The Hands of Jesus
July 16th, 1989 @ 10:50 AM
THE HANDS OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-16-89 10:50 a.m.
You are now part of our dear First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Hands of Jesus. In our preaching through the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, we are in chapter 20 and beginning at verse 24 [John 20:24]:
Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came—the Sunday night before.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord.
But Thomas said, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.
And the next Sunday again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them; then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Shalom.
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.
The climax of this incomparable Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John.
The hands of Jesus, they were strong hands; He was a carpenter thirty years [Mark 6:3], and He supported His mother and His four brothers and His several sisters. His hands were calloused with toil, and labor, and hard work.
Hegesippus, a Christian author in the 100s, quoted by Eusebius, the great early church historian who lived in the 300s: Hegesippus says that in the reign of Domitian, about 81 to 96 AD, there was brought before him the sons of Jude, who was one of the Lord’s brothers. And those sons had been reported as being a threat to the Roman throne. They were of the descendants of King David and they were related to Christ. And Hegesippus says that when Domitian looked at their hands, they were the hands of a working man, filled with the signs of toil and labor; that in scorn and contempt, the Roman court dismissed them and sent them away. The hands of our Lord were like that. They were a working man’s hands, strong hands.
When John the Baptist introduced our Savior to the world, he said, “His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge the threshing floor, gathering the wheat into the garner; and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” [Matthew 3:12]. The Book says that the judgment of God is in His hands [John 5:22]. The Book of Hebrews says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” [Hebrews 10:31], of the Lord Christ; strong hands, hands of judgment.
They are hands of security. John 10:28 avows:
All of those that God has given Him will come to Him; and they that come to Him, He will in no wise cast out.
And I give unto them eternal life; they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of My hand.
Those that have sought refuge and salvation in the name of Christ are kept by the omnipotent hands of our living Lord; saving, keeping hands.
I read a most unusual thing one time. There was a guide taking some through the high Alps in Switzerland, and they came to a precipice and a rock thousands of feet above the valley. And the guide swung himself around that precipice, around that jutting rock, and then he turned and held out his hand for the man he was guiding in the way and said, “Step on my hand.” He’d lead him around that precipice, that jutting rock. And the man paused as he looked at that man’s hand and the thousands of feet below. And the guide, assuring him, said, “Sir, that hand has never lost a man.” That is our Lord: hands of security—never lost a soul who has ever come to Him by faith [Ephesians 2:8, John 6:37].
I came across this little poem:
The hands of Christ seem very frail,
For they were broken by a nail.
But only they find God at last,
Whom those frail broken hands hold fast.
[“His Hands”; John R. Moreland]
Hands of security.
And the destiny of the kingdom of God and of this world is invested in the hand of our Lord. In the first chapter in the Apocalypse, in the Revelation. “I saw in His right hand the seven stars.” And those stars, the Revelation says, “are the angels of the seven churches” [Revelation 1:16, 20]. The destiny of this planet Earth, and of all God’s creation, and the kingdom of God, is invested in the omnipotent hand of our Lord; strong hands.
The hands of Christ, they are saving hands:
Simon Peter said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee . . . And, Jesus said, Come. And Peter came down out of the ship and walked on the water. But when Peter saw the winds stormy, he was afraid. And, beginning to sink, he cried, Lord, save me. And Jesus stretched forth His hand and lifted him up out of the deep of the flood—
the Lord stretched forth His hand and lifted him up.
We could turn to all kinds of philosophies that are supposed to guide humanity into peace and salvation, prosperity, or we could look to ourselves and try to find in ourselves those answers to human need. How much better, like Simon Peter, to turn to the Lord and cry, saying, “Lord, You save me. You save me. God in Christ, You save me” [Matthew 14:30].
Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, help me stand,
I am weak. I am tired, I am worn;
Through the storm, and through the night,
Lead me on to the light:
Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me home.
When the way grows drear,
Precious Lord, linger near,
When my strength is almost gone;
Hear my cry, hear my call,
Take my hand lest I fall:
Precious Lord take my hand,
Lead me home.
[“Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” Thomas A Dorsey]
“Lord, save me”; saving hands, healing hands.
In the passage that you read, Jesus is in the home of Simon Peter. And Simon Peter’s wife’s mother had a great fever, and they besought Him, and He healed her [Matthew 8:14-15]. And when the sun was setting, all they in Capernaum and northern Galilee that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto Him. And He laid His hands on them. He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them; healing hands [Matthew 8:16]. There was a twofold ministry of our Lord: He brought to us the message of salvation, of the kingdom of God; but He also was a great physician, a wonderful healer.
May I point out the difference between the Christian faith and Greek philosophy? The philosophers of Greece, the great teachers in that ancient day, the philosophers looked upon the human body with contempt. In magnifying the mind and the soul, they deprecated the human frame. The Christian faith is just the opposite. The Christian faith and the message of Christ not only magnifies the gospel of the grace of our Lord, but also it dignifies the human life and the human body.
On these pages there are more than thirty-six instances of the healing ministry of our Lord. He was God’s emissary to broken humanity. He was the Great Physician. And I cannot help but remember—could you imagine, could you think for a greater tribute to the human body than the incarnation, God in human flesh, God in human body, God in human form? [Matthew 1:18-25]. And when our Lord sent out His disciples, they carried with them a dual assignment: first, preach the gospel, announce the coming of the kingdom of heaven; but second, also heal the sick, heal the sick [Luke 10:9]; both.
And whereever the gospel is preached, there will you find beautiful ministries of healing. In the Roman Empire and in the ancient world, there was not one hospital, not one. There was not one clinic, not one. There was not a doctor as we know him today, not one. But wherever the gospel of Christ is preached, there will you find the hospital, and the clinic, and the Christian physician.
When I went through Africa on a preaching mission some years ago, I followed Dr. Goldie in the country of Nigeria. And lepers had been thrown out, cast out to die of exposure and starvation. And in a great arc through Nigeria, Dr. Goldie had gathered those outcasts together. Little children, they have leprosy. He would gathered them together in what he called “clan settlements.” And here and there, and then there and there, in a great arch through Nigeria, he would gather those lepers and ministered to them.
They built little churches out of mud. I have preached in those little churches made out of solid mud; the house made out of mud, the choir loft, small as it was, but made out of mud, the pulpit made out of mud, the pulpit stand, the lectern, made out of mud. And before I would preach, they would always sing the song:
The Great Physician now is near,
The sympathizing Jesus.
[“The Great Physician,” William Hunter]
The two always go together, the Christian message of hope and salvation, and the healing of the sick. Lest I be accused of plagiarism, I’m quoting from volume 1, page 386, of the “Report of the Missionary Conference” in London in 1888. Quote:
Dr. Post of Beirut said the cures effected by the surgeon are miracles of science and science is a miracle of Christianity. At a festival in the hospital at Beirut sits an old man with a venerable presence, a long white beard, a turban, a girdle about his loins and a loose flowing robe. Whom do you suppose that old man to be? He is a lineal descendent of the great Saladin. He is proud of his heritage. But here he is in a Christian hospital, that Mohammedan. A month ago, if I’d gone to his house, he would have driven me away as a Christian dog. But now, as he comes into this room, he seizes my hand; he covers it with kisses and bows himself at my very feet. What led this man to bow down to that Christian dog? That dog gave him the use of his two eyes. He came in here blind and now he sees. And here he sits with his eyes open and his ears ready to receive the message of the gospel.
That’s the Christian faith.
Dean Plumptre is one of the great Christian scholars of all time, Oxford University professor and chaplain of King’s College and Hospital in London. He wrote this hymn in 1864, to be sung in the hospital:
Thine arm, O Lord, in days of old
Was strong to heal and save;
It triumphs o’er disease and death,
O’er darkness and the grave.
To Thee they went, the blind, the dumb,
The palsied and the lame,
The leper with his tainted life,
The sick with fevered frame.
[from “Thine Arm, O Lord, in Days of Old,” Edward H. Plumptre, 1866]
And we would add today:
The healing of His seamless dress,
Is by our beds of pain,
We touch Him in life’s throng and press,
And we are whole again.
Healing hands, that is so much a ministry of our dear Lord.
Hands of blessing: in the tenth chapter of Mark they brought unto Him little children that He should touch them, and His disciples rebuked them that brought the children [Mark 10:13]. But when Jesus saw it, aganakteō, goodness, translated here, “much displeased” [Mark 10:14]. That’s fine; aganakteō, He was highly indignant. He was very angry. “And He said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God [Mark 10:14]. And He took them up in His arms, and put His hands upon them, and blessed them” [Mark 10:16]. That’s our Lord: little children.
I can understand the disciples. Jesus was busy. He had much to do. Think of Him; He had the Pharisees to confound [Matthew 23:13-36]; that’s our Lord. And He had the temple to cleanse [Matthew 21:12-16]; that’s our Lord. And He had the great Sermon on the Mount to preach to the multitude [Matthew 5:1-7:29]; that’s our Lord. So when they brought those little children to the Lord Jesus [Mark 10:13], to the disciples they were a pestering throng. They were in the way. And the disciples shooed them away, “The Lord has got something else to do besides looking at and receiving you little children.” And aganakteō: it highly displeased the Lord [Mark 10:14]. “And He took them in His arms, and He put His hands upon them, and blessed them” [Mark 10:16].
You know there is a depth of the revelation of God in that beyond what mind could think for. We think in order to be saved, and in order to be acquainted with God, we’ve got to climb the ladder up and up and up and up and up and up and up, and finally, when we know enough, we’ll be introduced to the kingdom of God and the rich treasures of the Lord. And all the time, our Savior’s down here in the simplicities of life. We think we must climb the steep hill of experience. And after maybe the passing of years, we’ll finally come into the knowledge of the grace and wisdom of God; when all the time our Lord stands here in the plain, among the simplicities of life. We think it takes age to understand.
I speak with men even today, as I always have through the years, and they are waiting for some kind of a great revelation, or a great experience; when all the time we know God in the springtime, in the children’s time, in the youth time of life.
Dear me, how precious is our Lord, loving little children, and saying to us, “Except ye be converted, and become as a little child, ye shall in no wise enter in,” blessing our little children [Mark 10:15-16]. And, sweet people, I tell you truly, out of all and all of the things that I do as undershepherd of this dear church, there’s not anything that pleases my heart more than when I see a father and a mother bring a little baby and say, “Pastor, would you dedicate our little one to God? And would you bless the child that he grows up in the knowledge and grace and love of the Lord?” That, Jesus says, is the kingdom itself [Mark 10:14-15].
I must conclude. The hands of Jesus: commissioning, assigning, appointing. The Gospel of Luke closes:
Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead . . .
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name…
I send the Promise of My Father upon you . . .
And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and He lifted up His hands, and blessed them.
As He sent them out to preach the gospel of hope and salvation to the whole world, He lifted His hands and blessed them [Luke 24:45-50].
One of the most famous pictures in the Christian world: the Lord has His hand upon the shoulder of the apostle John, and with the other hand He is pointing to the whole lost world.
If you’ve ever been in Boston, in the courtyard of Trinity Church, you’ll find that bronze statue of Phillips Brooks, the incomparable preacher. He’s standing there behind his pulpit. And right back of him stands the Lord with His hand on the shoulder of Phillips Brooks, preaching the gospel. That’s our Savior, pointing to the whole lost, dying world and blessing us as we bring the word of hope and healing and salvation.
And some precious day, maybe not too long, some precious day when I get to heaven and the Lord welcomes His child into His heavenly home, I want to look at His hands. I want to see the hands of our Lord, the print of the nails. And when I bow at His feet, I want to see the scars of the nails in His feet; the saving, loving, tender, welcoming hands of our Lord.
Isn’t it strange? He carried His scars with Him into heaven, and when we see Him it will be with nail prints in His hands, in His feet, and a great scar in His side [John 20:27]. The love of our Lord, given for us that we might be saved [John 3:16].
I. Strong hands
A. He was a carpenter
B. Introduction of John
the Baptist (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17, Hebrews
II. Saving hands (John 10:28)
Destiny of the kingdom of God and this world in His hands (Revelation 1:20)
outstretched to lift us up (Matthew 14:28-31)
III. Healing hands
A. The great Physician (Matthew 8:14-17)
B. Greek philosophy of
the day looked upon human body with contempt
faith the opposite – dignifies the human life and body
C. Wherever gospel is
preached you find ministries of healing
IV. Hands of blessing
A. The little children (Mark 10:13-16)
B. The Savior is in the
simplicities of life
V. Hands of commission
He sent disciples out to preach the gospel, He lifted hands to bless them (Luke 24:46-47, )
points to the whole lost world