The Nail Scarred Hands
THE NAIL SCARRED HANDS John 20:24
The only manmade things in heaven are the scars in the hands of Jesus, the wounds in his feet, the wound in his side.
When you go somewhere on a vacation so many times you bring back a souvenir. Jesus visited this planet and he brought back as a souvenir, not something cheap and not something temporary, but something if I understand the bible that will endure for all eternity and bought at a fearful price.
The prophet Zachariah in 13:6 pictures the Lord Jesus as he's coming again and people behold him and they say what are those wounds in your hand? And he said those are the wounds that I received when I was in the house of my friends.
I want us to think today about the nail scarred Hands. I want us to think today of the nail scarred hand as I begin to read in verse twenty four, "But Thomas, one of the twelve called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. And the other disciples therefore said unto him, we have seen the Lord, but he said unto them, except thy see in his hands the print of the nails and put my finger in the print of the nails and thrust my hand into his side I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within and Thomas with them, then came Jesus, the doors being shut and stood in the midst and said, peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side and be not faithless but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, my Lord and my God."
Three things the nail scarred hands speak to me about.
First of all they tell me beyond the shadow of any doubt that Jesus suffered.
Crucifixion was unanimously considered the most horrible form of death. Among the Romans the degradation was also a part of the infliction, and the punishment if applied to freemen was only used in the case of the vilest criminals. The one to be crucified was stripped naked of all his clothes, and then followed the most awful moment of all. He was laid down upon the implement of torture. His arms were stretched along the cross-beams, and at the centre of the open palms the point of a huge iron nail was placed, which, by the blow of a mallet, was driven home into the wood. Then through either foot separately, or possibly through both together, as they were placed one over the other, another huge nail tore its way through the quivering flesh. Whether the sufferer was also bound to the cross we do not know; but, to prevent the hands and feet being torn away by the weight of the body, which could not “rest upon nothing but four great wounds,” there was, about the centre of the cross, a wooden projection strong enough to support, at least in part, a human body, which soon became a weight of agony. Then the “accursed tree” with its living human burden was slowly heaved up and the end fixed firmly in a hole in the ground. The feet were but a little raised above the earth. The victim was in full reach of every hand that might choose to strike. A death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of the horrible and ghastly—dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds, all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness. The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries, especially of the head and stomach, became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and, while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst. Such was the death to which Christ was doomed.—Farrar’s “Life of Christ.”
The prints in his hands tell us that God suffered and God continues to suffer.
Isaiah 42:14, God speaks of himself and he says '" cry like a woman in travail." Now, we know that God sings but have you ever thought of God crying? I cry like a woman in travail, like a woman giving birth to a baby with labor pains. God says in Isaiah chapter sixty three and verse nine speaking of his people, in all of their affliction he was afflicted. When God's people were afflicted God himself was afflicted.
God speaks in Jeremiah 31:20 of that tribe of Ephraim he says is Ephraim, my dear son, is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still. Therefore my bowels are troubled for him.
What does that mean? That's old English. It speaks at the pit of the stomach. Any one of you who has a child that has done wrong and gone wrong - and everybody who has raised a child of maturity - has one time or another has been sick in the pit of his stomach, he's hurt, he's hurt, and God says "I hurt".
Now, when we have pain we normally don't chose it and sometimes we can do absolutely nothing about it, but God chose pain and if God wanted to he could do something about his because he is God and he can do anything he well pleases. And yet, God has chosen to suffer. It's obvious if you think about it that God would suffer because of the very thing that God has made of himself or God agrees to be within his own eternal wisdom. God is a father. You can't be a father or a mother without suffering. The story of the prodigal son tells us that. The bible tells us that we can grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Grieve is a love word. Parents grieve over their children and the Holy Spirit grieves over us. Your automobile can vex you, but your children grieve you because grieve is a love word. And so, we know of God as a father he suffers because of his children when they do wrong. We know that Jesus is the head and we are members of his body. Can the members of the body suffer and the head not know it? As a matter of fact, when any member of your body suffers it sends a message to the head immediately. That pain is picked up in the brain and were the old brain to register the pain your body would feel no pain. Jesus is the head. When his church suffers he suffers.
When the apostle Paul was on the road to Damascus his name was then Saul. He was persecuting the church and Jesus Christ met him and said to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" The point is obvious. Saul was persecuting the church, but Jesus said you're persecuting me.
I want to ask you another question. Can a bridegroom have a bride that is unfaithful to him, flirtatious and indifferent, can he not suffer? Jesus is the bridegroom and the church is the bride. Is it not obvious that if we're unfaithful and untrue to him, indifferent to him, flirtatious with this world that his heart is broken? I think I can say that those wounds in the hands of Jesus tell us one thing, that God...God has suffered, and God does suffer.
Second thing,, not only do those wounds tell us that God has suffered and that God does suffer, but those wounds also tell us that because he has suffered he knows, he cares, he understands. When you hurt, he hurts. The bible tells us we don't have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He was in all points tempted like as we are, Jesus in a human body suffered and he knows exactly what you feel. Those souvenirs that he's taken back to glory tell us "I have been there." Jesus walked the dusty roads of Galilee. Jesus wept at the graveside of Lazarus. The bible says when he saw the crowds he was moved with compassion. The word compassion is a composite word of two Latin words, "com" meaning "with" and "patti" meaning "to suffer", "to feel". He knows, he understands.
Those scars tell us that when we suffer, when we hurt, he hears, he understands our pain. His scars are a lasting image of his humanity and they tell us that the pain of man has become the pain of God. They speak to us of the greatness of his love. Whether you understand all about pain or not those scars tell us, in your affliction he loves you.
Now, why does God allows humanity to suffer? Why does God allow anybody to have wounds that turn to scars? Well, if you go way back to the book of Genesis right in the beginning in the dawn of civilization after Adam and Eve had fallen into sin, God came to the garden and God forgave the sin and God made it right but then God said to Adam and Eve concerning the ground, "cursed is the ground for thy sake, thorns and thistles would it bring forth to thee." Now notice, God did not says that the ground was cursed for their judgement. God said that the ground was cursed for their sake because he loved then.
The cruelest thing that God could do for falling humanity would be to allow them to continue to live in a painless world. They'd never know anything was wrong. You see, you need to be grateful for the pain. Pain is a gift to tell you that something is wrong. Let me give you a statement - "if I have the right and the power to eliminate pain, I would not use that right nor exercise that power." Who said that? Well, God didn't say that but he could have said that, and he would have said that and I'll tell you why. Because God does have the power and God does have the right and God has not done it and God is infinite love. God has the power to remove pain and God has the right to do it but he's not done it. Why? I'll tell Dr. Paul Brand, an imminent hand surgeon and man who worked for over twenty years with lepers and a lepertorium, said "I would not eliminate pain because he said pain is too valuable."
This is what he said about pain. He said "pain's value is too great. Rather than eliminating pain I would lend all my energies to doing all I can to help when that pain turns to suffering." When that pain turns to suffering. Really, this pain is proof of God's love. You see, pain has a protecting purpose first of all. Dr. Brand told us that lepers lose the ability to feel, they lose the ability to sense things and, and so therefore there are so many things happen to damage them because they do not have their protecting power and propensities of pain.
You turn your ankle, have you ever turned your ankle and gone down just like that? There is a defense mechanism in your body when your body senses that strain on the ankle immediately then - just like that - faster than any computer can work - a message is sent to the brain and back again and tells the thigh and tells the calf, "take the weight off" and you go down. You look silly, hey, but it's better than what could happen, isn't it? It's better than putting a break or a severe strain there and stretching the ligament. No wonder the Psalmist said, we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and God allows pain there for a protecting purpose.
Not only is there the protecting purpose of pain, friend, there's the unifying purpose of pain. Pain has a way of unifying the body. You see, if members of your body could not feel pain you would not know they were members of your body. I was reading where wolves sometimes, in the frozen North, running across the tundra will get frost bite and one will go numb. Do you know what they do? They turn on it off, they don't treat it as a part of their own body because feel pain. They think of it as something different than a their own body. You see, Dr. Paul Brand went on to say, "I can tell the health of a body in many ways by it's ability to sense pain."
That's what the apostle Paul was talking about in the new testament when he was talking about the church which is his body and he said in I Corinthians 20:26, whether one member suffered, all the members suffer with him, that is, in a human body when one part of you hurts all of you hurts. You just can't say when you hit your thumb "my thumb hurts." You say "I hurt." I mean, you hurt all over. You see, that's one of the ways to know that the body is healthy, when one member suffers every member suffers with him.
Have you ever hit your thumb with a hammer? I think of all the pain known to man, that's right up in the top ten, don't you? I know what happened when you hit your thumb with a hammer. I think the very first thing you did was grab it like that. I think the second thing you did was pop it in your mouth and suck on it and I think the third thing you did was do a little dance like this, isn't that right? Sure. Now, you know why you did that? No, you don't know why and I don't know why either. I mean, what do your knees have to do with your thumb? I don't know but that dance sure makes it feel better and, and when you do that little dance it's just a way of saying that when one member suffers every member suffers with him.
Pain has a unifying force and by the way, if the ability to feel pain is a mark of health we ought to think about that as a church, his body. What about the elderly? What about the poor? What about those who are shut in? What about the battered child? What about that person with a broken home? Do we hurt when they hurt? What about that brother who has been broken and fallen in sin? When one member suffers every member suffers with him. There's a protecting purpose in pain. I'm telling you there's a unifying purpose in pain.
There's another purpose in pain. Dear friend, there's a correcting purpose in pain. Pain corrects. You put your hand on a hot stove there's a message that says "it's hot down here", it goes to your head, your head says "move your hand" and you move it like that, you don't have to think about it, it goes just like that, but that corrects it. You see, dear friend, why does, why does God allow us to live in a world that is cursed with pain? Because what we call a curse is a blessing. The worst thing God could do, I say it again, the worst thing God could do to sinful and fallen humanity would be for them to live in a world uncursed by pain. Because it is the pain that tells us something is wrong that needs to be corrected and you can put it down big and plain and straight, pain will never be removed until the last vestige of sin is eradicated and then pain will be removed because pain is God's message to fallen, broken humanity that something is desperately wrong.
But you say but why do the little children suffer? That's just how wrong it is. Sin is so indiscreet. Suffering is so indiscriminate. That's the unfair thing about sin, but God has warned us that something is tragically wrong with his universe.
But what does it say to us when we see those wounds in the hands of Jesus? Those nail pierced hands. They tell us that he has suffered, but not only do they tell us that he has suffered, friend, they tell us that has willingly, voluntarily identified himself with our humanity that he might take that load, that he might bear that load, that he might share that load with us.
The third thing those wounds tell us, not only has he suffered and therefore not only does he understand how we feel, not only can he be touched with the feeling of our infirmity, but they also tell us that he has overcome, that he has conquered. I remind you that those were scars after the resurrection, those were not raw and bleeding wounds, those were wounds that had been healed. The bible says in Isaiah 53:5 speaking of Jesus, "he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him and with his stripes we are healed." Dear friend, there's victory in those wounds. He's saying it is done, it is paid for and this is but a souvenir, this is but an eternal reminder that your sin debt has been paid at Calvary. You see, such love, again I remind you, he didn't have to suffer this way, but he chose to.
I think you can understand. Those of you who have children, let's suppose that you have a child who is away in school and that child right now is in deep trouble. Now, you're happy right now, you're looking forward to going to lunch with some friends but now, let's suppose that your child is on drugs, living in filth, you don't know it. Let's suppose that your child is lying right now in the emergency room of some hospital with his body broken and twisted. You're sitting here in church relaxing. Now, if you could choose, would you choose not to know and remain happy or would you choose to know and begin to suffer. You'd say, "I want to know." You mean you would want, voluntarily want to know, you would want to begin to suffer? Sure you would. You would say, "if my child is hurting I want to know so I can hurt too." If my child is in trouble I need to know, I want to come there, I want to invade that suffering, I want to do what I can do.
I'm so glad God describes himself as a father, aren't you? And I'm so glad that the bible says when my father and my mother cast me off then when the Lord takes me up. There are sometimes parents who say, "I don't care what he does, I'm finished with him." I can't imagine a parent like that. One young man had wronged his father so many times, and the father had been so patient and so loving, finally a friend came to him and said, "if that were my son I'll tell you what I would do"... and proceeded to say what he would do. This father with a broken heart said, "I can understand that" and he said "if he were your son that's what I would do," but he said "he's not your son, he's my son and there's a difference."
I want to tell you that the stories of Jesus tell us that God so loved us, he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquity. That's what the cross is all about.
Those nail pierced hands that he takes as an emblem of his humanity and a souvenir for from his visit to planet earth, they tell us number one, that God has suffered. They tell us number two, that because God has suffered he understands and we can cast all of our care upon him, for he cares for us and they tell us number three, that he has conquered, he has overcome, he is a lamb sitting upon the throne, a lamb as though he had been slain and yet he has overcome. This resurrection appearance was on the other side of bloody Golgotha when Jesus asked Thomas to thrust his finger into the print in his hand.
If you suffer and those wounds heal that may be your greatest testimony for Jesus Christ. The thing that convinced Thomas were the scars. And your scars may be the message that will convince some unbeliever today that you cared enough and yet you've overcome and God will use it. Listen friend, bring your wounds to Jesus, use your scars for Jesus, bring your wounds for Jesus, use your scars for Jesus.
One last thing, would you imagine Jesus right now upon his throne, just close your eyes, imagine him on the throne, see him in beauty glorified, see those ruby red scars in his hand. Are you suffering today? In the pain, anguish, doubt, confusion, he's reaching out that hand to you. He's saying my child, I know how you feel. Cast your care upon me, I care for you. I'm touched with the feeling of your infirmity and I want to tell you if you're suffering here today that you can place your hand right now, do it right now in the nail scarred hand, just do it.
There's somebody here today lost, you're not certain that you're saved, you don't know that you're right with God, you don't know that you're right with God, you need to be saved, you want to be saved, place your hand in that nail scarred hand. Do it right now. Say Lord Jesus, come into my heart and save me, forgive my sin and make me your child and he will, and don't you take some sedative to block out the pain. It's not a sedative you need, it's the savior that you need.
Thomas. He defies tidy summary.
Oh, I know we’ve labeled him. Somewhere in some sermon somebody called him “Doubting Thomas.” And the nickname stuck. And it’s true, he did doubt. It’s just that there was more to it than that. There was more to his questioning than a simple lack of faith. It was more due to a lack of imagination. You see it in more than just the resurrection story.
Consider, for instance, the time that Jesus was talking in all eloquence about the home he was going to prepare. Though the imagery wasn’t easy for Thomas to grasp, he was doing his best. You can see his eyes filling his face as he tries to envision a big white house on St. Thomas Avenue. And just when Thomas is about to get the picture, Jesus assumes, “You know the way that I am going.” Thomas blinks a time or two, looks around at the other blank faces, and then bursts out with candid aplomb, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Thomas didn’t mind speaking his mind. If you don’t understand something, say so! His imagination would only stretch so far.
And then there was the time that Jesus told his disciples he was going to go be with Lazarus even though Lazarus was already dead and buried. Thomas couldn’t imagine what Jesus was referring to, but if Jesus was wanting to go back into the arena with those Jews who had tried once before to stone him, Thomas wasn’t going to let him face them alone. So he patted his trusty sidearm and said, “Let’s die with him!” Thomas had spent his life waiting on the Messiah, and now that the Messiah was here, Thomas was willing to spend his life for him. Not much imagination, but a lot of loyalty.
Perhaps it is this trait of loyalty that explains why Thomas wasn’t in the Upper Room when Jesus appeared to the other apostles. You see, I think Thomas took the death of Jesus pretty hard. Even though he couldn’t quite comprehend all the metaphors that Jesus at times employed, he was still willing to go to the end with him. But he had never expected that the end would come so abruptly and prematurely. As a result, Thomas was left with a crossword puzzle full of unanswered riddles.
On the one hand, the idea of a resurrected Jesus was too farfetched for dogmatic Thomas. His limited creativity left little room for magic or razzle dazzle. Besides, he wasn’t about to set himself up to be disappointed again. One disappointment was enough, thank you. Yet, on the other hand, his loyalty made him yearn to believe. As long as there was the slimmest thread of hope, he wanted to be counted in.
His turmoil, then, came from a fusion between his lack of imagination and his unwavering loyalty. He was too honest with life to be gullible and yet was too loyal to Jesus to be unfaithful. In the end, it was this realistic devotion that caused him to utter the now famous condition, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, I will not believe it.”
So, I guess you could say that he did doubt. But it was a different kind of doubting that springs not from timidity or mistrust, but from a reluctance to believe the impossible and a simple fear of being hurt twice.
Most of us are the same way, aren’t we? In our world of budgets, long-range planning and computers, don’t we find it hard to trust in the unbelievable? Don’t most of us tend to scrutinize life behind furrowed brows and walk with cautious steps? It’s hard for us to imagine that God can surprise us. To make a little room for miracles today, well, it’s not sound thinking.
As a result, we, like Thomas, find it hard to believe that God can do the very thing that he is best at; replacing death with life. Our infertile imaginations bear little hope that the improbable will occur. We then, like Thomas, let our dreams fall victim to doubt.
We make the same mistake that Thomas made: we forget that “impossible” is one of God’s favorite words.
Isaiah 49 - 13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. 14 But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. 15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. 16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.