“No hands but ours”? I hope not!

May 5, 2011

We’re continuing to look at the resurrection appearances of Jesus in Vinebranch on Sunday. This time, the scripture is Luke 24:36-48. A natural move that I may make in my sermon is something like this:

“O.K., the risen Jesus said to his disbelieving disciples, ‘Look at my hands; touch my hands; look at my feet; touch my feet. It’s really me.’ There was a lengthy period of time during which we could talk to many eyewitnesses who said, ‘I saw the risen Lord.’ And because of that, we can be assured that our faith rests on a firm historical foundation.

“Today, however, we no longer have the ability to touch the hands and feet of Jesus. Rather, we are the hands and feet. We are the evidence. Our lives are the evidence to people to whom we lovingly minister.”

Something like that. I can even relate it to Mother’s Day, as we think about how our own mothers (we hope!) were the hands and feet of Jesus to us.

Having said that, however, I will not make this additional move—employed by one prominent preacher I just read—repeating this oft-quoted drivel, which may or may not have originated with 15th-century mystic St. Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which to look at Christ’s compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.

Why does this bother me so much? It’s the “nothing but this” aspect that’s wrong. If you want to get theological, it smacks of everyone’s favorite heresy, Pelagianism. By all means, we the Church are the Body of Christ in the world, continuing, however imperfectly, Christ’s ministry and witnessing to his love. But thank God that Christ’s power isn’t limited to us alone! We have the Holy Spirit alive in this world right now, working God’s good plan for this world—in us, through us, and often in spite of us—in ways that go far beyond our imagination. We are not doing the heavy lifting here.

When we love as Christ loves, we empty ourselves of ourselves. We become empty vessels through which the Spirit of Christ moves—and the emptier the better! It’s about what God does through us, not what we do.

One Response to ““No hands but ours”? I hope not!”


  1. Hi Brent,
    Interesting writing. I agree that God has hands other than ours – i.e. other ways of working in the world rather than through us.

    I disagree with the statement that we are called to “empty ourselves of ourselves” as you mentioned, and as I have often heard stated in various but similar ways. “Ourselves” is what God has created; our gifts, character, etc. It is to be used in God’s service, not done away with. Maybe we should empty ourselves of selfishness or self-centeredness, our will and ego; but not our very selves.

    Thanks for your writing!


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