I titled this post almost exactly a month ago. At that time, I felt God reiterating the significance of the physical touch of Christ. I would hear a sermon, and one of the first things that stood out to me was a verse speaking of Christ's power through his physical being. I would hear a song, and the physical touch of Christ would be what stood out most. Little did I know, a month later physical touch would be something both I and many others are lacking.
As we sit inside our homes either alone or with family or adventure out to buy groceries, all while avoiding the physical proximity of others, I venture to guess we are all feeling both the need and simultaneous lack of a hug, handshake, or even a pat on the back. As more and more states across the U.S. and countries across the world mandate social distancing, stay at home orders, and gatherings of people less than 10, the ability to be in the warmth of someone else's presence decreases. As we are infiltrated with the fear of catching COVID-19, our time saying hellos or relaxing into the physical nearness of a stranger has been replaced with measuring 6 feet distances and wiping away the germs that their fingers may have left behind.
It is a strange time we are living in. I think everyone in the world could agree upon this. It's both unprecedented and incredibly foreign to almost all generations of those that live on earth. Sure, there have been other pandemics during our time, but there has yet to be one that demands an extreme level of physical distance and isolation like this one. As we wash away all the bacteria and virus that could be left on every inch of our skin, we are left with cracked knuckles and wandering thoughts on the many other worries enveloping the totality of our planet.
As I've been pressing into who Christ was in the midst of diseases, distress, pain, heartbreak, suffering, and the fallenness of this world, I've come to realize something so opposite of us found completely of him. His physical touch was not thwarted in the midst of disease or fear. As we have to take precautions to ensure we are not either spreading or taking in the coronavirus, Christ walked in complete authority over the plagues and pestilence that knocked on the people of that time's doors each day. As we scrub ourselves of any virus potentially transferred from others onto us, Christ both breathed in and embraced the diseased skin of a leper. As we are mere humans all facing the reality of our eventual mortality all while trying to do everything we can to thwart it from being tomorrow or next month, Christ approached death with the ability to conquer it on the cross.
I think we oftentimes can view Christ's humanness as being an afterthought to his glory as a savior. While both exist simultaneously in him alone, the idea of Christ as an actual man that walked the earth can seem both strange, foreign, and far off in history. In hopes of regaining the intimacy that comes with knowing him as both savior and human, I press us all to explore Christ's physical touch as a beautiful depiction of both man and in oneness with God. His hands were felt by his disciples, beggars, the blind, a leper, and many more. They weren't left with just the embrace of a friend but changed and transformed completely moving into the rest of their lives. Both his physical touch and presence left those that embraced it with not just camaraderie but a heart turned towards the loving kindness of God. His touch is both comforting and healing, joyful and transformative, kind and saving. As we all long for a time that returns back to normalcy, I encourage us rather to press into how Christ's physical touch still applies to our often hurting, hardened, and broken hearts today. Since Christ was the same then as he is today, can we not agree that the healing and heart changing power that his fingers encompassed during the time of Peter and John still exists today? To use this season of isolation, social distancing, and ensuring 6 feet is between each only wishing it away is truly a waste. I press on all of us that if we sit idling during a time where we can grow deeper in our relationship with God knowing that the physical touch of Christ both healed the hearts of sinners then just as it does now, we are throwing away a gift that may just be wrapped in paper foreign to our hardened hearts.
This isn't an easy message to hear or write. I, myself, have struggled off and on during this mandated stay at home order. I have wrestled with wanting to be near my community and wish this time of unaccompanied time with the Lord away. I have tried to fill the spaces of physical proximity and touch with strangers in coffee shops and friends in their home with anything but growing in relationship with God. Am I telling us we have to throw our televisions, computers, and phones out the window never connecting with our family and friends or watching a funny movie? No. What I am saying is that if in this season of extra time and space if we reach for other things before we reach to the physical proximity in which God continually exists, we are wasting it. God is omnipresent. He exists intimately with me in my one bedroom apartment just as he does Christians that fear their safety daily in countries of persecution. In our loneliness and inability to hug a friend, may we run to Jesus who alone has the healing powers for our sinful hearts laced in his hands.
Christ healed with his hands. He took diseased spots off of a man's skin. He rubbed a mixture of his spit and mud into the eyes of a blind man and gave him sight. He held the hand of a presumably dead daughter and brought her back to life. Jesus healed the physical distresses of many. But what I don't want you to miss is that he didn't do it as a party trick or to flex his Messiah abilities, he did it to heal hearts. He touched those around him both through his hands, proximity, and his words. And ultimately, he did the ultimate act of heart healing through taking on death and conquering it through being nailed to the cross and rising on the third day. He sees our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain now just as he did the Samaritan woman, leper, tax collector, and prostitute. He doesn't take wipes and cleanse himself of the filth that our world continues to create only to leave us in our distresses. Rather, he wipes YOU clean of the filth that both we and the world project onto ourselves. His touch cleanses our hearts of the idols that never stand up to the saving grace of the cross. His touch cleanses the lepers spots of our past and washes them away for eternity. His touch rips the veil from our sinful eyes and shows us the soul satisfying love found in him. His touch sees us isolated in our homes unable to embrace a loved one and steps into that through his spirit that he left behind dwelling in those that are his. All we have to do is open our hands allowing for his embrace to fill the spaces of our hearts where the less thans of this world have been put higher on the throne than he who sits on it forever.
Friends, open your hearts to the physical touch of Jesus as you feel sad, hurt, alone, burdened, or fearful allow for it to transform you. Even if you know who Christ is, I pray you take inventory of your own heart and release to him anything that has taken up the space where only his healing touch can fully satisfy. I pray both for myself and for everyone in the world that we do not waste this season that can feel so lonely only to come out on the other side of this pandemic just as broken, hurting, and isolated as we were before. In a time where suffering seems rampant, press into the physical proximity that exists in every corner of the universe intimately pursuing you before you had an opportunity to choose him.
Christ's touch healed the distresses of his time, and it continues to heal those of ours too. I urge us all to approach Christ with same urgency as the man who had leprosy in Matthew 8. As man who everyone detested and ran away from, he called out to Christ saying, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." (Matthew 8:2b) It wasn't a matter of if Christ could make him clean but if he was willing. This man knew Christ could cleanse him of his leper spots, and so he cried out to Christ in his distress. In response to him calling out, Jesus responded by touching that who was virtually untouchable and said, "I am willing. Be Clean!"
Although Christ doesn't physically walk among our diseases and suffering today as he did with this man, it doesn't negate the same cleansing power that is still encompassed in him alone. When he died on that cross and rose from the dead, his cleansing power of heart transformation and gift of eternal life with him became a gift to all who accept it. And for those who are his, I pray, we too call out to Christ with the same fervent heart of those who continually need the physical touch of Christ to cleanse the spots on our skin.
Whatever burden you are carrying in this time of distance and isolation, call out to Christ, the one alone who can make us clean.