The Hands of Christ
49I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." 50When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
After His resurrection Jesus once remarked: “Handle Me.. for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” At His ascension Jesus was deliberately “carried up into Heaven” in full view of His disciples, as they received His audible blessing. His words at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, “Behold, I am with you always,” were reinforced by their still seeing Him bodily as He left. The disciples no longer mourned in despair, but rejoiced in the truth of His presence, Scripture indicates. Picture for a moment how Jesus raised His hands above His group of followers while being drawn to His Heavenly home. Here now we want to consider the wonderful meaning of those hands lifted over them as Christ’s very last visible act!
What those first disciples beheld might remind us of Elijah the Prophet, sometimes weak and fearful as we can be, and other times strong, being carried up to Heaven in the fiery chariot. Heaven isn’t closed to sinners like Elijah and us. It isn’t only God’s lofty dwelling, or just for Angels or other spirit creatures, but Heaven is also open and actually intended for human beings! The hands of Jesus clearly tell us of HIS humanity and of His physical flesh and blood like ours. “There is one Mediator between God and men,” St. Paul wrote, “the MAN Christ Jesus.” Those hands had washed the disciples’ feet. They had many times been clasped together in fervent prayer. They imparted healing to blind men’s eyes and an injured servant’s ear. It was in the familiar action of those hands breaking bread that Cleopas and the other follower at Emmaus finally truly recognized who Jesus was, the risen Lord! The hands of Jesus, held up and over them for His followers to each see individually, carried the truth of His humble Human birth at Bethlehem. They grew through childhood and youth into the hands of a Man. They toiled and rested and suffered poverty and temptation. With them He ate and drank, even after His resurrection. They were the hands of a Man who lived among people, going to a beautiful paradise which God also desires us to enter.
Certainly more eye riveting than all else was the fact that Christ’s hands still displayed the gaping wounds He received in being crucified. What a range of thoughts and feelings must have gone through the disciples’ hearts as they gazed upwards! Those were the very same hands that six weeks earlier had been lifted up in torture, yet were being pulled downwards in excruciating agony with the full weight of humanity’s hatred and sin. They had large holes from the spikes that had been pounded through them, but stretched even further (figuratively speaking) on account of the sin that you and I have added to the world’s load! By all rights Jesus could have rebuked those disciples and us, saying “Look what you did to Me! This should have happened to you; not Me.” Those very hands themselves instead tell us the very opposite, though. They tell us of the immense love Jesus fulfilled by laying down His life in our stead, dying for us. Yet now those same hands were alive again and entering the glory of Heaven! The impact of what those disciples now witnessed is that in Christ’s hands, once dead and now living and glorified, they visibly saw that Christ’s self sacrifice had truly gained forgiveness and salvation for the world of sinners. The torture and death that had touched Him brought real tangible mercy and hope to them and us. What a sight! Those hands at that very moment were swinging Heaven’s gates wide open.
HANDS OF POWER
St. Paul wrote: “In Him dwells all the fullness of God bodily.” In those same hands was vested all power in Heaven and on earth! They pointed to Heaven’s throne of power and connected it to earth’s inhabitants. All the power of creating is found in Christ’s hands. As God personally formed the first man from the dust of the earth and fashioned our first mother from his side, Christ now wields His power over all the universe and nature for our personal preservation and benefit. There is nothing that causes us pain or heartache whose limit He doesn’t set. The greatness of His power is the very same as when “Christ was raised from the dead and went up to God’s right hand side in Heaven,” Ephesians states, “where He is Head of all things for the sake of His Church.” He promised power to be sent from there in the Person of His Holy Spirit, who creates life in sin deadened hearts by the power of the Gospel. The hands of Christ contain all power. His hands raised up at His ascension convey to us that it is HE by whom the Gospel’s power of eternal life comes! They were physical, human hands such as we all have, yet in which exists the power that belongs to God alone!
HANDS RAISED IN BLESSING
Another aspect of Christ’s ascension is that His hands were raised in blessing over His followers. Whatever His specific words may have been, we can rest assured that His blessing rests on us who believe as much as it did on those first disciples. Every good thing that ever came to them has been handed to us as well, such as the blessing beyond our full comprehending of the Lord’s last supper. Perhaps Jesus spoke the same benediction passed on from Aaron the Priest: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” Perhaps the ascension blessing echoed the promise Jesus made earlier about preparing a place in Heaven for His followers. Perhaps it consisted of repeating His promise to send power from on High and the comforting assurance of always being with us. Whatever Christ’s word of blessing may have been, it was not merely a parting wish or “hope so” kind of farewell. His blessing was most certainly fulfilled for the group that was there and is still being fulfilled towards us and for all who believe on Him.
Now picture again the hands of Christ at His ascension: Human hands, marked with the nail holes of His sacrificial death, but now living and raised in Divine power and blessing, entering all the glories of Heaven! As you hold that picture in your mind’s eye, hear the words of the Angels in Acts Chapter One as the sure promise for you: “This Jesus who was taken up into Heaven will come in the same way..!” And let these words of John begin a groundswell in your hearts today: “We know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He IS!”