By David Faust
For some, the church is the only place where anyone calls them by name and greets them with gladness. For some, the church is the only place where a widow finds companionship and a teenager finds acceptance. Those warm handshakes and hugs at church might be the only physical touch a lonely soul experiences all week.
In the synagogue Jesus encountered a woman whose back was severely twisted and deformed. “He called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God” (Luke 13:12, 13).
Notice that “he put his hands on her.” He didn’t have to do that. Jesus could heal afflictions with words alone, but there was something therapeutic about the touch of his hands. This crippled woman didn’t need a chiropractic adjustment. She needed a major makeover, and the Lord has an excellent track record when it comes to straightening things out.
The synagogue leader was offended by Jesus’ actions. He considered it sinful to heal on the Sabbath. Indignant, he told the congregation, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath” (v. 14). But you can’t put suffering on a schedule, and God isn’t limited to human calendars. “The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman,
. . . whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’” (vv. 15, 16).
Notice Jesus’ words: the woman had been afflicted for 18 “long years.” We use the same kind of expression. “Were you on military duty in a warzone?” Yes, for six long months. “What was medical school like?” Four long years. Literally in the original Greek, the Lord said “behold—18 years!” He acknowledged not only the chronological extent of the woman’s suffering, but the emotional impact it had on her life.
On another occasion Jesus “took the little children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:16). Surely those children never forgot the day Jesus hugged them. Yet today, in a culture polluted by child abuse and pedophile priests, such a demonstration of physical affection would likely be discouraged. Many church nurseries use elaborate check-in procedures and put volunteers and staffers through criminal background checks—necessary precautions in today’s world. We must never jeopardize our children’s safety, but it’s a sad day when kids can’t experience the blessing of a holy hug from a pure-in-heart Sunday school teacher.
Jesus used the hands-on approach—and always with purity and propriety. He touched lepers. He washed feet. He said, “I am the light of the world,” then proved it by touching and healing a blind man’s eyes.
Everyone needs the touch of the Master’s hand—from the well-dressed leader to the tattered-looking loner, from the white-haired senior to the tattooed teen. In an increasingly hands-off world, we must follow our Lord’s example. With purity and propriety, we must keep extending our hands.
1. How has the Lord given you a hand recently?
2. Who needs you to extend a hand to them this week?
David Faust is president of Cincinnati Christian University, Cincinnati, Ohio, and past Executive Editor of The Lookout.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for August 4, 2013
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Thessalonians 3:14–18
2 Chronicles 34—36
1 Timothy 1:1–11
Ezra 1, 2
1 Timothy 1:12–20
1 Timothy 2
Ezra 4, 5
1 Timothy 3:1–10