Hands of Salvation

A black background with carved wooden hands of betrayal, upturnedOf all the hands involved in the final days of the earthly life of our Lord, none command more attention than the hands of salvation — the hands of Him who was nailed to Calvary’s cross. Hands that made blind eyes to see, the deaf to hear, withered limbs whole and even raised the dead were now nailed fast to a beam of wood.

After the crucifixion, it was the hands of Jesus that convinced the disciples of His return to life. Remember Thomas? He refused to believe the Savior was actually alive. Boldly he declared, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.”2 Eight days later, he got his chance when Jesus appeared suddenly behind closed doors. “Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put into My side,” Jesus said. “Stop doubting and believe.”1

In Luke’s account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus after Jesus’ death, it was in the breaking of the bread that they recognized the Master. Perhaps it was the way He blessed the bread, maybe it was the way He broke it that caused their eyes to be opened. But it seems more likely to me that, as He began to break off pieces of the loaf, the sleeves of His robe fell back, revealing the jagged wounds now slightly closed by new skin that existed in the wrists of the Stranger.

The hands of Jesus that were strong yet compassionate, were now torn and bleeding from wounds made by crude iron spikes. Hands that had delivered those bound by infirmity and evil spirits were now held captive by the Roman execution post.


A spike held against a wrist on a slab of woodThe men who were crucified on Calvary’s hill were generally a cursing, screaming lot. As spike bit into flesh, screams of pain and condemnations of Caesar and Rome as well as pleas for mercy usually shattered the air. But when Jesus of Nazareth was hammered down, the only sound was the sobbing of the women and the metallic thud as the soldier’s hammer drove the spike deep into the oak beam. Even when the cross dropped into the hole prepared for it with a sickening thud that sent searing pain shooting through His body, Jesus was silent. Even the crowd was momentarily hushed by His silence.

When Jesus spoke for the first time at Calvary, the words that fell from His lips were not curses but consolations. They were not condemnation but comfort. Not profanity but a prayer. Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.3

Perhaps it seems presumptuous—even sacrilegious—to try and pick the brain of our Lord. Although it seems audacious, we must understand what His prayer meant if we are ever to understand how the hands of blessing that were nailed to a cross on Golgotha’s brow could become the hands of salvation. If we could pick up the flow of our Savior’s subconscious thought as He hung on the cross, overlooking Jerusalem’s garbage dump, we might have heard these words.

The Hands of Betrayal

Judas Iscariot, although your guilt over betraying Me drove you to take your life, you did not know what you were doing. You thought perhaps you could force my hand—make me fit into your Old Testament Jewish concept of a warrior-king—a Messianic Deliverer who would trample the heathen Romans underfoot.

But, first I had to come as a servant—you did not know that I had to be slain like the sacrificial Passover lamb for the sins of My people. You did not know that even your betrayal was part of my Father’s plan of salvation—for the world—and you too, Judas. Remember the words of the Psalmist? Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me.4

The Hands of Denial

Peter, dear Peter. You stand at the fringes of the crowd—your eyes red from tears and your heart broken by shame and remorse. I knew you would deny me. Stop and remember. At supper, I said to you, “Satan demanded to have you…but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again (when you are converted), strengthen your brethren.”5

Like Judas, you did not know that you were fulfilling the psalmist words. Your denial, even after all your brave talk and loyal claims, was inevitable. It was part of my Father’s design.

The Hands of Judgment

Pilate, servant of Rome, while you tried to be neutral, you became a pawn of Caiaphas and the others. But even in becoming their puppet, you were fulfilling My Father’s plan for Me. You wanted to release Me—in the world of men, you had that power. But remember My words, “Ýou would have no power over Me unless it has been given you from above.”6

You did not know the prophecies concerning my death or that you were acting according to plan. You were following My Father’s orders, not the demands of Caiaphas or even the dictates of your own conscience.

The Hands of Execution

You Roman soldiers, you are acting out of obedience—and ignorance. By nailing Me to this cross, by gambling for My clothes, by offering Me vinegar to drink, even by piercing My side and not breaking My legs as you normally do, you were fulfilling the Master’s design. You who acted out of habit and obedience did not know that you were being obedient to a Higher Command.

Caiaphas, Ananias, priests of Israel, in your petty jealousy, you plotted My death—totally ignoring the Old Testament prophecies. You dare Me to come down from this cross—to prove I am the Son of God. You do not know that if I yield to your demands, you and the whole world will die condemned. I can come down, but I will not. I will fulfill my Father’s plan in order that you and the whole world might be forgiven.

Jesus—the Hands of Salvation

Jesus' scarred hands--the hands of salvationThe hands of Jesus nailed to rough-hewn wooden cross were the same as they had always been—the hands of salvation. In crucifixion as in ministry, in dying as in living, His were the hands of forgiveness, healing, compassion, deliverance, life. To Thomas, He said “Put your finger here; see my hands, reach out your hand and put it into my side…Stop doubting and believe.1

Look at the hands of Jesus—they are the hands of salvation. They were pierced for OUR forgiveness, too. The wounds in His hands were made by men and women just like us—people who were petty and selfish and afraid to take a stand.

Jesus was betrayed and denied by those who claimed to be His friends. He was judged and condemned by one who was afraid to buck the crowd and then nailed to the cross by one who was “just following orders.” He was crucified for them—and for us. He died, praying for them and for us—Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.3

Scriptures Used in Today’s Message

  1. John 20:24-29
  2. John 20:23
  3. Luke 23:34
  4. Psalm 41:9
  5. Luke 22:31-32
  6. John 19:11

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