Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hands: A Good Friday Reflection

I've recycled a reflection for a few years ago for Good Friday (it may not help with the environment but in the midst of a heavy schedule it made sense. It still speaks to me and I've made some changes). I spoke in our  Good Friday service seated inviting people not to focus on me but on the cross at the front of the church or maybe even their hands. if you've read my blog you'll note I use images as a parallel in my preaching... but I didn't really want that to distract people... the image that was on the screen behind me was this amazing image of hands expectantly cupped in an attitude of prayer, humility and expectation.

The Old Testament speaks of God’s hands as a way in which God achieves all his purposes. It’s a metaphor for the Spirit of God.

The Psalms speak of God’s creation by saying his hands cast stars in to space

They think of the infinite nature of God by saying that he can hold the whole of the ocean in the cup of his hand, and measure the vastness of the universe in the span of his arms.

It speaks of the immanence and closeness of God to his people by saying he holds them by the right hand. Holding our hand like a good friend, a parent or a lover

The rise and fall of Israel was achieved not by their own hands but the strong arm of the Lord

“not by might but by spirit says the Lord.  

In Jesus coming the word became flesh

That hand of God took on skin and bone

He pitched his tent in our neighbourhood

As a baby it would have curled round its mother’s finger

As a young man learned the skill of a carpenter

Jesus adult hands reached out to bless Children

Touched a leper and bought healing and acceptance

Touched the blind and the lame and they were made whole

Gave to the poor

Beckoned for people to follow him

Pointed to a shepherd on a hill or a gate as an illustration for a parable

Pointed out corruption and oppression

Gestured for the outcast to come down and dine with him

Comforted his friends Mary and Martha and raised their brother Lazarus from the dead

Embraced a close friend at one final supper

Finally those hands inspired by love were nailed to the rough wood of the cross


Maybe as we gaze today at the cross it is hard to see the hand of God in what happened there

Maybe it is easier to see the hand of man

Jesus prophesied that the son of man would be betrayed into the hands of men and they would kill him, but that he would rise again on the third day”

Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane is betrayed into the hands of the religious leaders by the kiss of a close and trusted friend

The hands of men drag him before unjust courts

The hands of men point with false allegations at him

They take him before the civil ruler.

By the hands of soldiers He flogged and beaten

Hands trust a cruel crown of thorns on his head

They are raised in mock salute 

The hands of the civil ruler are washed of Jesus blood

and justice bows to political expediency

The hands of man nail Jesus hands and feet to a cross and haul him upright on this instrument of torture and death

The hands of man point and mockingly gesture “ come on down Jesus, save yourself, he said he could save others but he can’t even save himself”


There is the expectation that Jesus will now raise his hands against us to save himself

But Jesus response is not a clenched fist cursing or writing off of humanity

Rather he responds with love

His hands remain nailed to the cross so we listen to his words

A prayer for our forgiveness “Father forgive them they know not what they do”

A word of salvation to a repentant thief dying besides him

“Truly today you will be with me in paradise”

A word of comfort for a woman whose hands had held him when he was a baby and a beloved disciple “Dear woman here is your son, here is your mother”

 “My God My God why have you forsaken me” The pain of separation but also the first line of a psalm of hope and trust

 “I thirst”. A parched throat and a parched soul yet all has been done and he said this to fulfil scripture.

There is kindness a human hand passes up some wine to wet his lips.

Then Jesus lets out a great cry of triumph the last line of that same psalm “it is finished” Jesus has achieved all the Father had sent him to do.

Our salvation has been won.

The great reconciliation between God and humanity has been achieved.

The hands of man have done their worst but the hand of God has done a great good for us.

The hands of grace and love have taken the punishment of all our hands have done.

Not to plicate some angry deity but that their cost on us is paid

It is finished and now Jesus commits himself to the fathers care

“Father into your hands do I commend my spirit” 


 Isaiah said “ as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return to it without watering the earth, and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater. So my word does not return to me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I have sent it.”


In the end the hands of man did not take Jesus life from him he yielded it up into the hands of the Father, Jesus is obedient unto death.

“The reason the father loves the son’ Jesus the good shepherd had said in John 10 is that I lay down my life… no one takes it from me I lay it down.


The soldiers pierce his side

The centurion sees Jesus death and hears his last words and comments “surely this was a righteous man”

The crowd that had started by mocking sees hears Jesus final words of trust in God and they turn to go. Beating their breasts, a sign of grief and contrition.

The hands of the soldiers take his body down from the cross.

The hands of the women and Joseph of Aramathia wrap him in a grave cloth and take him to a carved out tomb.

They cannot complete the task before the Sabbath comes with the dusk.

Their hands stained with tears and wrung with sorrow they are forced to leave.


It is finished but that is not the end

 “It’s Friday” the old black preacher says “it is Friday but Sunday is coming”

“It’s Friday but Sunday is coming”

Philippians tells us about Jesus that the story does not end here. It tells us what God’s hand have done with Jesus Christ his beloved son.


“… and he became obedient even to death, even death on the cross.

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

And gave him the name that is above every name

That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow

In heaven and on earth and under the earth

Every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord

To the glory of God the father.”


You and I we read the scripture and we reflect on the cross.

We look at our hands!

They are empty, hat have we got to give in light of such great love

In fact if there is anything in our hands it is all our brokenness

The hurt that we have done

The healing we have left undone

The hurt that has been inflicted on us

even our best intents seem tarnished and so little

The cross however is the right place for these things

Hear those words again “it is Finished”

See the nail scared hands take those things

See them reach out to you with love

With forgiveness


To bring healing and wholeness

To invite us to follow and remain with him.

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