I come from a very huggable family. When my brother and I were little and our family would go to visit aunts & uncles, cousins, and grandparents out of town, we used to wait impatiently after our mom would say it was time to leave … and then spend the next half-hour hugging and kissing everyone goodbye. As an adult, I look back on those days with fond memories, and especially since many of those loved ones have passed away by now, I would love to have 30 minutes again of hugging and kissing all of them.
There’s something very special about human touch. Physical touch is one of our primary senses. It’s so important that researchers have found skin-to-skin contact to be vital in babies’ development. Physical touch is even one of the five “love languages” defined by Dr. Gary D. Chapman about how we express affection to each other. Even if you aren’t the touchy-feely type, there’s still something special about tender, loving contact with another person.
I find it interesting that although Jesus had the power to heal people remotely – and he did perform many miracles from a distance or with a simple verbal command (remember Lazarus being raised from the dead in John 11 or the paralyzed child in Matthew 8:5-13?) – he sometimes chose to make physical contact with people as part of their healing process. There are many examples in the gospels, including a crippled woman in Luke 13:10-13 and Peter’s feverish mother-in-law in Matthew 8:14-15, among others.
One passage that sticks out to me, though, is Mark 1:40-42. The author records that Jesus was “moved with compassion” when a man with leprosy approached him and begged for healing. Jesus touched him, and the man was healed instantly. Jesus didn’t have to touch the man; in fact, it was socially uncouth for him to do so, since the man had leprosy. He could have simply spoken a word, and the man would have been healed. Instead, Jesus extended a compassionate touch to an untouchable person.
So, the question for us is this: Who in our lives is “untouchable,” yet in need of compassion? How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus to the hurting people in our world?