As Jesus ascends heavenward we are informed, “…lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them…” (Luke 24:50f). Those raised hands are the hands that had warmly blessed the children, they had caressed the untouchable lepers and healed them, they had touched the unclean dead and raised them to life, they had held the woman with the gnarled back and straightened her, etc. How appropriate that Christ raises those hands of blessing with a final blessing as He visibly departs.
But more than that, the lifting of the hands (or laying on of hands) was a profound pronouncement of blessing in Old Testament times. We are informed that Aaron, God’s first High Priest, “lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” (Lev. 9:22). Aaron’s blessing was not based upon himself. It was based upon the sacrifices that he had just offered, and it was based upon his God-appointed office as High Priest. We now have the ultimate High Priest, Jesus Christ, who in His very person and in His office as The Christ legitimately lifts His hands in blessing. Additionally Christ, the antitype of Aaron’s sacrifices, wonderfully and uniquely blesses us because on the cross He became the sin offering, the burnt offering and the peace offering. With raised hands Christ Jesus blesses us with forgiveness (sin offering), with sanctification to serve Him in love (burnt offering) and with divine communion (peace offering).
Emphasizing this further, recall that Christ allowed the nail-piercing marks of crucifixion to remain in His hands. It is at the cross where He became the world’s all-encompassing sacrifice. Thus He raised His cruci-marked hands in blessing. Those holy holes; those holes marking the death of God to make us whole—those holes shone forth like bright headlights, holding the gaze of the Apostles as they watched His ascension. His raised, holy, holey hands declared loudly the source of blessing: It is the living Lamb standing as if slain.
Amazing love—He does not lower His hands: “While he blessed them, he parted from them.” With His love-marked hands still raised in blessing, He “departs”. But the elevated love-marked hands are an indication that though He would henceforth be unseen, yet He does not really depart. With His hands yet raised He continues to abide with us giving us His hands-on blessings, as promised. He is with us always, blessing us in Baptism as surely as His hands blessed the little children. Every time His body and blood are received in Holy Communion—and we thus show forth His death until He returns—He is continuing to bless His people with those raised and holey hands. And when we with sighs of relief are dismissed from the absolution, we realize that His holey, yet-blessing hands, pierced for our sins, remain raised so that we may depart in peace. Indeed God’s people should know that the eternal Son of God will never drop His holey, holy hands of blessing.