“Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands…Pilate said to [the Jews], ‘Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ And he said, ‘Why? What evil has he done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Let him be crucified!’ So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood… Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him…’ And they crucified him… Eight days later… Jesus came and stood among them and said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands.'” John 19:1-3,6; 20:26-27; Matthew 27:24; Mark 15:24
What a contrast there is, in the few verses describing the crucifixion, in the use of hands, the magnificent creation of God and gift to His people. Imagine the soldiers’ rough, strong fingers tying shards of stone onto the ends of leather strips to make a many-corded whip for His flogging, and calloused hands that have just gripped that whip forming a crown of thorns and pressing it onto Jesus’s head, then balling into fists to strike him, then hammer metal through His skin. Pilate, in comparison, unnerved by the crowd fomenting violence, opened his weak, soft hands upward, shrugging, ‘I don’t get you and this is not my fault– you are making me do this,’ then washed them illustratively in front of them.
But our Savior’s hands, the carpenter’s careful, creative hands that had soothed the anxious and touched outcast lepers, written in the dirt and made mud for healing, raised bread to heaven in thanksgiving before breaking it to feed thousands, washed the disciples’ feet, served them wine, these hands were pierced through, with thick nails, to a cross. These hands bore His weight as well as the weight of all our sin, and became, after the resurrection, the scarred hands that awakened faith and fed the disciples and lifted over them in the blessing of a call and power. (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:50; John 20:25-28; 21:9-13)
How do I position my hands? When I raise them high in worship, and open them to be used for God’s will, He infuses them with compassion, strength, gentleness, generosity, a knowing of where to go and whom to serve. But when I ball them up, clutching my selfish will and wants, I not only resist God’s prompting but can actually, driven by my own impulses, slap Him in the face, brush off His inspiration, push away His instruction, stop my ears to His truth.
And how do I use my hands? Do I deliver death, or life? Do I construct edifices to self, amass what does not last, busy myself with meaningless activity, idle them in sloth? Or am I serving others, creating beauty that shines God’s loveliness, expressing affection, writing encouragement, touching away tears, holding hands of the sad, lonely?
Lord, take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love, as Yours always have for me. (Inspired by Frances Havergal)