thomas and said, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and then reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side . . . And Thomas answered and said . . . My Lord and my God.
The Hands of Jesus.
There is a way of depicting Christ that I think is vastly untrue and inappropriate and improper. Oft times the Lord is depicted as weak and anemic, almost sissy and effeminate. He had apostles of tremendous personal strength and endurance, vigorous, virile, Peter and John; and yet when those apostles fell by weariness into sleep [Matthew 26:40], the Lord was arrested and all that night appeared in trial before Annas, then Caiaphas, then a Sanhedrin, and finally Pilate [Matthew 26:47-27:31], and He never fainted. The Lord was strong in every way that manhood could be strong. He worked with His hands; He was a carpenter [Mark 6:3]. Apparently He supported His mother and His four brothers and His sisters by working with His hands. He was strong and virile and manly, a paragon of excellence; and His hands were strong.
When John the Baptist introduced Him as the Savior of the world, he spoke of His hands: “And in His hand is a winnowing fan by which He shall thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into the garner, and the chaff burn with unquenchable fire” [Matthew 3:12]. Or as John the apostle writes it in his Gospel, all judgment is placed in the hands of the Lord [John 5:22]. He shall separate between the lost and the saved. When He comes in judgment, described in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew, “He shall sit in the throne of His glory . . . and shall divide the sheep from the goats,” the saved from the lost [Matthew 25:31-46]. I can’t do that. I don’t know who are genuinely saved and who are tragically lost, but He does; and we’re one or the other, never in between. Our destiny is either heaven and its bliss, or damnation and its awesome judgment. And that judgment lies in the strong hands of our Lord.
In those strong hands lies the security of our eternal salvation. As the Lord said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any one, or anything, or any power, or any Satanic approach be able to pluck them out of My hand” [John 10:28], the saving hand of our Lord eternally and infinitely secure. It was the hand that lifted up Simon Peter when he began to sink in the water [Matthew 14:28-31]. I listened to a man one time describe an experience in the Alps. As they climbed up those awesome peaks, the path narrowed and finally came to a stop before a rock jutting out in the way, around which they had to proceed. The guide in his agility and experience flung himself easily around the rock. Then he turned and held his hand for his traveler to step on, to follow the path. And the traveler looked down at the dizzy height of thousands of feet, and at the hand, and he hesitated. And the guide said to his traveler, “Step. That hand has never lost a man.” That’s our Savior: His strong hands that assure us eternal security, He has never lost a human soul.
Compassionate and healing hands: do you remember the eighth chapter of the Book of Matthew that follows the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29], that closes with the seventh chapter? Our Lord, the Book says, was thronged by a great multitude of people [Matthew 8:1]. Then the next verse, “And there came up to Him a leper” [Matthew 8:2]. When you read that, do you wonder, “How did that leper get to our Lord, thronged as He was on every side by such a vast concourse of people?” Well, you would know, when you think of it: by law, by the Mosaic legislation, wherever a leper went, he had to cover his mouth with his hand and call, “Unclean, unclean!” [Leviticus 13:45]. And wherever he went, there was an icy circle around him, as the people melted away. And he walked right up to the Lord Jesus in the midst of that throng, falling away from the leper. Did Jesus move? Not He. The leper came to Him and said, “Lord, that I might be clean” [Matthew 8:2]. Remember the next verse? “And Jesus reached forth His hand, and touched him” [Matthew 8:3]. I can just hear the crowd gasp! Touch him? Why, my brother, that leper had forgotten what it felt like, the warmth of the weight of the human hand. And Jesus touched him. My friend, it was half the cure. “And Jesus…touched him; and immediately he was made whole” [Matthew 8:3]; the compassionate healing hands of our Lord.
And as Fannie Crosby wrote, they are nail-pierced hands. That’s why Thomas spoke of them when He was raised from the dead [John 20:25]. He had seen that Roman quaternion of soldiers take the physical frame of the Lord Jesus and lay Him upon the cross. And he had seen those same soldiers raise those hammers. And he heard the ring of the sound as they drove the nails in His hands and in His feet. And they had seen the Lord then lifted up, and the cross lowered with an awesome jolt into the depths of the ground that held it upright. And he had seen Jesus die [John 19:16-30]. And that’s why, “Except I see the print of the nails in His hand, I will not believe” [John 20:25]. The distinguishing marks of our Savior, in His resurrection and in His session in heaven are the scars in His hands, in His side, and in His feet.
When Jesus came to Golgotha,
They hanged Him on a tree . . .
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns,
Red were His wounds, and bold
For those were crude and cruel days . . .
[from “The Unutterable Beauty,” G.A. Studdert Kennedy, 1927]
And to crucify a man was a common sight; and thus Jesus died, like a Roman felon [Luke 23:32].
Hands of appointment, and authority, and of assignment; in the marvelous description of our Lord in the first chapter of the Apocalypse, “And He held in His right hand seven stars” [Revelation 1:16]. And then the verse 20 that follows after, “And the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches of Asia” [Revelation 1:20]. Angels, that’s the Hebrew, that’s a Greek word, in Hebrew mal’akh, in Greek angelos, in English, “messenger,” the angel, the messenger, the pastor of the church. He held in His right hand seven stars, and the stars represent the pastors of the seven churches of Asia [Revelation 1:20]. And John was one of them; he was pastor of the church in Ephesus.
I saw a painting so meaningful to me. The Lord Jesus has His right hand upon the shoulder of John, and with His other hand He is pointing to the whole vast lost world: the great assignment, the great appointment, the great calling, the Great Commission [Matthew 28:19]. And the pastor that has the hand of God upon him has the whole world in his heart.
I saw, wasn’t expecting it, I saw in the courtyard of the Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts, a statue there of their famous and godly preacher and pastor, Philips Brooks. He is standing there behind the pulpit with an open Bible. But what makes it effective is just beyond him, just behind him, stands Jesus with His right hand upon his shoulder; hands of assignment and appointment and commission; the whole world in the heart of the pastor and his people.
And last: hands of benediction and blessing. That’s the last scene that closes out the days of His flesh, His life in the earth [Luke 24:50-51]. And on that mount that lies before Bethany, He ascended before them. And as He ascended, He reached forth, He extended His hands in benedictory blessing, and the Lord returned into heaven with His outstretched hands in blessing. Blessing those apostles, and He blesses us in the benedictory conclusion of our lives, He does; His hands of blessing upon us [Luke 24:50-51].
In this last World War, in London, lay an American soldier boy, wounded unto death, and dying. And as the lad came to the final moments of his life, he began to cry, “Mother, Mother, Mother.” And at that moment, a woman stepped through the door and to the bedside of that American boy, and said, “Son, I am your mother.” And she took the boy’s hands in her hands and put her hand upon his face and his brow, as the boy exclaimed, “Oh Mother, I knew you would come! Mother, Mother.” The boy thus died. And an attendant there watching said to the woman, “This is the most amazing providence I ever looked upon in my life, that just at this moment when the boy dies and calls for his mother, you should come. It is amazing! It is miraculous,” the attendant said to the woman. And the woman humbly replied, she said, “I am not his real mother; I was just walking down the hallway, and I heard that American boy crying for his mother. And I thought his real mother would love my taking her place and standing by the lad and holding his hand when he died. And thus I walked into the room answering the call of that American boy.”
When time comes to die, will mother be there? No, not mine; she’s been dead for years. Will my father be there? No, not he; he’s been dead even longer. When that final moment comes, who will be there? A wife, a daughter, a friend? I don’t know. I don’t know. I just know of One who will be there: He will be there with hands of blessing and benediction to close out my life.
Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, help me stand
I am weak, I am tired, I am worn,
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the light
Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me home
When my way grows drear,
Precious Lord, linger near
When my life is almost gone
Hear my call, hear my cry,
Hold my hand, lest I fall
Precious Lord, take my hand, and lead me home
[“Precious Lord,” Thomas Dorsey, 1932]
Hands of benediction and blessing: He will not fail us. And the nail-pierced hands that opened for us the gates of grace will someday open for us the gates of glory. Jesus our Lord and our Savior, in that beautiful and precious and holy remembrance, may we be brave and unafraid? For the Lord is the King over death, as He is King in life [1 Timothy 6:15]. Praise His wonderful and glorious name, amen.