He got his hands dirty. Jesus did.
That first Easter day that we heard about in our Gospel for today, I do believe that the men and women in that room, saw the dirt. To prove to them that it really was him back in the flesh, Jesus tells them to look at my hands and feet, touch the flesh and bones.
The disciples are looking at skin, and skin–well, it get’s dirty.
Ghosts don’t get dirty. There’s nothing there for the dust and grime of life to stick to not like real live skin.
Jesus skin that had touched:
–the pale dust from the hay in the manger the day he was born
–the brown mud from the river Jordan the day he was baptized
–the red and yellow from the sands and rocks of the 40 days in the wilderness
–the dust of ancient scrolls held by the hands of his people for generations
–the white sand of seashore as he called Simon, James and John
–the invisible but very real uncleanness of those he touched to heal, a man with leprosy, a woman Jesus reaches out and touches on sabbath,
–the filthy money that day he called Levi the tax collector
–not to mention the “who knows what” that was on a dead man’s bed
–the oil from the hands of a sinful woman
–the crumbs from the bread that day he fed 5000
–the crud and soil as he walked from one town and village to another on his way to Jerusalem
–the icky sticky–ness of the little children he touched and blessed
–the hairs of the colt who carried him into Jerusalem,
–the stain of blood and dirt that clung to him as he was arrested, beaten, interrogated, tortured and crucified
–the earth of the tomb they laid him in
Looking at those hands, those feet they could see this really was Jesus. They recognized him this time not in the breaking of the bread but in the hands he gave them, the hands that picked up a bite of fish. They saw the dirt; they saw his hands.
But that wasn’t all. Because Jesus wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty–he felt life and death. Now, the gospel writer Luke doesn’t mention the wounds, but we can believe they were there. That when he showed his hands his feet, his wounds from just a few days ago were still there.
Some people might be ashamed of these wounds, for they see in them vulnerability; they see in them uncertainty, and pain and defeat. And in our culture those can be signs of weakness. But that is not the way it has to be. Instead we can see within these wounds, within scars a source of strength. For those wounds bear witness that Jesus did not let fear hold him back. The wounds show what it took, the struggle, to overcome sin, evil, and death. Those are the wounds that can now have given us strength. His wounds, his hands, his feet. For some of us, when imagine them, we see ourselves. We see the wounds we bear and the dirt that’s stuck to us, either what’s on the outside for all the world to see, or in the inside, almost invisible. We can look at his feet, and we can find strength because we feel that Jesus knows us, Jesus loves us, and Jesus wants us, even needs us.
Yes, needs us, needs our hands, our voices, our creativity, our hearts, our minds opened and directed by God’s Word, Because the struggle is not over. In the resurrection, Jesus overcame evil and sin, and death. The problem is a lot of us don’t, can’t, or won’t see it.
Because just take a look at the world around us, murders in our city, the man shot in the back by the police officer, this week is the 2nd anniversary of the Boston marathon bombing, the 20th anniversary of Oklahoma City bombing. This month is sexual assault awareness month, because people continue to use their hands to hurt one another.
With all this pain, and so much more, the devil is waiting for us to throw up our hands in surrender and give in, give in to violence.
But that is not the way of Jesus. He did not overcome by building a bigger, or more lethal cross; he did not drop crosses from drones in the sky; he did not tell his followers to shoot first. Matthew’s gospel Jesus says to us, if you live by the sword, die by the sword. These words have been echoed by the followers of Jesus like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us that “hate begets hate, violence begets violence” … Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Jesus didn’t hold back; he wasn’t afraid to get dirty–to heal, to teach, to live and die for us. Forgiveness is spoken with his words Peace be with you; forgiveness is offered with his hands held out for us. He reaches out to us, asks to take our hands, and to well get dirty, just like he did. To always, again and again be open to others, reach out to others–to hold this wounded world in peace, so that those words “God’s Work, Our Hands” are not just a slogan worn on a t-shirt one day in September. Thursday afternoon, I went outside to sit on the steps enjoy the sunshine, perhaps talk with neighbors, and I took the sidewalk chalk out with me. Stepping out, I saw a mom and her daughter resting on the steps. Together we wrote and colored not messages, prayers on the sidewalk along Wisconsin Ave. By the end our hands were covered in chalk dust and a space of time and place of much needed peace had been made on our street. It is with our hands, the ones that we dig in our wallets and pockets to spend money, hands that mark our ballots at elections, typing and texting, that drive our cars, the hands we offer to one another. These are the hands that will get dirty answering our prayers for peace. Amen.