Christ Above All
Robert C. Shannon
(c)opyright 1989, Robert C. Shannon.
The Power of a Touch
    In Stockholm, Sweden, a lady was pinned beneath a streetcar.  She was seriously injured and bleeding badly.  A crowd collected.  They tried to move the streetcar, but it was too heavy.  There was nothing to do but wait for the heavy equipment to come.  She was in great pain.  She was losing blood rapidly.  Suddenly a young man broke away from the crowd.  He crawled under the street car.  He took the woman's hand and said, "Hold my hand tightly until help comes."  In holding his hand she grew calm.  She avoided going into shock.  The loss of blood was slowed.  Finally, after she was freed, she said, "I never knew the touch of a hand could mean so much."

    Some people in the New Testament might have said that.  Two of them are in Matthew 8:

When he 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 cured of his leprosy . . . .  When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.  He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him
                                                                                                            (Matthew 8:1-3, 14, 15, NIV).

    These are only two of many such instances.  He touched blind eyes and made them see . He touched deaf ears and they could hear.  In the garden of Gethsemane Peter defended Him and wounded a servant of the high priest.  Jesus touched his ear and healed him.

    On the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus garments were changed.  They shone like the light.  Moses and Elijah appeared, and God spoke.  The disciples were afraid. Jesus touched them and said, "Do not be afraid."  There was healing in His touch.  There was reassurance in His touch.  There was comfort in His touch.  There was life in His touch.

    Near the village of Nain He met a funeral procession.  A widow's only son had died.  Jesus touched the casket, and the dead man came back to life.

    He touched people and people touched Him.  A woman who had been ill for years touched the hem of His garment and was healed.

    Several years ago Queen Elizabeth II visited the United States.  She addressed the joint houses of Congress.  She was escorted to the platform by the sergeant at arms, "Fishbait" Miller.  He took her arm to help her up the steps.  Cameras clicked.  Flash bulbs popped.  The next day the picture was in the press.  Miller had committed a great breach of etiquette.  Nobody touches the Queen.

    Jesus Christ, King of Heaven and earth, King of kings, touched people.  And people touched Him.

    You and I will never feel the touch of that hard, calloused carpenter's hand.  No one in our day is going to feel the physical touch of that hand.  But they can feel His touch through your hand.  They can feel His touch through my hand.

    Once there was an orphanage, overcrowded and understaffed.  The children were well fed, well clothed, and well housed, but there was no time for any exchange of affection.  There were no hugs or kisses.  They sickened and died.

    Duke McCall went to a high government official in one of the Communist countries.  He went on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance.  The government was about to close one of their orphanages.  The official said, "I have visited your institution.  The buildings are in bad repair.  The roof leaks.  Much improvement needs to be done.  But I am going to let you stay open.  I have seen the love."  He saw the love!

    Those first Christians greeted one another with a holy kiss.  Some have thought that was a ritual for the church, but since men kissed men and women kissed women, it never caught on.  Someone asked one preacher if his church practiced the holy kiss.  He said, "No, but we practice the holy hug a lot."

    The kiss was the common greeting in that day.  It still is in Eastern Europe.  Whenever a man meets another man who is a close friend, they will kiss, first on one cheek and then on the other.  When ladies meet who are friends, they will kiss one another.  That's the way it was in New Testament times.  But to the Christians that common greeting took on an uncommon significance.  It became holy.  There was another element in it.  There was a new element in it.

    The ordinary greeting of the street became a holy kiss.  We may express it with a handclasp or a hug or a pat on the back, but the power of a touch is still there.

    Once I was visiting a terminally ill patient in the intensive care unit of a hospital.  The patient was no longer conscious, but the nurse knew that the senses of hearing and touch are the last senses we lose.  So she was sitting there, holding the dying patient's hand.  There were no more injections that could be given.  There were no more treatments that could be given.  That was the only thing left to do.  Nurses in intensive care units are highly trained.  It is a very specialized branch of nursing.  Yet, this highly trained nurse did not think it a misuse of her time to hold that patient's hand through that entire shift.  She provided for that patient the last ministry she could offer: the ministry of touch.

    On another occasion I was visiting a lady with cancer.  When I entered the room a friend was already there.  The patient was crying, and the friend was patting her and saying, "Now, now, don't cry.  Everything's going to be all right."  That was not true.  Everything was not going to be all right and she had every reason to cry.  So when the friend left, I pulled a chair up beside the bed, sat down, and just held the patient's hand.  After about ten minutes she spoke:  "Mr. Shannon, you're such a comfort to me."  I had not said one word!

    We use the word touch to mean something more than one hand upon another.  We use it to mean caring.  We say a certain song touched us; a sermon touched us; a story touched us.  You see that here in these stories from Matthew.

    It was a leper Jesus touched - a man nobody touched.  They thought leprosy was highly contagious.  Think of it!  For years this man had not felt the firm handclasp of a friend, the kiss of a child, the embrace of a mate.  Jesus touched him.  He did not have to touch him to heal him.  Often He healed with a command.  Sometimes He healed at a distance.  I deliberately omitted some verses in quoting the text.  Between these two stories of the healing touch there is a third.  A nobleman's servant was ill. Jesus healed him at a distance.  He was not even in the same room!  He was not even in the same city!  He did not touch him to heal him.  He touched him to show that He cared.  He touched the untouchable.  He cured the incurable.

    Hebrews 4:15 says, "We have not a high priest which cannot be touched."  Those priests of His day had become politicians and no longer shared the suffering of the people.  The Greeks in that day thought the gods unmoved by the plight of humans.  After all, they reasoned, if the gods feel pity for man, then man controls the gods.  Jesus came as one who could be touched physically and who could be touched emotionally.

    I was taught that Jesus performed His miracles to prove He was divine.  That's true, of course.  I was taught that they were His credentials.  But that is not all of the truth.  He healed because He cared.  More than once the gospels say that He was "moved with compassion."

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth and song;
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?
The chorus of that song gives an emphatic answer:
O yes, He cares; I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief
                        (Frank E. Graeff)
    As Christ cares, so the church must care.  And the world must know that we care.  Once I heard a missionary laboriously explaining why he spent so much of his time healing the sick and feeding the hungry.  He explained that one who is in pain, or who is hungry, will not listen very closely to the gospel.  I thought his explanation unnecessary.  It is enough to feed the hungry because they are hungry.  It is enough to heal the sick because they are sick.  If it is done in the name of Christ and He gets the glory, then that is enough, whether they are ever converted or not!

    We must show the world that the church cares.  Perhaps we cannot feed the starving millions, but we can feed one.  And if we can feed one we ought to feed one.  If we can clothe one, we ought to clothe one.  If we can heal one, we ought to heal one.

    We use the word "touch" in still a third way.  We use it of conversion.  William J. Gaither's song has become a favorite of many:

Shackled by a heavy burden,
'Neath a load of guilt and shame;
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the same.
    That fits our text.  We have always thought of leprosy as an illustration of sin.  Leprosy is a disease and sin is a disease.  We think of sin as "doin' what comes naturally; but sin is a disease, an abnormality.  Leprosy was a progressive disease.  First the fingers were lost.  Then the hand was lost.  Then the arm was lost.  Sin is progressive.  We begin with a small sin.  We move then to a larger sin.  Leprosy was thought to be contagious.  Sin is contagious.  If that is not so then why do we see the same sins repeated in the same family, generation after generation after generation?  If that is not so, why are there some sections of any city where you do not dare to go?  Sin is contagious.

    Leprosy was a hideous, disfiguring disease.  Sin is likewise ugly.  Oh, it appears to be beautiful at that start, but that's because sin wears a mask.  Beneath the mask it is hideously ugly.

    "Shine, mister?" cried the aggressive shoe shine boy.

    "No," snarled a businessman.

    "Shine 'em so you can see your face in 'em," cried the enthusiastic boy.

    "No!" snarled the man.

    The boy looked up into that scowling face and said, "Can't say as I blame you."

    Leprosy isolated its victims.  They lived apart and were required to shout "Unclean!" when they passed through the streets.  Sin isolates.  It cuts one off from family, from friends.  Finally sin separates a man from himself.  Sin isolates us.

    In one school the assistant principal was noted for her lovely voice.  The children heard her every morning on the intercom.  But one boy in kindergarten didn't know how a public address system works.  When they asked him to name his favorite teacher he said, "The one in the little box."  Sin puts us in a box.

    Sin is also like leprosy because leprosy is deadly and sin is deadly.  And forgiveness is like healing.  Both are called cleansing!

    A man once made a great change in his behavior.  His friends were mystified.  They asked his wife if he had changed his religion.
    She said, "No, his religion has changed him."

There are days so dark that I seek in vain
For the face of my Friend divine;
But tho' darkness hide, He is there to guide
By the touch of His hand on mine.
                                    (Jessie B. Pounds)

Does Jesus Care?
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The Riddle of the Bread of Life

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