Hands: Crucified Hands
Mark 15:16-24 Pastor
March 25, 2018
As you know, this Lenten season we’ve been sharing a sermon series at Christ Church entitled, “Hands.” In this series, we’ve been exploring gospel stories that center on Jesus’ hands. By looking at some things Jesus did with his hands, we’ve been learning how God wants us to use our hands to transform the world for love.
So far, we’ve learned a lot about Jesus’ hands. We’ve learned that Jesus used his hands to pray, to heal, to express righteous anger, to forgive and to serve others. And we have learned if we are going to be the “Hands of Christ” in our world we need to be about the business of using our hands, and lives, to do these things too.
Today, however, we come to Palm/Passion Sunday. And on this Sunday, we’re not going to focus on something Jesus “did with” his hands. Instead, we’re going to focus on something that was “done to” his hands. Today we focus on the fact that Jesus’ hands, which he used to do so much good, became “crucified” hands.
It happened on Friday morning just outside the western wall of Jerusalem. Jesus, who only a few days earlier had entered the city to cheers of adoring crowds waving palm branches, had been betrayed and forsaken by his friends, arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, and nearly beaten to death by Roman soldiers. Then, being forced to carry his own cross, Jesus was led to a place called Golgotha, better known as “The Skull”. There, Roman soldiers in charge of executing enemies of the state held Jesus arms against a wooden beam and drove spikes through the center of each of wrist causing him to writhe with incredible pain.
Then, stripping him naked to further humiliate him, they hoisted Jesus up on onto a post that was already in the ground. And turning his badly beaten legs to one side, they overlapped his ankles, and drove a third spike through them to secure him to the post until he died from either exposure, exhaustion or asphyxiation.
On a spring day, over two thousand years ago, in the city of Jerusalem, the praying, healing, angry, forgiving, serving hands of Jesus became crucified hands. So, what can we learn by pondering the crucified hands of Jesus? How do they connect with your life and mine? Well, today I’d like to share three ways.
First, the “crucified hands” of Jesus remind us that PAIN and suffering is a PART of everyone’s life, even our Lord’s. A number of years ago, psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote a classic book entitled The Road Less Traveled. If you’ve read it, you know that Peck begins the book with a very interesting sentence. He simply says, “Life is difficult.” At the beginning, before he says anything about how to cope with the ups and downs of life, Peck says we have to get one thing straight. We need to understand that life is difficult. It’s tough. It often involves suffering and pain. It will find one way or another to jump up and bite us!
And we know that, don’t we? We know that because life has bitten some of us this year. Some of us have been bitten by the loss of a job. Others by an unexpected financial challenge. Some have been bitten by the heartache of a broken relationship. Others by a serious health challenge or death of someone we loved.
Over the years, one of my spiritual mentors has been John Claypool. He was Baptist pastor who became an Episcopalian priest. He was also a person who was very familiar with “the painful, the difficult, dark side of life”. You see, when she was eight years old John’s daughter, Laura Lue was diagnosed with leukemia. And when she was ten years old, she died. Out of that terrible experience John wrote a book on grief. He entitled the book, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler. In the book, John talks about many things that he learned through his journey with Laura Lue. But one of the most powerful things he said he learned was simply this, “No one is exempt from the experience of pain and suffering in life.”
We may want the Lord to make our life easy. But the truth is, God doesn’t do that. Not for anybody. Not even Jesus! So, the first thing we learn from the “crucified hands” of Jesus is that pain and suffering is part of everyone’s life. None of us are exempt!
Second, the “crucified hands” of Jesus remind us that we have a savior who SHARES in our SUFFERING. They remind us that when we suffer, we have a savior who not only sympathizes with us, but shares in our suffering. We have a savior who knows what it’s like to experience the pain and struggle of life’s crucifixions.
Back in the late 60’s John Lennon of The Beatles began a relationship with Yoko Ono. For a variety of reasons, this relationship caused John to be intensely criticized by the other Beatles, and the press who did not like her. In response John wrote a song entitled, The Ballad of John and Yoko, which our band played this morning. As you heard, in the chorus of the song, Lennon says, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy. You know how hard it can be! The way things are going, they’re gonna crucify me!” Now, when song was released, a lot of radio stations banned it. They said reference to “Christ” in the refrain was both profane and sacrilegious.
But, when a radio station interviewed Lennon about the meaning of the song he said, “Listen, you’ve got it all wrong. The song is not profane! It’s a prayer. What I’m saying is, ‘Christ, you know life ain’t easy, you know how hard it can be because you were crucified.’ It uses street language, but it’s a gospel song!”
Now, I’ve got to tell you, and it’s not just because I love The Beatles, John Lennon’s theology in this song is absolutely on the mark. The crucified hands of Christ remind us that Christ does know it’s not easy! Christ does know how hard it can be! Christ does know how we feel when life is falling apart all around us. Christ knows what it feels like to be betrayed. He knows what it feels like to be abused and abandoned. He knows what it feels like to be humiliated. He knows what it feels like to be afraid. Jesus knows what it feels like to suffer and die. Christ knows how we feel when we want to cry out, “They’re going to crucify me!”
When I was a kid, my grandfather had to go to the hospital. At that time the main hospital in Asheville, where I grew up, was St. Joseph’s Hospital, which was run by the Sisters of Mercy. One of the things I remember about going to visit my grandfather was that in his room, over the hospital bed, there was a cross. Now, this cross was different from the cross that hung in the church where I grew up. What was different about it? The cross in my grandfather’s hospital room had the figure of Jesus still attached to it – suffering and in pain. I remember asking my mom why the cross in the hospital looked like that.
“Well,” my mom said, “Jesus is not on the cross in our church because we emphasize Jesus’ resurrection. But, the cross in your grandfather’s hospital room is a crucifix. It is meant to emphasize Jesus’ suffering. It’s meant to remind us that Jesus not only knows what it’s like to suffer, but is with us when we suffer.”
The “crucified hands” of Jesus reminds us that when we suffer God does not remain safely aloof in heaven, but enters into our suffering at its darkest point. As Jesus stretched out his arms to embrace the suffering of the cross, God stretches out God’s arms to envelop us and be with us in the midst of our suffering and pain.
Finally, the “crucified hands” of Jesus remind us if we TRUST in God, pain and suffering can lead to TRANSFORMATION. Jesus suffered on a cross. He experienced incredible pain as a part of his life. He suffered in agony and then he died. As he left this world, however, he placed his trust in God. And because he did, next Sunday we’ll discover that Jesus’ pain, suffering and death became a path to a resurrected life! And the good news is - if we will place our trust in God, in the midst of pain, suffering and even the deaths of our lives - God can transform them into a path that leads to a resurrected life as well!
Pastor Louis tells me our Gen Xers and Millennials know who the famous singer, Enrique Iglesias is. But, our Baby Boomers know that long before Enrique there was another popular Iglesias. It was his father, Julio Iglesias. In 1984, Julio had a hit song with Willie Nelson called, To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before! And over his career he sold over 300 million albums! What none of us may know, however, is that before Julio Iglesias was a famous singer, he was the goalkeeper for a professional soccer team in Spain. Unfortunately, however, when Julio was 22 he was involved in a serious car crash that left him unable to walk for two years. This, of course, ended his soccer career. Crushed by what had happened Julio was ready to give up. Until one day a nurse gave him a guitar to help him improve the dexterity in his hands and pass the time in the hospital. Though he had no prior musical aspirations, Julio discovered he had a gift. And the rest is history.
Here’s the point. Life can be filled with all kinds of twists and turns, trials and troubles. And yet, the “crucified hands” of Jesus remind us that if we will place our trust in God when this happens, God can take any turn, any twist, any trial, any trouble, and transform it into a path that leads to a brand-new resurrected life!
So, over two thousand years ago, on a dark day outside the western wall of the city of Jerusalem, the praying, healing, angry, forgiving, serving hands of Jesus became “crucified hands.” And those “crucified hands” remind us of some important things. They remind us that pain and suffering is part of all our lives. They remind us that we have a God who shares in our suffering. And, they remind us that if we will trust in God in the midst of life’s darkest trials, they can become transformative moments that end up turning closed doors into open doors, darkness into light, and death into the gift of brand new life! And that, is very good news!