I haven’t hugged my recently-widowed mother in five weeks. I’ve seen her twice, in open air, with material masking her smile and gloves sheltering her skin. Without physical contact, it seems as though there’s an invisible wall between us, built by the hands of this virus.
In a time when touch is so taboo, so uncertain and dangerous, when we can’t even shake hands or high five, we have to know - feel deep down in our bones and believe - God is still touching us.
He shapes us from dust, like clay in the hands of a Potter (Genesis 2:7, Jeremiah 18:6).
He encircles us and lays His hand upon us (Psalm 139:5).
He knits us together in our mothers’ wombs, like an expert embroiderer. He forms us in the depths of the earth, like a master craftsman. He touches us in our innermost places, like a skilled soul surgeon (Psalm 139:13, 15).
We can let go of our fears and worries, because God will never let go of us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).
He is still holding us in the palm of His hand and will keep holding us until He brings us Home to Him (John 10:28).
“…even there Your hand will lead me; Your right hand will hold on to me” (Psalm 139:10).
Even in this virus, even in isolation, even in the long days ahead, God is holding us.
There is no place this holy God can’t touch, because Jesus became flesh and let unholy people touch Him (John 1:14).
This Messiah stepped down from heaven to be held in his mother’s arms (Luke 2:7).
This Savior never shuddered at touching a leper, socially-distanced from society (Matthew 8:3). The sores, the scales, the suffering: Jesus entered right into it with His very hands, caressing and comforting the untouchable when no one else would.
Jesus can touch our loneliness and lack in a way that no one else can, even now, because He's felt it all.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
This God-Man felt an unclean woman touch the hem of His robe to be relieved of her bleeding (Matthew 9:21, Mark 5:30). This God-Man shed His blood for us (I John 1:7).
This Warrior’s touch tamed demons yet was gentle enough to take the hand of a little girl and whisper, “get up” (Mark 5:41).
This freedom-giver didn’t flinch at washing feces-covered feet (John 13:5).
This resurrected Christ invited doubters to drag dirty fingers across his spear-pierced side and nail-scarred hands, so they could not only see but feel His glorified body (John 20:27).
The God who dirtied His hands with beggars, the blind, lame, mute and deaf still dirties His hands with us. We, who are helpless and hopeless without Jesus, who are blinded by the world, who are slow to hear His Spirit, who can be indifferent to be His hands and feet, God is still dirtying His hands with us - like a Gardner tilling soil and planting seeds that will become oaks of righteousness as we abide in Him (Isaiah 61:3).
The dirt of our sin and sickness is beneath His fingernails, as He turns us and breaks us and reshapes us. God is still the Gardner, and Jesus is still the Vine, and we are still the branches called to cling to Him (John 15:1-4).
Jesus could have healed with just a word, a look, or a thought. Yet, most often, Jesus chose to heal by touch.
Creators create with their hands. Healers heal with their touch. This is who God is: a God who holds us with His mighty right hand and extends His arm to us through His Son.
Jesus doesn't just want to solve our problems. He wants to enter into deep relationship with us in the most intimate of ways: by touch.
Jesus left heaven and took on flesh, to touch our diseases and infirmities with His very hands so that our innermost places would be healed. Because we are all born sick and lame and spiritually blind and deaf. We are all beggars at the foot of the Cross. We cannot heal ourselves.
We need the embrace of God.
God touches our blindness
On the Jewish day of rest, Jesus found a man born blind. Jesus spit on the ground and made mud from His saliva. Then the One who spread out the heavens with His hand stooped low to spread mud across the blind man’s eyes. Jesus, who was present at creation, put His hands back into dust to create a cure for this man's blindness.
The One who never sinned gave Himself for us, ached and thirsted as His mouth went dry, and entered the dusty tomb to be the cure for our spiritual blindness.
Then Jesus sent the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam, which means “Sent”. So the blind man went, washed, came back seeing, and he became among the sent to go and share the Good News about this God who touches and heals us. This once blind man entered into an abiding rest with God on the Sabbath because Jesus touched him (John 9:1-41).
But Jesus didn’t just touch the sick. Jesus took our sickness upon Himself so that we could be seen as whole and well before God.
“He himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains” (Isaiah 53:4, Matthew 8:17).
Jesus exchanged His righteousness for our filthy rags, so that we could become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He put on our sin, wore the crown of thorns, felt the sin dig deep into His soul, so that we could live forgiven, cleansed and free.
God laid ancient hands on us through that old rugged Cross.
In our sin, we are like the leper who cries out, “Unclean, unclean, unclean” (Leviticus 13:45).
Yet, Jesus doesn’t dodge us or demean us. He doesn't distance Himself from us. He reaches out for us. He carries us. He recreates us. He calls us to abide in Him as He abides in us. Jesus invites us into communion with Him so that He can touch our hearts, wash us clean and anoint us with His Spirit.
Like a lover longing to embrace his beloved, Jesus yearns for an intimate connection with us (James 4:5).
Jesus comes near the brokenhearted, so that He can hold and comfort us (Psalm 34:18).
God touches the taboo
When Jesus walked this earth, the soles of His feet traveled along lesser paths to touch the souls of the least. And, even more amazingly, He let the least of these touch Him.
“We have observed and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…” (I John 1:1).
In perhaps the most intimate exchange in all of Scripture, a sinful woman saved by grace washes the feet of Jesus. She pours out her soul as she pours out perfume on His skin, a year’s worth of illicit wages. But her touch is no longer taboo because of the One who touched her heart. The life she once lived will never be the same.
She lays everything before Him. She wets His feet with her tears and dries the salty-sweet liquid with her hair. The former prostitute kisses His feet profusely, because she’s felt the holy touch of God (Luke 7:36-50).
This woman becomes the aroma of Christ as she pours out her adoration to Him (2 Corinthians 2:15). She received priceless forgiveness and so she loved Jesus with literally all that she had. Her tears were a testimony of her gratitude. Her offering affirmation of her repentance.
As Jesus pours into us, with streams of living water, we are to offer it all back to Him (John 7:38). We are to be His hands and feet, touching humanity with our love, kindness, and sacrifice. We are to live our lives as a holy kiss to the Greatest Lover of our souls (Romans 16:16).
Because whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters, we do for Him (Matthew 25:40). Right now, strangely, that means not touching. But God is still touching us. And before our touch can mean anything, we first must feel the touch of God.
We can use our hands to call, text, or write. We are the sent, called to be the scent of Christ.
Be held by God
The One who gathered the wind in His fists is still sending His Spirit to us (Proverbs 30:4).
The One who gave us the cup of the new covenant now cups our faces with tender mercy, love and compassion (Luke 22:20).
There is no greater touch.
As we hold onto our faith and confession in Him, Jesus holds on to us. We are never alone. We are never left untouched.
Maybe there seems to be invisible walls around us built by this virus, keeping us from touching temporarily. But Jesus tore down the dividing wall between us and God permanently - so that His hands can hold us eternally (Ephesians 2:14).
During a time when you lack the embrace of family and friends, let Jesus embrace the deepest parts of your heart.
When you are missing face-to-face fellowship with a friend, little arms around your neck, the sticky kiss of a grandchild, the warmth of an older relative's hug, lean into Jesus. He is a faithful Friend, a gentle Healer, a loyal Lover, and a good, good Father.
His arms are stretched out wide for you. He is holding and keeping us even now. Abide in Jesus.