A woman in England was dying of tuberculosis. She had spent the better part of her life in service of her deceased sister’s children. She cared, raised and nurtured them. She took in laundry so that the children would not want nor hinder their education and opportunity for a successful life. As a result of her labors her hands were red and worn from the detergents used in cleaning the clothes of patrons.
As she lay in a hospital bed awaiting her imminent death she was visited by her minister. He spoke plainly about her impending fate and implored her to make right with the Lord before that moment arrived. He asked her what would she say for herself at her judgment before Christ. She thought for a moment and then extended her hands saying: “I will show Him my hands.”
The hands of service and sacrifice are often worn, rough and bruised. Hands like these are not very attractive and oft-times cause some to turn away. Christ’s hands were pinned by nails to the crossbar of the cross. The pain radiated throughout his nervous system like bolts of lightning. These bleeding bruised hands, although for the moment, far beyond healing themselves were still healing, in freeing souls from sin. Hands that brought sight to the blind. Hands that made the lame walk. Hands that opened the deaf to the sounds of the world in which they lived. Hands that straightened deformed bodies. Hands that drove demons from possessed souls and made pure those hearts corrupted by sin. Hands that restored health to the ill. Hands that raised the dead back to life. Hands that dismissed the darkness in His claim to be the light if the world.
There were hands that too performed the contrary to good works. The hands that stuck Christ for the truth He preached. The hands raised with clenched fits in persecuting Him. The hands that held the whip that scourged Him. The hands that fashioned a crown of thorns, in mocking honor, as a torturous band about His brow. The hands that drove spikes through His Divine hands and feet. The washed hands of Pilate as he disavowed his part in condemning the world’s savior to death. And the infamous hands that betrayed the Son of Man with an embrace of misguided love.
Each person’s hands perform various functions. The hands of a carpenter and those of a surgeon will not appear the same. The carpenter’s will be rough and firm, while the surgeon’s may be smooth and deft. Each set of hands keeping with the practice of their particular trade. Yet, neither being more important than the other. For each discipline is valuable in it own right. Yet here is not revealed the character of the person in possession of these hands.
The appearance of hands may give an observer some notion of profession and the nature of that profession. Whether one constructs a desk or sits behind it. But what cannot be made known is the character of the hands’ owner. As per the examples above: hands that heal, can harm. Hands that comfort, can upset. Hands that create, can destroy. Hands that protect, can persecute. Hands that perform acts of love can, likewise, perform acts of hate.
The average person cannot by a handshake truly make a distinction about another’s character. Whether their heart is filled with good or evil. But, the One who is beyond the average can do so. That is why judgment is left to God. As the woman in the opening story, we, too, will one day come to judgment. It matters not whether we believe this or not. For the truth is in knowing that it rains and shines on the good and bad alike. God has no lesser love for the non-believer. It is left to the free will of the non-believer to believe that. We will at judgment respond to Christ as the woman who sacrificed much for others had proposed to the minister. We will, as she, offer our hands. Christ then will offer His. Will there be seen a likeness between our hands and His? Will our hands show the marks of sacrifice, or those of the self-indulgent? In their likeness will be our welcome.
We have but two choices in how we conduct our lives. Our hands can perform acts of virtue or vice.