Footsteps to Follow: A loving touch
In Mark 1:40-42, Jesus heals a man suffering from leprosy. After begging Jesus for help, verse 41 tells us “Jesus was filled with pity, and reached out and touched him” (GNT). Have you been missing the gift of touch during this COVID-19 Pandemic? We thank God that we are now able to safely touch those who have been vaccinated. We celebrate and thank God for the precious gift of human touch. If you have not been vaccinated and have no medical reason not to, for the sake of yourself and all our young people, I encourage you to do so.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, he reached out and touched so many. Those he was willing to touch often included the “untouchables” of his society. There were the lepers, the sick, those with disabilities, the lonely and downtrodden, those seen as outcasts or subservient such as foreigners and aliens, slaves, women and children, the dreaded Samaritans, and even some Roman soldiers and Roman citizens. Even in his birth, Jesus reached out to the “unclean” shepherds outside of Bethlehem and the strange people called Magi from the East.
If all of that was not enough, Jesus in his final message before his ascension told his disciples (and is thus telling us) to be witnesses for him. That is, the disciples and we as his followers today are to touch others with his love “in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
We ought to be very grateful, especially for that last phrase “to the ends of the earth.” Because his followers believed they should do just that, we followers of Jesus today have been touched by the Master’s love.
Are we choosing to touch others Jesus places before us or calls us to go to with Christ’s loving touch? Or are we refusing to touch those we see as “untouchables,” as “unclean,” as “unacceptable”? Are we holding back the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Christ calls us to first allow ourselves to be touched by his unconditional love. Christ implores us in the power of the Holy Spirit, after we are so touched, to reach out and touch others of God’s children with the accepting love of Jesus Christ.
That love is not limited by the color of people’s skin, by the language they speak, by their sexual orientation, or by their place of origin. God’s love, revealed in the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ, is for all people! All people — no exceptions!
For too long, the Church has fought over who is welcome into the Kingdom of God. Such arguments first appeared in the birthing of the Church. There was a great and intense argument over whether the Church and the salvation of Jesus Christ were to be open to Gentiles, to outsiders, to women and children. The early Church, touched by the hand of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit, declared the truth: in Christ, the Kingdom of God is open to all!
As we sadly look at the hatred, prejudice, and division in our nation and our beloved Church, it is time to seek forgiveness and follow in the “Footsteps of Jesus.” It is time to truly let Christ touch us so that we might more openly share the Good News of Jesus’ loving touch with all God’s children.
May it be so, Lord; may it be so!
Pastor Bob Wallace, retired United Methodist pastor