By Paul R. Blake
“And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matt. 8:2-3).
Hands say a lot about a person. A man who farms or works in construction has rough hands worn from years of hard labor. Surgeons have strong, delicate hands allowing them to perform intricate surgeries. Pianists amaze us with the dexterity of long, slender fingers producing masterful pieces of music.
What did the hands of our Lord look like? He was raised a carpenter’s son, so his hands would be strong and rough textured. He spent a great deal of time outdoors, so they would be dry and browned by the sun. He was not fastidious about his appearance, so his nails would not be manicured. Not what you expected?
Beauty is what beauty does, not what beauty looks like. Lepers were outcasts; non-lepers refused to come near them, let alone touch them, even though leprosy is not communicable in the typical sense. The worst part of the disease was the isolation and rejection by everyone including family. God created man to long for companionship with others. Touch is one of the first sensations we experience in life; it brings comfort and security. Leprosy takes all of that away, because no one will touch you. When Jesus reached out his hand and touched the leper, He gave that poor beggar more than a healing for his body; He showed him the true meaning of godly compassion. His hands touched lepers!
His hands touched 12 pairs of dirty feet when He washed the disciples’ feet at the Passover. His hands touched street urchin children when He blessed them; who knows where they had been playing! His hands reached out to save Peter in his weak, sinful doubt as he was sinking into the sea. Hands that were rough, strong, dry, sun baked, dirty from handling lepers, disciples’ feet, and children playing in the street… it’s not about what they look like in medieval paintings or our misguided imaginations; it’s about what they did. The hands of Jesus preached compassion, humility, kindness, and forgiveness. Irenaeus wrote regarding the hands of Jesus on the cross: “By the wood of the cross the work of the Word of God was made manifest to all; His hands are stretched out to gather all men together” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, c. 175).
We are all of the above: leprous with sin, unclean as dirty feet, unkempt street children, doubting disciples; we all need the hands of Jesus to offer love and forgiveness to us. “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).
Should I be found faithful in the Judgment and enter heaven, I want to be able to be able to walk up to Jesus, reach out to clasp His hands, and feel His hands grip mine in return. I want to hold the hands that touched a leper, that washed Judas’ feet, that tried to carry the rough wood of His cross, hands that left heaven and worked 33 years on earth to save me from the sins I committed with my own hands. I will know then that I am at home. It’s not about what His hands will look like, but what His hands did that brought me there.
Look at your hands and consider, not what they look like, but rather: What have they done? What are they doing? What will you do with them in the name of the Lord?