Look at your hands. Those 10 digits, dancing and bending, twisting and clenching. It is amazing, all of the things that they can do from balancing an account or counting coins, to writing a check or filling the shelves of a food pantry. How do you use your hands in such matters?
Charles Dickens described the character of Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” this way: “Oh! But he was a tight fisted hand at the grindstone. A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” It is surprising to note that Dickens used hand language to describe Scrooge, and then followed up the description with a conclusion, calling Scrooge a “covetous old sinner”- as though his hands were somehow an avenue to his heart. Look at your hands. What do they say about you?
When Judas looked at his hands, what do you suppose he saw? Nothing? And that emptiness is his undoing. Oh those hands had been full before – full of money, even as his heart was full of power. Yet, it is a shame that Judas never quite got a hold on the point of Jesus’ presence in the world. Even with Christ so close at hand, Judas never opened his greedy fists to the very power of God.
C.S. Lewis once wrote that every human heart has a God-shaped hole. All of our lives are spent trying to fill that hole, with money, power, love, relationships…you can fill in the blank. Idolatry, after all, is alive and well in this century. Yet trying to fill that hollow space with anything but Jesus Christ is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole. The result is unsatisfying at best and downright deadly at worst.
Perhaps the hole is not in our hearts. Perhaps it is in our hands. The empty space that is left in the middle of our fists, even when we clench them with all our might. Maybe this is a good time to hold our hands up against Judas’ hands. To examine our own wants and needs, and see how tightly we might be clinging to those things which fill neither our hands nor our hearts.
And then, to hold our hands, empty now, and open, up to those hands that were pierced for us so long ago on that cross. We may find that until our hands are clasped with His, they will always be empty.
Second Wednesday of Lent – Nicodemus
Crucified By My Hand?
For My Sake!
His encounter with Jesus is recorded in John 3:1-21
The effect of that encounter is recorded in John 7:49-51 and John 19:38-40
Hands raised in question, hands spread in supplication, hands folded in prayer, hands lifted high in victory and celebration. Hands, so much a part of who we are as human beings, but like all good gifts from God our Creator, they too are a part of our fallen human condition.
Scripture doesn’t give us much detail about Nicodemus, but we do know that he was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious council of the Jews in Jerusalem.
As such, he would be making judgments based on the Mosaic law and its interpretation. Therefore he very probably had raised his hand in condemnation over against someone who had broken the law. He would have shaken his fist against someone found guilty of blasphemy or pounded his hands on the table is disagreement or disgust during a religious debate.
But then one day he found himself standing at the edge of a group, with his hand cupped behind his ear in order to be able to better hear this new rabbi from Nazareth, whose name was Jesus. He saw this Jesus reach out His hands to the blind, the leper, the lame, the palsied, and Nicodemus was changed.
At night (he wasn’t yet ready to raise his hand and be counted a disciple of Christ) Nicodemus comes to Jesus, hand raised in question, hands gesturing in bewilderment:
“Born again!!! How can this be?”
Then hands folded on his lap he hears the master speak; “Be born of the Spirit…for God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have life everlasting!”
Nicodemus was changed. He would later raise his hand and then his voice in support of Jesus at a meeting of the Sanhedrin and then finally, as a devoted, sold-out disciple of the Lord, he used his hands to help carry the lifeless body from the cross to the tomb – a body that had been beaten and bruised and nailed to the cross by the hands of sinful men.
“How can this be?” Nicodemus may have asked again, his hands covering his face in grief. But Nicodemus would once more hear the truth from the lips of Jesus. This Jesus, who took all the brokenness of the fallen human condition into his own hands, that He might reach out and lift us up, and carry us home.
I wonder if Nicodemus was privileged, as was Thomas, to hear the resurrected Lord say, “See my hands; put your fingers in the nail holes; be not afraid, it is I, Myself!”
May God grant that our hands hold tight to this One who holds onto us and has made all things good, yes even our hands. Amen
Crucified By My Hand?
For My Sake!
Ash Wednesday – Adam
Look at your hands. Amazing things, really. Ten digits, capable of working in harmony. And with those two opposable thumbs we carry at the ends of our arms two miracles of nature, capable of wielding a mighty hammer…or a tiny tweezer. Able to construct a colossal bridge…or the most delicate jewelry. Miracles of nature, indeed. Marvelously engineered by our creating God. Look at your hands. Just look at them.
I wonder what Adam saw when he looked at his hands. After the incident with the fruit…after his banishment from the garden and his fall away from God…he almost certainly saw dirt in his hands. “Cursed is the ground because of you,” God said that fateful day. “In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.” Dirt was what he saw. Trying desperately to eke out a living from the earth, when only thistle and bramble came forth from his labor, Adam was accustomed to digging in the dirt.
But the dirt lay deeper still. “Dust you are,” God reminded Adam that day, “and to dust…you shall return.” Even if Adam could wash away the dirt from the fields, he would never get to the bottom of it.
Look at YOUR hands and think about dirt. Because some day those hands of yours and these hands of mine, along with everything else that is us, will yield again to the dust. We are born in Adam’s image. We too are dust…and to dust we shall return.
But I also wonder whether Adam didn’t see more than just dust when he gazed into his hands. Because if God molded Adam from the clay, I think I know enough of sculpture to say with certainty that Adam must have been covered with God’s fingerprints. And I wonder if, as a final act in putting Adam together, God didn’t press His almighty hand into the hand of Adam. I wonder if Adam bore on his fingers the very fingerprints of God.
Because, if that is so, then hands with those same marks, now marked as well, with prints from nails, would one day rise from the dust again. And those same hands would beckon Adam and Eve and all children of dust to rise as well. Good News will follow, children of dust. Good News indeed. But for now…consider dust.