Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29
It was surprising to me to realize that this is the only mention that Jesus had nails driven into his hands and feet when he was crucified. None of the four Gospels mention it as part of his crucifixion. Often people who were crucified were secured with ropes rather than nails. Have you ever considered the kind of pain that this would cost? Take a moment to look at your hand. It is likely the nail wasn’t driven into the hand but just under the hand on the wrist. The weight of the body would tear through the hand so the nail would be driven between the bones on the wrist. Take a moment to feel the spot at the top of your wrist in the center where a nail might be driven. Just the thought of human beings placing a nail and pushing it into another human’s wrist with a hammer into a piece of wood causes me to shudder.
Jesus’ hands are symbols of authority. The President of the United States lays his hands upon the Bible as he takes the oath of office, thus receiving authority. The surgeons’ hands wield a healing scalpel, and with authority, those hands operate and heal. The machine operator knows the power he has in his hands. One wrong move, and many could die. Jesus chose at that moment on the cross to give up his authority as God and take the role of a servant for you and me. Not only did this horrific torture happen to Jesus, but He volunteered for this. He chose to go through this because of his love for us and his desire to be in relationship with us.
In the thousands of years since the crucifixion, our view of the nails and the cross have changed. Crosses we see today are gold and silver and hang from necks and ears. We see Kim Kardashian and Madonna rocking a cross necklace as a part of their “outfit of the day” posts. Earrings and necklaces were fashionable even in Jesus’ day, but it wasn’t until the second or third century that anyone dared wear a cross around their neck. No one who had seen a crucifixion would ever be comfortable wearing it as jewelry.
Peter’s words put the nails Jesus felt in perspective. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed 1 Peter 2:24
During this season, let me challenge you to remember the sacrifice Jesus made for you with one simple action. When you see a cross necklace or earrings or a cross tattoo, take a moment to feel that spot on your wrist and remember that it is by His wounds, we are healed.
Jesus, thank you for sacrificing yourself for us. Thank you that you allowed your hands to be pierced and feel that pain for me. Thank you that you gave up your authority as God to be made as a man to pay the penalty for my sin. God help me to follow your example. You told us that “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” Luke 9:23. God help me to put myself aside and follow you with all I am. Amen.