Hands and Feet

Christ’s wounded hand: Willem Vrelant

I have already written about The Grilled Fish Test, so here’s another thought about today’s gospel (Luke 24. 35–48): the significance of Jesus’ showing his hands and feet to his disciples. We know that his hands and feet bore the wounds of the nails used during his Crucifixion, but they were somehow changed. Even Mary Magdalene had not recognized him at first because the Christ she saw after the Resurrection was subtly different from the one she had known before. There was continuity, yes, but there was also something new, something that inspired awe. The other disciples felt that, too. The evangelist says, ‘Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded.’

That wondering joy, that half-believing, half-denying questioning, is typical of all of us confronted with someone we love whom we had not expected to see again, and in this instance the hands and feet are crucial to the act of recognition. How did the Resurrection change Christ’s hands and feet? Many artists have tried to convey their idea of the change wrought in the wounds, depicting them sanitised, beautifully regular, scarcely wounds at all, or they have shown them with diamond points of light streaming from them; but none has succeded in capturing the complete transformation that had taken place.  After all, what the disciples saw, we shall never know; but just as the act of eating convinced them of the fleshly reality of the person before them, so those transfigured wounds convinced them of the reality of the forgiveness he offered — and that surely is the point. Jesus stood among them not to demonstrate the fact that he was alive but to show them that forgiveness of sin had been achieved, that his mission was accomplished. We are now reconciled to the Father and must share knowledge of that grace with the whole world. Is it any wonder that we sing, Alleluia?

Note on the iullustration
Willem Vrelant (Flemish, died 1481, active 1454 – 1481)
 Christ’s Left Hand with Wound, early 1460s, Tempera colours, gold leaf, and ink on parchment
Leaf: 25.6 × 17.3 cm (10 1/16 × 6 13/16 in.)
 The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.


2 thoughts on “Hands and Feet”

  1. My Parish Priest spent quite a while explaining that although Jesus was transformed in wondrous ways He was the same person (personality) who had spent time with friends and shared meals with them. The visible wounds are part of that real person – there was to be no denying the suffering and death even when being dumbfounded by new life and the promise that we can share in it.

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