I have often referenced the quote by the talk-show host Larry King, in his response to a particular question: “If you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?” Mr. King’s answer was that he would like to interview Jesus Christ. When the questioner followed with, “And what would you like to ask him?” King replied, “I would like to ask him if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.” The first time I requested permission through a common friend to use this quote of his, he sent word saying, “And tell him I was not being facetious.” I believe him. Who would not like to interview Jesus Christ?
It is not possible to live without asking questions—and what better source for the answers than the one who claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life? If one could only be face to face with him from whom life comes, how delightful would be those moments when the most confounding questions of life are raised. Though unaware that they were walking with the risen Christ, the men who walked on the Emmaus Road said that their hearts burned within them as he opened up the past, the present, and the future. When Jesus broke the bread at the table with them, they realized who he was and a light for all of history had been turned on.
In the same way, it may be that when the time comes to sit across the table from the Lord of history, the answer to the skeptic and the believer will be more visible than it will be in need of utterance. Ironically, this clue came to me in the form of a question inscribed on a painting I saw in a pastor’s office in Puerto Rico. Just before we went into the sanctuary, my eyes caught a glimpse of it directly in front of his desk. It was the picture of a little girl holding the hand of Jesus, even as he tenderly gazed at her. She was clasping his hand as she asked him, “Que paso con tus manos?”—”What happened to your hands?” That question, I suspect, contains the answer to both the doubt of the skeptic and the duplicity of the believer.
It also carries Larry King’s question to a more profound level. The virgin birth may only prove to the skeptic that naturalism cannot explain the world’s existence, that God has supernaturally intervened in history. In a supernatural framework that is possible. But “What happened to your hands?” answers what it takes to rescue this life of mine from self-serving intellect or from self-glorifying moralizing to others, and brings me to a place from which I no longer live but Christ lives in me. It buries the self that seeks the self and brings to birth the fullest person that God has so uniquely endowed. That is to say, in the cross I find my definitive loss that I might obtain my greatest gain. Only when the skeptic and the believer can see in my hands the marks that prompt “What happened to your hands?” can life’s questions cease and answers pour forth from the depths of the soul.
From talk-show hosts to all of us who wrestle with life’s questions, the answer is the same. The longer I have lived the more I come to believe that it is not evidence of which we are short, nor the knowledge of discipleship of which we are deprived. For most, what we lack is the courage and contentment to go to the cross and to die to ourselves, prompting the world to ask, “What happened to your hands?” There, the purpose of history and the purpose of life converge. Our questions will always remain. But these two for me are reminders of where the answers ultimately have to lead. With this in mind, Calvin Miller, said:
“The sermon and the Spirit always work in combination to pronounce liberation. Sometimes the Spirit and sermon do supply direct answers to human need but most often they answer indirectly. The sermon no matter how sincere cannot solve these unsolvable problems. Rather, together with the Spirit the sermon exists to point out that having answers is not essential to living. What is essential is the sense of God’s presence during dark seasons of questioning. Our need for specific answers is dissolved in the greater issue of the Lordship of Christ over all questions—those that have answers and those that don’t.”
To Miller’s statement I would just change the last line to read, “Those that have only intellectual answers and those that transcend the intellect.” Or better still, “Those that Bethlehem can answer and those that only Calvary can.”
Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.