We’ve all heard the expression that touts having someone or something “in the palm of your hand.” In the modern sense, it's an ugly brag about having control or influence over a person or situation, usually thanks to flattery or manipulation. But in this photograph, Gabriel has sweetly put his face in the palm of my hand, freely returning the affection I freely give to him.
I think most shepherds have enjoyed moments like this; it’s not that I have some kind of special touch. While animals don’t respond to flattery, they do respond to security. For prey animals like sheep, safety is everything. The shepherdess who can provide it will earn their devotion and loyalty for life because they know they're safest by her side. Likewise, as Christ-followers, the closer we are to the Shepherd, the safer we are from the wolves and evil influences of this world.
In John 10:27-29, Jesus assures us of his hands-on protection: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand."
Christ’s hand. The hand that leads us. The hand that holds us.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. (Ps. 139: 7-10)
Christ’s hand. The hand that empowers us to do marvelous things in His name.
And the hand of the Lord was with them,
and a large number who believed turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:21)
Christ’s hands. The hands that opened and consented to the pounding of nails for the salvation of our souls.
A company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet. (Ps. 22:16)
Christ’s hands. Whose palms are permanently engraved with his mindfulness of me, who has promised to never forget me.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (Isaiah 49:16)
To the disciple Thomas, who doubted that the risen Lord had appeared to the others in the Upper Room, Christ returns and says:
“See my hands…do not be unbelieving but believe.” (John 20:27)
You might also notice in this photo of Gabriel that I’m wearing a wristband engraved with “33AD” — the year of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. I wear it to remind myself of what Christ did for me, a sheep in his flock, the one prone to wander, the one he fiercely loves and protects. And I wear it to remind myself that Jesus holds me in the pierced palm of his hand…not in our ugly, modern sense, but in the same beautiful sense as when Gabriel chooses my hand of his own free will. It is God’s gift of free will that allows us humans to put ourselves in any hands we choose.
Knowing that, Jesus implores us: "See my hands." They are as outstretched and reconciling today as they were on the Cross, waiting for us to put ourselves into them. "Do not be unbelieving but believe."
As for me, each and every morning I choose to echo the words of the psalmist — those which Jesus recalled with his dying breath:
"Into your hands I commit my spirit;
you will redeem me, Lord, God of truth.
The One who is both the Shepherd and the Lamb paid for our sins in full, once for all. Christ's perfect sacrifice is complete. His work of redemption is finished. But the task of placing ourselves in the palms of his hands begins anew each day. Whose hands do you choose?
“Tetelestai” ~ It is finished.