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Touch and Authority

Touch. We all need it. Some more, some less, but life without it just isn’t life. We all need physical touch, human society, interaction. We all need the interplay between our life and the lives of others. In other words, we all need contact – person to person, soul to soul.

But this necessarily means that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t cut it. We are all different in our unique personhood. If I treat you as if you were somebody else, then my life doesn’t really touch yours. The real me doesn’t touch the real you.

I love the way the Gospels paint the ministry of Jesus. He treats people uniquely. He doesn’t always heal blindness or muteness the same way. He heals the individual as an individual. His life therefore touches the unique life of another in a profound way.

Consider two healings in Luke’s Gospel: one a leper, and another the dying servant of a Roman centurion. The healing of the leper is in Luke 5; the healing of the centurion’s servant in Luke 7.

First, the leper. Leprosy was considered contagious and so lepers were removed from society. Religiously they were unclean and could not come into the temple. They were supposed to cover their lips and cry out “unclean!” whenever other people came near. They lived in separate colonies outside the city. They were truly the untouchables of their day. To touch a leper was not only unhealthy, it would ritually defile you. Lepers were isolated outcasts. Can you imagine the burning need within them to feel loved and accepted, to be touched? More often than not, people ran the other way or even threw rocks at them to send them off.

And so when the leper came to Jesus, he was taking a huge risk. Instead of keeping his distance, he dared to draw near and fall on his face before the Lord. I wonder at the desperation in his heart when he uttered those words – a prayer – “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” And Jesus, who could heal with a word, indeed said “I will, be clean.” But ever so much more than those words, even before those words, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched the man. That had to be healing to the man’s soul in and of itself. To be touched in his uncleanness by Christ! – can you imagine?

But when it comes to the centurion’s servant, Jesus doesn’t even lay eyes on the man. From a distance, the faith-filled petition – a prayer – is received and answered. The centurion was a man with authority and a man under authority, but neither his own authority nor that of Rome was able to keep the servant from dying. A greater authority was needed. But if Jesus truly had divine authority, if he indeed had power over sickness, then all that was needed was for the authoritative word to be spoken. The centurion grasped this intuitively in his context, sought out Jesus, and found the authority that could save. Much like the leper, grasping in his uncleanness that if Jesus truly could heal then he would not be defiled by touching the unclean. He sought Jesus and dared to draw near. Seeking the touch that could heal, he was cleansed.

Two different people in two different life contexts that shaped how they saw their differing needs. They came as they were and Jesus met them where they were. Touch for one, authority for the other. Where are you? Jesus knows. He can and will meet you there. Bring the real you to him, and let the real Savior touch your life today.

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