“Are you in good hands?” Have you ever heard this line from a television commercial? Yes, many of you would be familiar with this from the famous commercial of Allstate, an insurance company. In the commercial, this person, Dennis Haysbert, comes out at the end and always asks in his assuring baritone voice, “Are you in good hands?”
It’s such a great punch line that sounds compelling to customers like us. And because this “in good hands” expression is quite effective, the company even makes the good hands their trademark paired with the slogan, “You’re in good hands.” I think this is a great marketing strategy to set this ideal image of the company that would take an extra measure of care and service for customers. But how good are they in reality? I believe we are old enough to know that most of insurance companies keep us in their good hands as long as we pay the bills and as far as we don’t have any preexisting conditions or liability issues with our properties. True, with an insurance company, we’re in good hands “conditionally.”
Today’s Gospel reading has no catchy line like this commercial. It simply invites us to hear Jesus’ loving voice saying, “I am the good shepherd.” This good shepherd, with his good hands, leads the sheep to green pastures and beside still waters as the well-known Psalm 23 describes. But how good is the good shepherd actually? Jesus answers the question in all clarity: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Then Jesus contrasts the good shepherd to a “hired hand.” What’s the difference between them? Jesus says, “The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away” (John 10:12). While the good shepherd gives up his life because of his love for the sheep, a hired hand takes care of his own life and interest first. So here it becomes clear: a hired hand only conditionally takes care of us, the sheep; however, the good shepherd, with his good hands of grace, embraces us and cares for us regardless of our conditions or personal issues. True, with Jesus our good shepherd, we’re in good hands “unconditionally.”
Through our lives, how many times do we feel like we are in good hands—not in hired hands? How many relationships we have now are unconditional—not conditional? Last week I thought about the unconditional good hands I had in my life. And immediately, the images of my grandmother’s hands came into my mind. I remember her hands, rough and yet warm; they held my little hands and guided me to her humble house through a country road at a beautiful starry night. I remember her hands, wounded and bruised by demanding daily labor on a farmland; yet they always patted me consolingly on my shoulder and healed my heart. I remember her cooking hands grinding beans in a millstone and making the best and the most comforting tofu in the world. And I remember her praying hands folded together every morning, and they must be folded this morning again to pray for her grandson preaching today on the other side of the world. I dearly miss her good hands. Yes, I really do.
People say, to be a grown-up means to be independent from others’ hands. We need to take care of ourselves and make our own ways by our own hands. And we better learn quickly how to deal with all the tough conditions of life and how to survive through all the hired-hand relationships in this real world. But, sometimes, deep inside our hearts, don’t we miss some good hands? The good hands of our family and friends, the good hands that we can depend on, the good hands that help us carry our burdens even for a little while, the good hands that unconditionally encourage us, nudge us, and just silently hold our hands when we are down?
We miss them dearly, but unfortunately, sometimes those good hands are just out of our reach. And sometimes we just can’t hold them anymore in this world. Then, at those moments, when we deeply feel the need of good hands, what shall we do? Sisters and brothers in Christ, at those moments, as we look for the good hands in our lives, let us not just look “around” us first, but rather, let us look “inside” us first. Why? It’s because I’m so sure that inside of every believer’s heart, there already are the good hands of Jesus our Lord that comfort and guide us. Yes, by the unconditional grace of Jesus and through our faith in him, we are already in good hands of the Lord our good shepherd.
So all we need to do is just to be mindful of the abiding presence of the good shepherd in our lives, and hold his good hands with the belief that they will lead us to green pastures and beside still waters. The Lord’s hands are the saving hands; there we see the mark of the nails, the mark he got when he laid down his life on the cross for our salvation. These good hands are the protecting hands; no one, no wolf, can snatch us or scatter us out of his hands (John 10:12).
Sometimes, there may be no green pastures and still waters right next to us. But Jesus is truly our shepherd who trudges through the rocky hills with us in search of a patch of grass. We sometimes have to follow him through the harsh wilderness and the darkest valley. But Jesus is truly our good shepherd who unconditionally cares about us and stays with us at the closest distance through all the hidden dangers and challenges. Our good shepherd is always on our side, guiding us through every fluctuation and phase of our life—either good or bad. With him, we truly are in good hands.
Today, here in our worship service, we are invited to look inside, to be awakened to the abiding presence of the good shepherd in our lives, and to hold his good hands in faith. Look inside your heart and your lives. You are already in good hands of our good shepherd. So reach in and hold his good hands to live a new life. Then, reach out and hold others’ hands to be their good hands, to share the love of Jesus with them. Are you in good hands? The Lord is our shepherd. Let us entrust our lives to his good hands. Amen.