Hands. Hands are an important part of our body, especially as we consider Thanksgiving. Hands are what is going to clean our turkeys, stuff our turkeys, put our turkeys in the oven or on the smoker. Hands are going to make up and place those pumpkin pies in the oven and then on the table. Hands are going turn the handle of the can opener for those green beans going into the green bean casserole. Hands are going to welcome family and friends into our homes as we shake their hand or hold them for a hugging embrace. In just thinking about Thanksgiving, hands, these hands, are going to do a lot of different things.
Outside of Thanksgiving, hands, these hands, are still involved in a lot of different things. They participate in some of the most basic and even mundane activities of daily life. These hands shut off my alarm clock, help me brush my teeth, put in my contacts, and do my hair. These hands are used to help me prepare my bacon and eggs each morning and then deliver them to my mouth to enjoy.
Hands are used to work. Whether you happen to work in an office or in a factory, whether you do construction or work as a farmer … hands are vital in order for you to get done the things you need to do each day.
Hands are also for playing, hands are for loving, hands are for helping others, and hands are used to give thanks and praise back to God. Hands can be used for so many good and wonderful things.
Hands though are also used for not so good of things either. Hands can be clenched and then swung at someone who has severely angered them or who they feel has treated them unjustly. Hands can be used to slap someone for something they said or did. Hands can be used to push away those who are close to us. Hands can be used to slam doors on individuals, on circumstances, and on life. Hands can be used to build each other up as well as to tear each other down and apart.
St. Paul used his hands. He used his hands to place papyrus, the paper he wrote his letters on down on the table. He used his hands to pen the words of nearly twenty-five percent of the New Testament. His hands wrote the words we find in the second letter he wrote to the people of Corinth, which includes the words of our sermon text. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21 writes, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” so that we might become right with God.
This familiar passage, not only is it the basis of a contemporary Christian song I heard in my car just the other night, but it also implies to me the different uses of hands.
God made Jesus, Jesus, whose birth we are going to celebrate in exactly a month from now to be perfect. Born into our human flesh, Jesus went through all the phases of life each and every one of us go through. He used to hands to grip his mom and dad’s finger. He used his hands to put food in his mouth. He used his hands to hold himself up as he crawled across the floor. He used his hands to pull himself up to stand and to walk. He used his hands to hug his mom and dad and siblings. Jesus used his hands to be a carpenter. Jesus lived an earthly life just like us, except without sin.
God made Jesus, who was perfect, who had no sin in him … to then be sin for us. God took Jesus, His perfect Son and made him to be truly like you and me in every sinful way. The thing is though, Jesus didn’t live each passing minute of his life like you and I do in a sinful state. The precise moment in which Jesus took on our sinfulness is when those hands of his which helped give sight to the blind, give hearing to the mute, feed the multitudes, cast out demons, and raise the dead were nailed to a cross. Through our sinfulness, our hands hold his in place on that wood beam, our hands grab hold of the nail and place it on his palm, our hands grab the hammer, and our hands drive the nail through his hands so that he would hang there on that cursed tree. The hands which brought help and healing to the humble, the helpless, and the merciful are now clenched in pain, covered in blood, and nailed to a cross.
It is through those nailed scarred hands which Jesus showed to his disciples after he victoriously rose from the dead, it is through those nailed scarred hands which Jesus shows to those who have entered their eternal rest, it is with those hands which he will one day wipe away every tear from your face … it is through those living, nailed scarred hands in which you and are and all believers in Christ are made right with God. The hands of Jesus show the length to which he was willing to go for you. The hands of Jesus show the depth of his love which he has for you.
Yet, in the contemporary Christian song based on this verse from 2 Corinthians 5, we hear our ungratefulness. We hear our lack of trust in that Jesus could never possibly earn all of my salvation. We hear our rebellion. Our hands, they don’t hold on to Jesus and walk along with him, they fight against him, they push against him as if we are trying to get away.
In the song, “By Your Side”, Tenth Avenue North illustrates this struggle. The song is sung as if God is the one who is speaking these words.
Listen to these words:
Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don’t turn away
Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where you will run
To where will you run
And I’ll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don’t fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you
Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world’s sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life
Cause I, I love you
I want you to know
That I, I love you
I’ll never let you go
Notice the struggle? In our sinful rebellion, we fight against God, we push Him away as we say “I can do it on my own, the things I have are my own, I did this!” The reality is … we didn’t do anything … we can’t do anything. Every aspect of our life is solely based upon the graciousness and love of God and the work of His hands.
And so God brings us together to tell us to look to Him. Look to Him, not as a wrathful dictator or a hard slave driver. Instead, look to God as our loving Father, our loving Father who graciously gives us what we need from His generous hands. God wants us to look to Him as our loving Father who is willing to do whatever is absolutely needed so that we may be right in His eyes, so that we can receive from His hands the blessings of forgiveness and eternal life. On a night like tonight, these are the gifts of which we are most thankful for. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.