Yesterday I was reminded of how hard this pandemic has been on our elderly. We already know they are at a higher risk of dying from the virus, but even for those who don’t become infected the impact of the virus is still detrimental. On social media a friend of a mine re-posted an encounter from a nurse who is a friend of hers. The nurse wrote about a bittersweet interaction she had with a 98-year old patient of hers who hasn’t been able to see her son or daughter for six weeks. Burdened by isolation and loneliness, the elderly lady saw no point in living any longer. The nurse offered to Facetime the lady’s son, but the woman just cried. She craved a real hug. Moved with compassion the nurse gave her a hug. The woman clung to her for a long time. It brought healing for both of them. The nurse acted safely in doing so–completely clad in personal protective equipment of a mask, face shield, body suit, and gloves. Fear of the virus has marginalized our elderly, cutting them off from the relationships they need to thrive. But love overcomes fear. I thank God for this nurse and for all the healthcare workers who are diligently giving of themselves to help those in need.
In addition to our dear elderly, we all need touch. It’s one of the five love languages identified by counselor, Gary Chapman: acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, and physical touch. God designed us to love and be loved. Touch is one way we demonstrate love and one way we feel loved ourselves. Michelangelo beautifully illustrated the touch of God in his Sistine chapel masterpiece mural. Even more glorious than this monumental painting is the actual touch of God in Jesus. Jesus is the fullness of God wondrously expressed to us in human form (John 1:1-4, 14; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-4). He is God the Son who humbled himself, took on flesh, and lived among us. He graciously and joyfully condescended in order to save us from the death of our self-centered living. He came to show us God and enable us to be reconciled with God. Anyone who trusts and obeys Jesus experiences the abundant, everlasting life of God.
While ministering on earth, Jesus intentionally touched people. He crossed social boundaries, challenged cultural mores, and exposed legalistic hypocrisy to engage people at their point of need. Sometimes he sought them out and at other times they came to him. Here are just a few encounters described in the Bible by the apostle Matthew and Luke, a disciple:
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them” (Matthew 4:23-24).
“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘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!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy” (Matthew 8:1-3).
“Now when Jesus returned [from going out of his way to restore a demon possessed man], a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.
When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”
They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.” (Luke 8:40-55).
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36)
Even toward the end of his time on earth knowing people would reject him, betray him, falsely accuse him, mock him, desert him, flog him, and crucify him, Jesus continued to receive and touch them. His interaction with people was genuine, truthful, kind, self-sacrificing, and always for their best. His touch brought recognition to the lost, the outcast, and the forgotten. It brought acceptance and forgiveness to the humble in spirit. It brought hope to the desperate. In his touch Jesus empathized with those who were suffering. He gave rest to the weary. He loved the unworthy and unlovable. He esteemed the lowly. He inspired the hopeless. He healed the broken. He raised the dead.
Jesus’ ministry on earth climaxed with his death and resurrection. Because he lives, whoever believes in him can have victory over death also. After resurrecting he ascended to heaven. Yet he continues to touch people today through his Holy Spirit. His Spirit counsels, comforts, corrects, and empowers those who trust and obey him. He also works through his followers who act as his loving hands to touch people in need
Jesus is my hero. I want to be more like him. To do so, I need his touch. As I experience his transforming power, I want to be faithful and available for him to touch others through me. What about you? Have you experienced the touch of Jesus? If so, will you safely and kindly extend his touch to an elderly person or anyone who needs a smile, an encouraging word, a prayer, a high five, a fist pump, a pat on the back, someone to sit with, a hand to hold, or a hug? If you haven’t felt the touch of Jesus, you certainly can. Just ask him to forgive your self-centeredness, to save you, and to show you how to live and love like he does.