I recently read the story of the Dürer family in 15th century Nuremberg, Germany. The father of this large, poor family was a goldsmith and worked “side jobs” for a total of 18 hours a day.
One night, two of the older boys were discussing their future. They both wanted to go to the academy to become artists, but they knew it wasn’t affordable. So they decided that one would go to the academy, and the other would work in the mines to support the other’s schooling. After four years, the graduate would sell artwork (or work in the mines if necessary) to support the other brother’s education. The decision was made by a simple coin toss on a Sunday following worship.
The brother named Albrecht went to the academy. Albert went to work in the mines for the next four years, financing his brother’s education. Albrecht became almost immediately successful. By graduation, he was earning considerable fees for his commissioned works.
As the successful young artist returned home, there was a festive meal of congratulations. Albrecht announced that it was time for Albert to go to the academy. But Albert, in tears, said
it was too late. The four years in the mines had ruined his hands. They had been smashed multiple times, the arthritis was advanced. He was unable to hold a glass with his right hand. He was unable to use a pen or brush for artwork.
After 450 years, hundreds of Albrecht Dürer’s masterful portraits, sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in most every great museum in the world. But the most recognizable pen-and-ink drawing, a masterpiece, is of his brother’s injured hands. The original title of the drawing was “Hands” but has become known as “The Praying Hands.”
I had a reproduction of this hanging on my wall for four years of college, and I didn’t know this story! Whenever I see it now, I remember that the hands in the masterpiece are a sign of the loving sacrifice of a brother. That, in turn, reminds me of the loving sacrifice our brother, Jesus, who gave his life for our eternal salvation.
Our Savior has made us to be a masterpiece in God’s eyes. Why not hold your hands, now, in thanksgiving for the loving sacrifice of our Savior. Amen.