- the feel of cold skin cream rubbed on your sunburned shoulders making you shudder with shock and deligh.
- the sting in your hand from a high five celebrating what you have just accomplished.
- the gentle tousling of your hair by someone you love.
- the gentle drag of your daddy's fingertips across the top of your palm to help you relax.
- the stroke of your mom on your cheek as she puts a cool rag on your feverish forehead.
Most of us have experienced hundreds of other similar moments of touch that thrilled, excited, or comforted us. God made us tactile people — folks whose lives are empty if they are devoid of personal, human touch. So, God refused to only be theoretical or theological: God chose to be tactile and touchable, too.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life (1 John 1:1 TNIV).
These words sound like distant echoes from Thomas' encounter with the resurrected Jesus:
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:24-28)
What do these passages have in common? In both, John talks about the touchability of Jesus.
Jesus came to our world as God wearing human skin. He came as Immanuel, God with us, in human form. He was God Who was touchable skin in a real human body. This means that God got splinters in the carpenter shop, blisters on his feet during his long walks, sweat on his sunburned face, and piercings in his hands, feet, and side on the cross. Yes, the Passion was God knowingly enduring the humiliation and rejection of His own people in the Cross (Isaiah 53:3), fully with the sense of touch:
... a man of suffering, and familiar with pain ... pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:3-5).
Through Jesus, we witness God touching the broken, the mortal, and the untouchable. This touch of God through the hands of Jesus made His ministry powerful and personal:
When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him (Matthew 8:14-15). While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher anymore?" ... he took the child's father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!") (Mark 5:35-41). While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him (Luke 5:12-13). As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. ... Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing (John 9:1-7).
Jesus' ministry was about the touch of God for those who needed it and about God being touchable by those who were seeking Him. Which brings us back full circle to Jesus' resurrection appearance with Thomas and the other apostles:
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:21-22).
Did you hear what Jesus said? We are sent to make God touchable and to share the touch of God with those who most need it!
The following questions are for small group discussion, personal reflection, and for home gatherings. I would love to get your response on my blog, as well:
Those of us who gather around the Lord's Table and follow Jesus are the Body of Christ: we are the physical presence of Jesus in the world today (1 Corinthians 10:16-17). Our work is to make faith touchable for a world that cannot see or touch God.
How does understanding this vital truth change your approach to each day?
As God's people, who are we touching?
- Are these the same kind of folks Jesus touched?
What do you need to do personally to help share the touch of God with others?
- How does your schedule need to change if you are going to share the touch of God with others?
- How can you share the touch of God with those in your normal weekly schedule?
- How does knowing that you are sent by Jesus to share the touch of God with others change the way you look at the people you see every day?