Touch has always been important to me. As a boy with a touch of ADD — or maybe a lot more than a touch of ADD — I was never good at sitting still. Some people believe I became a preacher because I had such a hard time being still in church during the sermon. However, when I was a little boy, my dad would set me on his lap, and I would be still for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. His secret? He would lightly stroke the lines on my hands. His gentle touch would calm me. I would gladly be still, sit quietly, and sometimes go to sleep feeling his loving touch on my hands!
Years later, nothing calms my soul quite like my wife, Donna, gently stroking my back or tousling my hair as I go to sleep. I feel loved. I feel safe. I feel relieved of my problems, responsibilities, and deadlines. I fall fast asleep, joyous and unburdened from the world and its pressing demands.
Jesus was a toucher. When you read the stories of his life in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you see him touch all sorts of people — like a dead little girl to raise her from the dead, a blind man's eyes, and the dirty, stinky feet of the apostles. He also allowed people to touch him — like a sinful woman of the city and a woman with a flow of blood who pushed through the crowd. To validate his physical resurrection, he offered to let his apostles touch his wounds received during his crucifixion.
John, the beloved disciple, speaks beautifully of Jesus' ministry of touching and being touched with these words:
We want to tell you about the One who was from the beginning. We have seen Him with our own eyes, heard Him with our own ears, and touched Him with our own hands (1 John 1:1 The Voice).[THEVOICE]
Jesus is our tactile Savior; he touched and was touched by the mess of our humanity. He didn't run away. He didn't jump up and wash his hands. He stayed. He touched. He healed. He made whole. He allowed himself to be soiled by the very dust of our existence.
Once I realized that Jesus was a toucher, I was totally captured by Mark's story of Jesus touching a man with leprosy:[TOUCHING]
Jesus:It's time we went somewhere else — the next village, maybe — so I can tell more people the good news about the kingdom of God. After all, that's the reason I'm here.
So He traveled to the next village and the one after that, throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and casting out unclean spirits.
A leper walked right up to Jesus, dropped to his knees, and begged Him for help.
Leper:If You want to, You can make me clean.
Jesus was powerfully moved. He reached out and actually touched the leper.
Jesus:I do want to. Be clean.
And at that very moment, the disease left him; the leper was cleansed and made whole once again (Mark 1:38-42).
I cannot over-emphasize the profound impact this event had on my heart when I heard it clearly for the first time. Jesus touched the man with leprosy BEFORE he healed the man. Jesus did what he was prohibited from doing; he touched a leper. He became unclean. He willingly exposed himself to a man and his illness even though the man was shunned and feared because of his illness. Jesus entered into the world of ostracism, brokenness, illness, isolation, and death to rescue a person and make that person fully whole again.
Jesus never saw a leper. Instead, he saw a man with leprosy who needed to be loved and healed. He loved this man personally — a man who had been pushed to the brink of survival and isolated on the outskirts of humanity by his own religious laws. Jesus' humanity and compassion, Jesus placing human need above the religious law, stirs something deep inside me. We see the gospel demonstrated; the truth of God's grace told beautifully, simply, succinctly, and fully in a touch. God comes to earth in Jesus. Jesus is born as one of us. Jesus lives as one of us. Jesus touches the worst of us and the worst that life throws at us. Jesus brings us back to God cleansed, whole, and holy (Colossians 1:15-23).
The example of Jesus beckons us to join our Lord and Savior in touching the unlovable, the marginalized, the sinful, the forgotten, the isolated, and the sick. We need to ask ourselves each morning, "Who am I going to touch with the grace of Jesus today?"
[TOUCH] This post is the final part of a series focused on learning to touch the broken and impact their lives in ways similar to Jesus' ministry to the man with leprosy (Mark 1:35-45). Here are the six parts in the series and links back to those posts: