The Hands of Jesus
July 16th, 1989 @ 8:15 AM
THE HANDS OF JESUS
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-16-89 8:15 a.m.
We welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour on radio. You are now a 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, we are in chapter 20; and beginning at verse 24:
Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said, Except I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into them, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe.
And the next Sunday when the disciples were within, Thomas this time was with them: then came Jesus, stood in the midst, said, Shalom.
Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and take your hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.
And he answered, My Lord and my God.
Thus the subject The Hands of Jesus.
They are strong hands. Thirty years He supported His family: He was a carpenter [Mark 6:3]; He worked with His hands. He had four brothers, He had several sisters, and He had His mother. And He worked with His hands.
Hegesippus was a Christian writer in the 100s AD, and Eusebius in the 300s tells a story from Hegesippus, that the sons of Jude, one of the brothers of the Lord, the sons of Jude were taken before the Roman emperor Domitian. The alarming report was that these were the descendants of David and the kindred of Christ, and threatened the empire. And the story says that when Domitian saw their hands, rough, working men’s hands, he and the court scornfully and sarcastically dismissed them. Rough hands, they were the hands of our Lord Jesus.
They were marvelously gifted hands. They were mighty before God. In the introduction of our Savior by John the Baptist, the great preacher said, “In His hand is the winnowing fan, and He will thoroughly purge God’s threshing floor, the whole earth. And the wheat He will gather into the garner, the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire; in His hand the winnowing fan” [Matthew 3:11-12]. All judgment, the Bible says, is in His hand [John 5:22]. The Book of Hebrews says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God our Lord” [Hebrews 10:31], the hands of our Lord Jesus.
Praise God they are saving hands; they are keeping hands. Oh, oh! John 10:28 avows, “He that comes to Me, He will in no wise cast out. And they that follow Me I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand” [John 6:37, 10:28]. These that have found refuge and salvation in Christ are kept by the mighty hand of our Lord, the hand of Christ.
I came across a beautiful sentiment:
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]
That’s our Lord. Eternally secure, we’re in the hands of our Savior [John 10:27-28].
And they are hands that hold destiny and all life before God. In the first chapter of the Revelation, “I saw in His right hand seven stars”; and those stars represents the angels of the seven churches [Revelation 1:16, 20]. All of God’s kingdom rests in the hands of our Savior: strong hands, God’s hands, our Lord’s hands.
They are saving hands. Peter, sinking in the storm of the sea, cried, saying, “Lord, save me! And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and lifted him up” [Matthew 14:30-31], saving hands. Sinking in the floodtide of life, shall we turn to our own ingenuity? Shall we turn to those who speak in philosophical terms, and outline all kinds and ways for human deliverance? Not we: we turn to our Lord, “Lord, You save me” [Matthew 14:30]. And Jesus extends forth His hand, and He lifts us up out of the raging storm and out of the floodtides of life. Jesus saves.
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 my life grows drear,
And death is near,
And 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]
“And He reached forth His hand and He lifted him up out of the raging storm” [Matthew14:31]; saving hands, the hand of our Lord.
Healing hands, healing hands: in the beautiful passage that we just read, Jesus is in the home of Simon Peter, and He heals Simon’s wife’s mother [Matthew 8:14-15]. And when the sun was setting, seemingly all Capernaum and northern Galilee gathered at the door of the home. And they that had any sick brought them unto Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them, and healed them [Matthew 8:16; Luke 4:40]. Jesus had a twofold ministry: not only preaching the gospel, but healing those that were sick.
May I turn aside here for just a moment and point out a distinctive dynamic difference between the gospel of our Lord and Greek philosophy? To the Greek philosophers, the body was nothing. And of course, their thinking and their intellectual asservations were everything, covered the horizon. The Christian faith is just the opposite of that. The Christian faith greatly magnifies the worth before God of the human frame. Paul refers to the body as “the temple of the Holy Ghost” [1 Corinthians 6:19]. And it is the body, it is a body, it is the body that incarnates the Son of God [John 1:1, 14]. The highest revelation of God is in human flesh, magnifying the body.
And may I point out one other thing? When the Lord sent His disciples to preach they had a dual commandment: one, preach the gospel, preach the kingdom of heaven; and the other, heal the sick, heal the sick; both [Luke 10:9]. And wherever the true Christian faith is presented, you will find that dual ministry.
Did you know, in the whole Roman Empire and in the world in this day, there was not a single hospital, not one? There was not a clinic; there was not a doctor such as we know him today, not in the whole world. But when the gospel began to be preached, there not only was the ministry to the soul that we might be saved, but always there accompanied a ministry to the human frame that we might be well and strong in His sight. That’s a remarkable thing.
When I was in West Africa upon a day, I followed Dr. Goldie, our Southern Baptist missionary and physician; I followed him around for days and days. In that country of Nigeria, they cast out to die of exposure and starvation, they cast out anyone that had leprosy. Little children have leprosy; cast them out. And in a great arc through Nigeria, Dr. Goldie had gathered those outcasts together: little children, they have leprosy; he’d gather them together in what he called “clan settlements.” And here, and there, and then there, and there, in a great arc through Nigeria, he’d gathered those lepers, and ministered to them. They’d build 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’d preach they’d always sing the song:
The Great Physician now is near,
The sympathizing Jesus…
[“The Great Physician Now is Near,” William Hunter]
The two always go together: the Christian message of hope and salvation, and the healing of the sick [Luke 10:9].
Lest I be accused of plagiarism, I am 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 had 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 opened, and his ears ready to receive the message of the gospel.
That’s the Christian faith.
Dean Plumptre, 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.
[“Thine Arm, O Lord, in Days of Old,” Edward H. Plumptre, 1864]
And we’d 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’s 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. But when Jesus saw it, aganakteō”—goodness—translated here, “much displeased,” 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. . .And He took them up in His arms, and put His hands upon them, and blessed them” [Mark 10:13-16]. 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 21:12-13]; 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, to the disciples they were a pestering throng, they were in the way, and the disciples shooed them away: “The Lord’s got something else to do beside looking at and receiving you little children.” And that aganakteō, it “highly displeased” the Lord [Mark 10:13-14]. “And He took them in His arms, and He put His hands upon them, and blessed them” [Mark 10:16].
What a lesson for us who seek the face of God and the knowledge of the kingdom of our Lord. We so often are persuaded that if we’ll just climb the ladder of knowledge, and up and up and up and up and up, we’ll finally come to know God; when actually, He is down here in the simplicities of life. Or we think we must climb the steep hill of experience; when actually, our Lord is on the plain, in the commonest of things. We think we must have age in order to comprehend the great message of the things of the kingdom of God; when actually, we receive them more fully as little children. If you’re going to be saved, the chances are it will be as a child, and not as an aged man.
Paul wrote that so eloquently in the tenth chapter of the Book of Romans:
Do not say, I must ascend and ascend and ascend in order to know God. Do not say, I must go down and down and down into the depths of mystery and knowledge in order to know God. But what saith the word? It is nigh thee, it is in our mouths, and it is in our hearts: simply, If thou wilt confess Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that He lives, you will be saved.
What an amazing, amazing gospel this is! “Except you become as a little child, you cannot enter in. And He put His hands upon them, and blessed them” [Matthew 18:3; 19:14-15; Mark 10:15-16].
A last, the hands of our Lord Jesus, they are hands of appointment and of commission. The Gospel of Luke closes:
He opened their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ. . .that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. . .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.
That’s the way the gospel of Christ closes: our Lord’s hands of blessing upon His disciples as He points to the lost world all around us.
I have seen, as you, that famous picture of the Lord Jesus as He puts His hand upon John and with the other hand points to the lost world. As with many of you, I have stood in the courtyard of Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts; and there stands behind the pulpit, a bronze pulpit in the courtyard, behind it stands Phillips Brooks, and behind Phillips Brooks, with His hand upon his shoulder, is the Lord Jesus, pointing to the whole world, our great assignment and commission to preach and to heal [Luke 10:9].
And I close: when we get to heaven, and the Lord receives us, I wonder if you will be as I—I’m going to look at His hands, nail-pierced hands [John 20:27-28]. And when the Lord welcomes me into glory, I’m going to bow at His feet, and there look at the nail prints in His feet. And when He puts His hands of welcome upon me, I’m going to look at the nail prints in His hands. Oh, the depths of the riches of the love and mercy and grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and so beautifully seen in His hands, in His hands.
Now let’s sing us a hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family, welcome; a couple, welcome; or just one somebody you, welcome. On the first note of the first stanza, come. In the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, God has spoken to me, and I’m answering with my life” [Romans 10:9-13]. May angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.