No Greater Love
Back in the 1400s, in a tiny village lived a family with 18 children. Eighteen! In order to keep food on the table the father, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost 18 hours a day and any other paying jobs he could find. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the elder's children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to study at the academy.
After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines.
They tossed a coin. Albrecht won the toss and went off to the academy. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht's etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family rejoiced. Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, â€œAnd now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to the academy to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.â€
All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, â€œNo...no ...no...no.â€ Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks.
He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, â€œNo, brother. I cannot go. It is too late for me. Look . . . look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once. Lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother. For me it is too late.â€
Albrecht became very well known as the greatest artist of the northern renaissance. His portraits, sketches, watercolors, and engravings hang in every great museum in the world. One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother's abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward.
He called his powerful drawing simply â€œHands,â€ but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love "The Praying Hands."
One day God decided to test Abrahamâ€™s faith, and said to him, â€œTake your son, your only son â€“ yes, Isaac, whom you love so much â€“ and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show youâ€ (Genesis 22:2 NLT). What an impossible mission! You know the rest of the story. God tested his faith by asking him to give up the love of his life, his one and only son. Abraham passed the test with flying colors, and God knew Abraham loved Him.
Many years after that, another Person gave up His Son to die, so that you may live. His hands, too, were scarred forever. Did He pass the test? The words of the Son answer that question, â€œNot My will, but Yours be doneâ€ (Luke 22:42 NKJV), and He passed with flying colors!