As the weeks pass, it has been good to keep in touch with many of our friends in different ways - phoning, texting, emails and Whatsapps, maybe Zooms and Skypes and other digital connections. Could you imagine what it would have been like without any of these? Some of you might remember when you had to go out and find a red telephone box to call someone! Put money in the slot, press button A or B and get a three minute call!
It’s interesting how we speak about “keeping in touch” when actual real “touch” is discouraged, even outlawed – and for a good reason! Don’t even touch your own face! And no handshakes, ‘high-fives’ or hugs from the little people in your life. Continue to sanitise surfaces and wash your hands often, especially if you think you have touched something suspect.
We’re learning more than ever that touch, one of the five senses God gave us, is very important. Touch can communicate infection or it can communicate affection! It is probably the most sensitive of all our senses, still active when the others fade as the years mount up, or maybe disappear when life ebbs out. That’s why we would want to hold a loved one’s hand especially at the end.
There’s another meaning to “touch” – something more than physical, rather emotional or spiritual. We speak about our hearts being touched by someone’s kindness, or our lives being touched by someone else’s intervention, or our souls being touched by God’s love and grace.
And it’s wonderful to read in the Bible about the Lord Jesus being “touched” by our troubles. In one of these emphatic double negatives, we read in Hebrews 4.15 that in Heaven as our great High Priest, He is not one who cannot be touched by the feeling of our infirmities - our trials, disappointments, sorrows and pains. He knows about them all, for He was once here and experienced them Himself, so He knows how we feel even today. You can come to Him anytime at His “throne of grace” and find sympathy and grace to comfort you, to give you strength and courage to go on.
When He was here, His hands actually touched many people who needed His help, even those with leprosy who were “untouchable” because of the real risk of infection, similar to our coronavirus situation. But He would not contract their disease, rather He removed it. You will remember He also touched the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, the tongue of the dumb, and He healed them all. He also touched the hand of a fevered woman (Matt 8.15), the fearful disciples after an amazing vision (Matt 17.7), the young children who were brought to Him by their mothers (Mark 10.13, 16), even the funeral procession of an only son of a widowed mother (Luke 7.14). Such was the compassion of the “Man of Sorrows”, and such was His power to help and bless all who trusted Him then. He is the same for all who trust in Him now.
Henry Twells (1823-1900) wrote about this in a hymn based on Mark 1.32
One day the prophet Elijah was so dejected and weary that he fell asleep under a juniper tree. A tender hand touched him, awoke him, fed him and strengthened him to travel on for another forty days (1 Kings 19.4-8). May you feel the touch of God’s gracious hand to strengthen you today wherever you are, however you feel.