How powerful a touch can be! It costs the giver virtually nothing but can be of inestimable value to the recipient. It can melt hearts hardened by bitter woes, can obliterate man made fences that have obstructed relationships and can soothe cares better than man’s best pharmaceuticals.
Three of Jesus’ disciples, his inner circle including Peter, James and John had just seen the face of Jesus transfigured so that it shone as the sun as they were with him high on a mountain; then they heard the voice of the Father thundering from heaven saying, “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” Having seen his unveiled face and having heard God’s voice from heaven the disciples were “sore afraid.” (Matt. 17:6) It was at that point that Jesus “came and touched them,” and comforted them through their fear. It was the personal skin on skin touch of their Lord’s hand that more than anything calmed the fearful followers of the Lord.
So many times, it was His touch that made all the difference. On one occasion He put forth His hand and touched a man full of leprosy saying, “Be thou clean,” and his leprosy was healed. (Matt. 8:3)
He touched the fevered brow of Peter’s wife’s mother and “her fever left her.” (Matt. 8:15)
In the city of Nain, observing a weeping widow who was burying her only son, Jesus merely touched the bier and then commanded the young man to arise and “he that was dead sat up and began to speak.” (Luke 7:14)
When Peter, under the cover of early morning darkness, missed the servant of the High Priest’s neck and instead cut off his ear with his sword, it was the betrayed Son of Man who touched the wounded man’s ear and healed him. (Luke 22:51)
Then there was the time that two blind men followed Jesus crying out for mercy, and Jesus, having ascertained that they believed that He was able to heal them, touched their eyes saying, “According to your faith, be it unto you.” (Matt. 9:26) And Matthew records that their eyes were opened. When in the country of Gennesaret, it was said that “all that were diseased came to Jesus and besought that they might only touch the hem of His garment,” and “as many as touched were made perfectly whole.” (Matt. 14:31)
The touch of the hand is powerful. It is soothing to those in despair or overcome with fear; it is comforting to those who are grieving and strengthening to those paralyzed by danger. The touch of a father gives hope to the wayward son while the tender touch of a loving mother’s hand can make the weakest or wildest calm, comforted and courageous. A friend’s kind hand on the stooped shoulder of a fellow pilgrim can do as much or more than a page full of words. Just a touch at the right time from the right person for the right purpose can cheer, comfort or correct when done in love and when directed by the Holy Spirit.
This is why the prolonged isolation this current pandemic has necessitated with it burdensome and bothersome mandates, though for legitimate health reasons, has been so very devastating. God made us in His image: to know, to love, to will and as such it is unnatural not to hold, touch, share, shake a hand, commune, laugh, love, cry and talk relating person to person in community with our family, our friends, our church family, our neighbors and our extended circle of friends. Rubbing elbows just does not take the place of a hearty ungloved handshake! Smiles hidden behind masks are better than nothing because we can “read the eyes” but they are no long-term substitutes for genuine unmasked interaction with those we love and with those who are part of our lives. Jesus by His own example taught us the power of not only a well-spoken word but also the power of a well-timed touch—a touch of love, gently placed from one’s heart through his hand on our hand to our heart. May we never grow accustomed to a world where our sense of touch has been so sanitized that it only comes through the medium of artificiality.
“And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” (Isaiah 6:7)