Jesus’ Life-Giving Hands
On her way out the door of the coffee shop, she ran into a classmate she hadn’t seen for years. Within moments they were visiting as though no time had passed, until her friend asked, “So how’s life?” Her mind raced to think of a way to deflect the question, because honestly her life was a mess. She was separated from her husband. She worked a
job she hated. And although her kids never said it directly, she felt like they blamed her for the marriage problems. That made her time with them less than fulfilling. She was scared. She was angry. She felt trapped. This wasn’t the life she imagined, and she dreamed about running away from it all, starting over, and really living life. Sometimes it’s the idealism of youth. Sometimes it’s a midlife crisis. Sometimes it’s burnout from the 40-year grind
of work and a readiness to embrace the golden years. But we all go through those cycles where we feel as though it’s time to start really living. People tell themselves they need go backpacking through Europe, buy an overpriced imported German convertible and trek up and down the Pacific highway, or spend their golden years cruising the Mediterranean.
These adventures, people try to convince themselves, will help them really live. They will “suck out all the marrow of life” as Henry David Thoreau said. But when those same people return home from their feel-good trips and realize their souls still feel empty, they still wonder what it means to really live. The Bible has something to say about really living, and it doesn’t involve a backpack, a BMW, or the Bahamas. Christians need no midlife crisis or end-of-life burnout to trigger a life worth living. We just need Easter. We need the empty tomb. We need the happy shouts, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.” We need Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in the upper room, showing them his Life-Giving Hands, and then explaining that Easter gives a life worth really living. The disciples in the upper room might as well have been walking out of a coffee shop, because they were acting like that woman whose life was a mess. John tells us “the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the
Jewish leaders” (v. 19). If the Jews were so underhanded and corrupt as to orchestrate the crucifixion of an innocent man, what would stop them from coming after his disciples next? Seventy-two hours earlier, they abandoned Jesus and fled from the Garden of Gethsemane as Jesus was arrested. Peter disowned him, just as Jesus had predicted. And, despite the fact that Jesus had been preparing them for months for his upcoming death, they still seemed genuinely shocked and surprised as they watched him die on the cross Friday afternoon. They were acting like Jesus was dead, and their lives weren’t worth living. They were afraid. They felt guilty. And they felt trapped in that upper room. Knowing full well their agitated state of mind, Jesus wanted to calm their nerves and bring them peace. He didn’t lead with, “How’s life?” but said, “Peace be with you” (v. 19). It was Easter. A few had seen the empty tomb. They heard the reports of the women and the Emmaus disciples, but they hadn’t seen Jesus with their own eyes. They weren’t completely sure what to make of the day’s events. So Jesus came and stood in their presence, he showed himself alive in person, and then gave his stupefied audience a moment to grasp the full import of his bodily presence. “Guys, it’s me!
I’m not a ghost, and I’m not dead. I’m standing right in front of you, very much alive.” “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side” (v. 20). Jesus’ bodily presence, together with the sight of his life-giving hands convinced the disciples that they were looking at their resurrected Lord. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Friends, we have the witness of the women, we have the Emmaus answer, and as Peter (an eyewitness of the miraculous) said, “we also have the prophets’ message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place” (2 Pe 1:19). This world is a dark place; it’s filled with doubt and disappointment, guilt and grief, punishment and pain, death and despair. This world is so dark that it often makes us want to join the disciples in the upper room with doors locked in fear! Most doors lock from the inside, not the outside. The outward circumstances of the disciples didn’t look good, but it was their own decision to lock themselves up in that upper room. Circumstances sometimes cause us to feel stuck. But
often the component that we don’t identify is that we lock ourselves into places that make us feel stuck. My choices, my consequences, my thoughts, my reactions, my sins, my prison binds me. On Good Friday the whole world went dark when God laid on Christ the iniquity of us all; Jesus suffered the anguish of all the ugliness and darkness of this evil world.
Today marks three days from Friday. It’s Easter, and Christ is alive! It took them a moment, but the disciples finally grabbed hold of the meaning of Easter that evening—it’s joy! “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord”
(v. 20). Not sinful fear, but Easter joy makes life really worth living. Have you grabbed hold of Easter joy? The gloomy hopelessness of the world died on Good Friday, and so did the darkness of sin and all the nagging guilt. Easter not only means joy, but peace; “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them” (2
Co 5:19). Jesus conquered sin, he defeated the devil, he rose from the dead. He’s alive! This Easter, grab hold of Jesus’ life—his life makes your life really worth living. Along with Jesus, peace follows joy into your soul.
The easy part of Jesus’ visit is done. He showed himself alive. Jesus had more in mind that Easter evening than to show the disciples his life-giving hands. Easter peace and joy were not just a static thing, a private state of mind and soul without words or deeds to follow. Jesus spoke next about how his life-fulfilling hands connect directly to our life-giving mission. “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As