From a very young age, I always knew there was a God. Always sensed, somehow, He was there… and that I could talk to Him. Don’t ask me how I was aware of that. But what I was burning to know was, would He ever respond to me? Was He able, in some other-worldly way, to stretch the divide between the supernatural into the natural and make His presence known to my very skin?
So, there I was in church, seated in a pew next to my parents, singing from a hymnal. We weren’t regular churchgoers, so the liturgy was half foreign to me, every movement and motion unexpected. We all bowed our heads for prayer at one point. And there it was! A light brush against my hair at the back of my head. An angel had touched me! I was so excited.
Only to discover, moments later, as the minister intoned his sonorous AHHHMEN, bringing solemn prayer to a close, that it was the habit there for men to stand while praying. The man behind me had accidentally touched my hair. Not a celestial being.
Oh, the disappointment. I so much wanted God to reach from his heavenly throne and touch me.
I confess, I still do.
Any cursory search of the internet will tell you how important human touch is. It lessens pain. Makes your lungs work better, brings down your sugar level, improves your immune system. Babies don’t grow and flourish without being held. Touch can do great harm too – abuse in various forms, slaps and punches damage the heart long after the bruises have healed. But touch also conveys healing, it can instruct, direct, comfort, play, love.
My mom teaches English to foreign students and once wanted to affirm a young boy’s correct attempts, so patted him on the head with a ‘well done, well done’. He violently jerked away with a ‘lude, lude!’ (he needed more work on pronouncing r instead of l). Turns out, in his culture a pat on the head equates to the Western equivalent of a slap on the rear.
You have to know how and where to touch!
And if human touch can achieve so much, how much more did the touch of Jesus accomplish as he walked in human flesh on this earth?
Our Saviour washed feet. Dirty, smelly, mud-encrusted, likely dung-covered, feet.
He welcomed children brought to him, to have his heavenly hand placed on their little heads for blessing.
But it is in healing that the touch of Christ has such unbridled effect.
The healed leper of Mark 1:40-42 couldn’t keep his mouth shut about Jesus’ touch, despite being told to hold his tongue on the matter. There are four accounts of blind people receiving their sight back in various unique ways involving Christ’s touch – at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-26), near Jericho (Mark 10:46-52), in Galilee (Matthew 9:27-31) and the man blind from birth (John 9:1-12). Then, too, Peter’s mother-in-law, bedridden with fever, healed by a hand placed on her ailing frame (Matthew 8:14-15). And a young girl presumed dead, raised to vibrant health as Jesus reached out and restored her (Matthew 9:18). These are the ones that stand out for me – but there are more.
His touch must have been like a lightning bolt, electrifying their bodies back to vitality.
Something I missed in all these accounts of hands-on healing, however, was a startling and very obvious fact I discovered in a Bible dictionary on my shelf. Something I was vaguely aware of, but hadn’t really connected to the healing ministry of Jesus until now.
The Old Testament clearly forbade touching the sick or the sinful.
Jesus did what was forbidden so that people could be restored, saved, healed, delivered, set free, made new. He didn’t squirm, he didn’t send someone else, he didn’t put on gloves, he didn’t keep his distance. He rolled up his sleeves and made blind eyes see, deaf ears hear, diseased bodies rise up and walk…. and his touch had far more than just physical results. Outcasts were restored to their communities and families, livelihoods were changed (you can hardly carry on begging if you’re no longer blind?).
Once he touched you, your life was never the same again, not in any way, shape or form.
What will it take for you to hug someone today? Put your arm around a suffering shoulder? Hold them as you pray for them? Who around you, near you, needs an affirming hand? A pat on the arm? A welcoming handshake? Or are the sick and sinful ‘forbidden’ territory to you too? Leave your made-up rules behind and set aside your qualms and reservations. Do what it takes to see that someone is healed today because you followed the Healer’s example… and touched them.