The holes in Jesus’ hands refer to the wounds inflicted on Jesus during his crucifixion. According to the Biblical accounts, Jesus’ hands were nailed to the cross when he was crucified. After his resurrection, the wounds in his hands remained as evidence of his crucifixion. The question “who touched the holes in Jesus’ hands?” is an invitation to reflect on those who encountered the risen Christ and connected with him through his wounds.
The Holes Themselves
The holes in Jesus’ hands were significant for several reasons:
- They were a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about the suffering Messiah (Ps 22:16)
- They were evidence that Jesus had indeed been crucified and killed
- They demonstrated the extent of Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice on behalf of humanity
- They were still present on his resurrection body, affirming the bodily continuity between the crucified and risen Lord
The holes touched by others thus had enormous theological meaning. They inspired awe, wonder, gratitude, and worship in those who encountered them.
Those Present at the Crucifixion
The soldiers who actually inflicted the wounds on Jesus’ hands were likely the first to touch the holes:
- They pierced his hands as they nailed him to the cross
- They may have checked that he was dead by touching his wounded hands after his death
However, the soldiers did this with cruelty and indifference, not with reverence.
Others present at the crucifixion who may have touched Jesus’ hands include:
- His mother Mary, who may have held or caressed his hands as she grieved at the foot of the cross
- The other women who watched his crucifixion and may have reached out to touch his hands in lament
- Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who took Jesus’ body down from the cross and buried it, likely touching the wounds
If they did touch the holes, it would have been to offer comfort, honor, and care for Jesus’ body, not specifically to touch the wounds themselves.
Those Who Saw the Risen Jesus
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and others who certainly touched his wounded hands in awe and worship. Specific biblical examples include:
- Mary Magdalene, who clung to Jesus in the garden on Easter morning (John 20:17)
- The disciples, when Jesus appeared to them in the upper room on Easter evening (Luke 24:39-40)
- Thomas, who touched Jesus’ hands to confirm his resurrection a week later (John 20:27)
- The disciples, when Jesus appeared to them again in Jerusalem (Luke 24:50)
For all these believers, touching the risen Jesus’ wounded hands helped convince them that he had indeed conquered death. The holes visibly proved that this truly was their crucified Lord, now resurrected.
Significance for All Believers
While only Jesus’ first followers could literally touch his wounded hands, all believers throughout history have spiritually connected with him through those holes in his hands. Some key points:
- The holes represent Christ’s sacrifice and suffering for our salvation
- They are a reminder of God’s tremendous love expressed through Jesus (John 3:16)
- They affirm Christ’s resurrection power and victory over sin and death
- They inspire gratitude, worship, and a desire to live for and serve Christ
So metaphorically, believers continually touch Jesus’ hands when they meditate on the meaning of the cross and resurrection.
The holes in Jesus’ hands carry deep theological significance. Those who literally touched them at the crucifixion and resurrection reacted with grief, care, disbelief, and awe. Today, believers around the world still “touch” those holes spiritually through faith, finding hope, grace, and inspiration.
|When they touched Jesus’ hands
|During the crucifixion
|With cruelty, to nail him to the cross
|Mary and the women
|At the foot of the cross
|To offer comfort in grief
|Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus
|When taking Jesus’ body down to bury it
|To care for Jesus’ body in burial
|In the garden on Easter morning
|Out of devotion and joy at seeing him alive
|When Jesus appeared to them resurrected
|In disbelief, awe, and dawning hope
|A week after the resurrection
|To confirm that Jesus was really alive again
|All believers metaphorically
|Throughout history through faith
|To connect with Christ’s sacrifice and victory
Old Testament Prophecy of the Pierced Messiah
The wounds in Jesus’ hands were a direct fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about the suffering Messiah. Psalm 22:16, written by David around 1000 BC, describes the crucifixion centuries before this method of execution was practiced:
“For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.”
This prophetic description of the piercing of the Messiah’s hands on the cross confirms that Jesus’ death was part of God’s plan all along. It was no accident of history. Rather, through the wounds in his hands, Jesus fulfilled God’s mission of redemption for humanity.
Various Interpretations of Psalm 22:16
There has been some debate over the exact wording of Psalm 22:16:
- The Masoretic Hebrew text says “like a lion, my hands and feet,” not “they have pierced.”
- But the Septuagint Greek translation from 200 BC says “they have dug/pierced.”
- Most scholars now think the original reading was “pierced” but scribal copying errors crept into the Masoretic text.
Regardless of the textual debate, the context of Psalm 22 clearly describes a crucifixion-like execution. And the piercing of hands is the most reasonable way to understand this prophecy as pointing to Christ.
Archeological Evidence of Crucifixion
Outside of the biblical text, archeological discoveries have provided external confirmation of the practice of crucifixion in Jesus’ day and how it would have pierced the hands.
In 1968, excavators discovered the remains of a man named Jehohanan who had been crucified in Israel around the same time as Jesus. The man’s ankle bone contained a rusty 11.5 cm nail along with fragments of olive wood on either end. This provides empirical evidence that crucifixion involved nailing victims to a cross.
Skeletal remains from Giv’at ha-Mivtar, northeast of Jerusalem, provide additional archeological evidence. Remnants of a heel bone with an 11.5 cm iron nail dating from the 1st century AD indicate that the man had been crucified. The tip of the nail was bent, indicating it had encountered a knot in the olive wood beam as it was hammered into the man’s heel and foot.
While these finds do not directly prove Jesus himself was nailed to the cross, they substantiate that crucifixion in his day involved nailing victims, likely through the hands and/or wrists. This provides historical and archeological support for the biblical account of Jesus’ hands being pierced on the cross.
Medical Explanations of Crucifixion
From a medical perspective, crucifixion through the hands presents some challenges:
- The hands cannot support the full weight of the body without tearing through the palms.
- Nails through the hands would hit bones and tendons, requiring the nails to traverse sideways through the wrist instead.
Therefore, modern medical analysis generally concludes that nails through the wrists between the ulna and radius bones behind the hand provided the most effective means of supporting a crucified victim’s weight.
So while the biblical text refers to Jesus’ hands being nailed, this likely involved the wrist area. The nails would have severed the median nerve, causing excruciating pain up the arms. Whether in the hands or wrists, the result was holes that Thomas could touch and feel a week after the crucifixion.
Evidence that Jesus Could Still Use His Hands
Despite being pierced, Jesus’ hands retained enough function after his resurrection for him to do activities like showing his hands to Thomas and eating fish before the disciples (John 21:12-13). This indicates the nails were localized either between wrist bones or higher in the palm, without causing extensive nerve and tendon damage.
Jesus certainly bore permanent scars from the crucifixion. But his ability to freely use his hands in his resurrection body shows that the wounds themselves were not utterly debilitating. So Thomas could not only touch them but recognize Jesus performing familiar activities with his hands.
Theological Meanings of Jesus’ Wounded Hands
Beyond just proving Jesus’ identity, the holes in his hands carried deep theological significance for the first disciples and for all believers:
They Show His Suffering and Sacrifice for Sinners
The wounds reveal how Jesus willingly underwent profound suffering and agony, shedding his blood to make atonement for sins (Isaiah 53:5). The holes testify to the high cost of the cross.
They Demonstrate His Obedience to the Father
By submitting even to crucifixion, Jesus demonstrated perfect obedience to the Father’s will (Philippians 2:8). The holes bear witness to his humility and desire to fulfill God’s plan of redemption.
They Prove His Humanity
The fact that the resurrected Jesus retained visible wounds indicates he was still incarnate, still fully human. The holes connected the risen Lord to Jesus of Nazareth who walked the earth and his physical body.
They Show His Resurrection Power
The wounds prove that this was indeed the same Jesus who died on the cross. Though put to death in weakness, he now lived by the power of God (2 Corinthians 13:4). The holes bear witness to his defeating death itself.
They Inspire Worship and Gratitude
For the disciples, touching Jesus’ hands overwhelmed them with love for him and thanks that his sacrifice opened the way for their salvation. They inspire the same worship and praise in believers today.
Meanings for Believers Throughout History
While only Jesus’ contemporaries could touch his hands directly, all those who have come to faith in him over the centuries enter into a deep connection with the significance of those wounded hands. Some key meanings include:
Assurance of Salvation
Believers take comfort that Jesus’ substitutionary atonement, evidenced by his pierced hands, secures their salvation. They are rescued from sin through faith in him.
Confidence in His Understanding
Jesus’ hands, scarred with human suffering, assure believers that he deeply understands their struggles, griefs, and pain. He is no distant deity but an empathetic high priest (Hebrews 4:15).
Inspiration for Service
Jesus’ sacrificial example inspires his followers to lives of service, even sacrifice. His wounded hands remind them of his call to take up their crosses and pour out their lives for God’s glory.
Challenge to Forgiveness
The fact that Jesus endured piercing leads believers to forgive others, no matter the offense. His hands remind them that, like Jesus, they should not retaliate but extend mercy instead.
Hope in the Resurrection
The holes in Jesus’ hands offer hope of eternal life with resurrected bodies, just as he was the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20). Believers take courage that his victory over death will one day be theirs, too.
Artistic Depictions Throughout History
The moving image of Jesus showing his wounded hands and inviting Thomas to touch them has captured the imagination of artists for centuries. Some of the most famous artistic depictions include:
- The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio (1601-1602) – Dramatically spotlights Thomas’ reaction as Jesus guides his finger into the hole in his hand.
- Christ Showing His Wounds by Giovanni Bellini (1478-1516) – Jesus stands robed in majesty, gently revealing his pierced palm to the viewer.
- Christ Appearing to His Disciples by Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308-1311) – Jesus pulls back his robe to showcase the wound in his side as Thomas kneels in veneration.
- The Doubt of St. Thomas by Salvi Castellucci (1643-1707) – Evokes the intimacy and tension of the moment as Thomas touches while other disciples look on.
Such paintings enable viewers in some small way to visualize and enter into that profound moment of encounter between Thomas and the risen Lord. The imaginations of both artists and beholders are drawn to this scene that consummately validated Jesus’ resurrection.
The holes in Jesus’ hands represent a nexus point connecting crucifixion prophecy, archeological evidence, medical facts, and deep theological meaning. Those who witnessed the risen Jesus touch his hands with astonishment at God’s redemptive work through him. Today, through Scripture and the Holy Spirit, believers around the world still reach out to touch Jesus’ hands, overwhelmed by his sacrificial love.