It is occasions. And after last year’s virtual Easter I know we need to see the real promise of God in the nails that pierced Jesus’ hands.
First, let me tell you about “the list.” My builder never should have asked me to keep it. I dreaded showing it to him. He’s a skilled builder, a fine friend. And he built us a great house. But the house had a few mistakes. I didn’t notice any of the mistakes until I moved in. But once you take up residence in a place, you see every flaw.
“Make a list of them,” he told me. “If you say so,” I thought. A bedroom door won’t lock. The storage room window is cracked. Someone forgot to install towel racks in the girls’ bathroom. Someone else forgot the knobs to the den door. As I said, the house is nice, but the list is growing.
Looking at the list of the builder’s mistakes caused me to think about God making a list of mine. After all, hasn’t he taken up residence in my heart? And if I see flaws in my house, imagine what he sees in me.
Oh, dare we think of the list he could compile? The door hinges to the prayer room have grown rusty from underuse. The stove called jealousy is overheating. The attic floor is weighted with too many regrets. The cellar is cluttered with too many secrets. And won’t someone raise the shutter and chase the pessimism out of this heart?
The list of our weaknesses. Would you like anyone to see yours? Would you like them made public? How would you feel if they were posted high so that everyone, including Christ himself, could see?
May I take you to the moment it was? Yes, there is a list of your failures. Christ has chronicled your shortcomings. And, yes, that list has been made public. But you’ve never seen it. Neither have I.
Come with me to the hill of Calvary, and I’ll tell you why. Watch as the soldiers shove the Carpenter to the ground and stretch his arms against the beams. One presses a knee against a forearm and a spike against a hand. Jesus turns his face toward the nail just as the soldier lifts the hammer to strike it.
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Couldn’t Jesus have stopped him? With a flex of the biceps, with a clench of the fist, he could have resisted. Is this not the same hand that stilled the sea? Cleansed the Temple? Summoned the dead? But the fist doesn’t clench . . . and the moment isn’t aborted. The mallet rings and the skin rips and the blood begins to drip, then rush.
Then the questions follow. Why? Why didn’t Jesus resist? “Because he loved us,” we reply.
That is true, wonderfully true, but—forgive me—only partially true. There is more to his reason. He saw something that made him stay. As the soldier pressed his arm, Jesus rolled his head to the side, and with his cheek resting on the wood he saw: A mallet? Yes. A nail? Yes. The soldier’s hand? Yes.
But he saw something else. He saw the hand of God. It appeared to be the hand of a man. Long fingers of a woodworker. Callous palms of a carpenter.
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It appeared common. It was, however, anything but. These fingers formed Adam out of clay and furrowed truth into tablets. With a wave, this hand toppled Babel’s tower and split the Red Sea. From this hand flew the locusts that plagued Egypt and the ravens that fed Elijah.
Is it any wonder the psalmist celebrated liberation by declaring: “You drove out the nations with Your hand. . . . It was Your right hand, Your arm, and the light of Your countenance” (Ps. 44:2–3 NKJV). The hand of God is a mighty hand.
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Oh, the hands of Jesus. Hands of incarnation at his birth. Hands of liberation as he healed. Hands of inspiration as he taught. Hands of dedication as he served. And hands of salvation as he died.
The crowd at the cross concluded that the purpose of the pounding was to skewer the hands of Christ to a beam. But they were only half-right. We can’t fault them for missing the other half. They couldn’t see it. But Jesus could. And heaven could. And we can.
Through the eyes of Scripture, we see what others missed but what Jesus saw. “He canceled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross” (Col. 2:14 NLT).
Between his hand and the wood, there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins.
God has done with us what I am doing with our house. He has penned a list of our faults. The list God has made, however, cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by his hand; those down the list are covered by his blood.
Your sins are “blotted out” by Jesus (KJV). “He has forgiven you all your sins: he has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments which always hung over our heads, and has completely annulled it by nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14 PHILLIPS).
This is why he refused to close his fist. He saw the list! What kept him from resisting? This warrant, this tabulation of your failures.
He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you, and since he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, so he chose the nails.
Jesus himself chose the nails. So the hands of Jesus opened up. Had the soldier hesitated, Jesus himself would have swung the mallet.
He knew that the purpose of the nail was to place your sins where they could be hidden by his sacrifice and covered by his blood.
So Jesus himself swung the hammer. The same hand that stilled the seas stills your guilt. The same hand that cleansed the Temple cleanses your heart.
The hand is the hand of God. The nail is the nail of God. And as the hands of Jesus opened for the nail, the doors of heaven opened for you.