It’s no secret that people are scared right now. I spoke with someone this week where both husband and wife are out of work and have lost their income. They still have to put food on the table, and put on a brave face for their kids.
Others are feeling lonely and detached from friends because of the stay-at-home order. So let’s acknowledge that you’re normal if you’re stressed these days. We’ve never experienced something like this in our lifetime.
In unprecedented times people need Jesus’ touch.
I’m convinced that we need most in the midst of this severe disruption is Jesus’ touch—and I want you to know He is here to bring it to you, today. The New Testament encounter we come to today is all about Jesus’ touch amidst social distancing. We come face to face with a man who by law was required to maintain a minimum of six feet of distance from others. Mark introduces him in chapter one and verse 40 writing…
“A man with leprosy came to [Jesus] and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’”
Two of Jesus’ other biographers, Matthew and Luke, describe this same encounter. But Luke, who was a physician, adds a doctor’s eye for detail—telling us that this man was covered with leprosy. From head to toe, the disease was in its advanced stages. His problem was out in the open for all to see—and so those with such skin diseases were not allowed to be out in the open.
Fear banished them from society. People wouldn’t get within a stone’s throw of them. In fact, they would throw stones at them if they did come close.
In order to guard against the spread of disease, by law this man was required to dress in the funeral attire of that era: clothing was torn, hair unkempt, face partially covered. He would have had to move away from town, most likely to a cave, to which family members would drop food and run. If he did happen to end up in the vicinity of others, he had to yell the warning, “Unclean! Unclean!” It was a terribly lonely existence. No one could so much as touch him.
Ken Gire paints the picture in his book Moments With the Savior, wondering, “How long has it been since someone has shaken his hand…patted him on the back…put an arm around his waist…rubbed his shoulders…hugged him…stroked his hair…touched his cheek…wiped a tear from his eye…or kissed him?”
Research indicates that people need about 10 meaningful touches a day to stay emotionally healthy.
The number varies according to your cultural upbringing, but catch the point: we’re created for a meaningful touch. This man had none. All affection was off the table, while he also declined in physical health from a disease that deadened his nerves and led to undetected injuries, infections, and loss of fingers and toes.
Somehow, word reaches him of a miracle-working traveling rabbi named Jesus. Maybe he hears of the blind now enjoying 2020 vision, of adults who were lame from birth now striding through town on muscular legs, of those who had been insane with demonic possession now in their right minds, mouths singing the praises of this Jesus who touched and healed them.
He finds the stories too compelling to stay away, whatever the regulations. This is the scene in which someone desperate for touch approaches Jesus. He’s desperate to get to Jesus, and the locals seeing him approach are desperate to get away from him. He stumbles forward, falls to his knees, and begs Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” He needs Jesus’ touch. He just doesn’t know if Jesus is willing to bring it.
Mark tells us Jesus’ immediate, gut-felt reaction, quote: “Jesus was indignant.”
- Indignant is what you feel when you get ripped off.
- Indignant is when you play the game by the rules at work but then somebody else plays office politics and they get the raise and promotion.
So what is this?
This…is compassion. Seeing this man’s suffering, Jesus is moved. He feels it in his gut, and replies without a moment’s hesitation, “I am willing!”
And, Mark tells us, Jesus “reached out his hand and touched the man.” He touched the untouchable.
“‘Be clean!’, Jesus commanded. “[And] Immediately leprosy left him and he was cleansed.”
Catch that Jesus could have first healed this man, then reached out with a meaningful touch. Instead, first came his touch, then came healing. Because what this man needed most was Jesus’ touch—and Jesus was willing to bring it.
Dorothy can tell us about that. True story. She spent years longing for a meaningful touch. But then during the first day of an introductory college speech class, the teacher went around the room asking students to introduce themselves by answering two questions:
- “What do I like about myself?” and
- “What don’t I like about myself?”
Hiding in the back row was Dorothy. Her long red hair hung down around her face like that leper, obscuring her face from view. When her turn came to introduce herself, she said…nothing. The classroom was filled with awkward silence.
Thinking she hadn’t heard the question, the teacher moved to a chair near hers and gently repeated the question. Again, silence.
Finally, with a deep sigh, Dorothy sat up in her chair, pulled back her hair, and revealed her face. Covering nearly all of one side of her face was a large, irregularly shaped birthmark — nearly as red as her hair.
“That,” she said, “should show you what I don’t like about myself.”
That’s someone who needed Jesus’ touch—and He was willing to bring it.
Here’s what happened. That professor was a true follower of Jesus. He, like Jesus, was moved with compassion. So he did something he’d never done before. Moved by compassion, he gently touched the birthmark on Dorothy’s face and said, “That’s okay. God and I still think you’re beautiful.”
Dorothy sobbed for the next twenty minutes. Other students got out of their seats, gathered around her, and offered their comfort as well. When she finally could talk, Dorothy explained, “I’ve wanted so much for someone to say what you said. Why couldn’t my parents do that? My mother won’t even touch my face.”
One act of compassionate blessing began to heal years of heartache for that student, and opened the door that drew her to faith in Jesus.
Someone you know needs Jesus’ touch—and you can bring it. Jesus is willing.
The question is, are we? Are we paying attention, and moved by others’ need for a touch from Jesus?
Last Sunday, a friend who had moved out of state more than a dozen years ago reached out. His church’s live feed had gone down, so he came here just like you’re doing. God blessed him through the online worship experience, and he wanted to pass that along. He needed Jesus’ touch—and Jesus brought it.
Here’s the backstory, which I tell you with permission. He and his wife are parents to two young teen boys. But less than a year ago, his wife suddenly…died. No warning. No preparation. Their new normal started then, and now all this.
We had a good half hour on the phone, crying and laughing and swapping stories and wondering about the future. Then he brought up how before, when things were normal, it was easy for a lot of us to not particularly feel our need for Jesus’ touch—but now we do. It’s always been there, but now we feel it. And He’s still willing to bring it.
Someone you know needs Jesus’ touch today—and you can bring it. So here’s what I want to do: before I pray for you, I want you to name one person who might need Jesus’ touch. Just one. You have a name in mind? Maybe it’s someone you live with. Maybe it’s a coworker, a friend, a neighbor, a nurse. Who do you know, who might need Jesus’ touch today?
Once you have a name in mind, feel free to pause this video to write one thing you appreciate about them. Maybe a key word, then put it in a sentence: “What I really appreciate about you is (and put in that character trait).”
Then tell them. Today. Pick up the phone and make a call. Read what you just wrote: “Hey, I was thinking about you today, and I just want you to know that one thing I really appreciate about you is ____________. You can bring Jesus’ touch to someone today.
Someone needs that today—and you can bring it. Practical Christianity. Let me take a moment to pray for you. Let’s pray.
Lord Jesus, we can’t see you in a pandemic.
But when we see your compassion for people, we’re drawn to you.
We need your touch, and we want you to bring your touch to someone else today through us.
So we ask for both.
Touch us as only you can, and with your touch, bring supernatural peace.
Bring to mind one person, we ask, one great character trait in them, and give us the motivation and open door to bless them today, to bring your touch in this way.
We love you, Lord, for the way you love us.
Thank you. Hold us close to you, we ask, today and in the days ahead. Amen.
Be sure to use the digital connect card on yChurch’s homepage @ https://www.y-church.com/ to drop a line and introduce yourself. It has the heading “How can we help you today?” When we hear from you, we will send you a helpful handout on five ways to bless someone today and any day. We’ll be glad to e-mail that to you as soon as you touch base.
If you have been blessed by this message, please share it on your social media. Because someone you know needs Jesus’ touch—and you can bring it, by sharing this message.
Finally, if you’re new to yChurch, welcome! God bless you today!