Developing our Spiritual Senses #5: TOUCH

We are at the end of a series in Family Services called ‘Developing our spiritual senses’. Today we come to “Close enough to touch!”  

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The passage relating to this talk is Matthew 9:18- 26

Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue who was looking for Jesus, and the sick woman both knew they needed Jesus’s touch. 

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Jairus needed it for his daughter who had died, he was desperate for Jesus to help him. Jesus was his last hope for his daughter.

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The woman too had been suffering for 12 years and may have also seen Jesus as her only hope for healing from her health problems. Only he could bring life to these seemingly hopeless situations.

The sick woman was in the crowd, she was most likely an outcast in society because of her health problems. She managed somehow to get through and just touched the hem of Jesus’s robes. She got Jesus’s attention and she was healed by his power. In Luke’s version of the story, Jesus says:

“Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

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 The woman touched Jesus because she could. He was God in human form. I’m not sure we in the 21st Century can ever really comprehend what it must have been like to walk physically with Jesus, fully God and fully man. It’s one of the mysteries of our faith. One day when we get to heaven I’m sure it will be one of the joys for us, to be able to be right there actually with Jesus.

That’s the amazing thing about our God. He became a man so that, amongst other things, we could physically touch him. He made himself vulnerable and Jesus gave up all the wonders and glories of heaven to become a baby, carried for 9 months in the womb of a young woman called Mary and then growing up as a baby then a toddler then a child, a teenager and finally a young man working as a carpenter before he sets off on his mission with his disciples.

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Jesus experienced all the growing up that we have. He would have been cuddled and kissed by his mother and family. He might have fallen over and scraped his knee playing with his friends when he was young. He definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed the wonders of Xbox and keeping in touch with his friends on the latest smartphones but he would certainly have had local friends with whom he might have had fun times playing as he grew up.

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In Jesus, God hugged and kissed people, just as we hug and kiss people.

He felt how we feel. He laughed, he ate and drank, he cried and he slept.

He also felt pain.

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However the pain that he went through is almost definitely much deeper than any we might experience. At Easter-time we remember again the pain that Jesus went through on the cross for us. By dying in our place He dealt with the sin that was separating us from having a relationship with our Father God, and He was opening up a way for us to be friends again with God when we believe that Jesus died for our sake.

But after the pain and suffering of Good Friday, Jesus didn’t stay dead, because he was God. And on Easter Sunday he rose again, the tomb where his body lay is empty, and we celebrate his resurrection.

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You’ll remember the story of his disciples gathered together after Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to some of them. In particular Thomas, the one who got the nickname ‘doubting Thomas. He’d not been around when Jesus first appeared to the disciples. The Bible doesn’t tell us where he was at that point, imagine if he’d just popped out for some supplies and missed the excitement of Jesus’s appearance to the disciples. I’m sure he was annoyed to have missed it.

We know he was, as in John’s Gospel we read that Thomas doesn’t believe them and sets out a challenge actually to feel Jesus’s wounds before he believes that Jesus is risen. Jesus rises to that challenge! In John 20v26 onwards it says: 

‘A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”’

 Isn’t it incredible that not only did God come to earth as a human to hug and kiss and hang out with people, but after his death and resurrection he came back again to help out doubting friends like Thomas?

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“Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.””

Here Jesus could be talking about us.

What about us today?

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It’s all very well reading these amazing stories about what Jesus did when he was here on earth with his disciples, but over 2000 years later and we don’t have Jesus sitting here in bodily form with us. How can we explore the idea of ‘touch’ when there’s nobody sitting here to physically touch?

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Jesus knew his mission and purpose was to be born as a man, live a sinless life completely in harmony with God and die in our place and open up the way to the Father again. He now reigns in heaven and we believe he will come back again one at the end of time to wrap things up. Before he died, he explained to the disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to them and he did, just as he said, at Pentecost.

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The Holy Spirit, often represented as a dove because of how he appeared at Jesus’s baptism, now works in every believer to help us understand God’s love for us and his will and to equip us to live and share God’s love with those around us. You can read more about that in John 16 if you would like to.

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So then, just as Jairus and the sick woman came to Jesus and asked for his touch in what looked like hopeless situations, we also can come to Jesus and ask for his touch on what seem like hopeless situations for us today.

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There is hope. In fact, it doesn’t have to be just hopeless situations. We can ask Jesus to help us with just about anything and he loves to do so. The Holy Spirit continues the work that Jesus started, and when we come to God and ask for his help, we can be sure that He hears us and will act in some way or another.

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Sometimes we can really sense the Holy Spirit as if God is touching us. There are many physical manifestations, ways that the Holy Spirit shows us he is here. He works in different people in different ways, sometimes loud and sometimes quiet. When I am worshipping sometimes my arms start to shake a little and I just know that that is the Holy Spirit. It’s not weird, it just happens. Others might not have anything like that but sense God’s presence with a big sense of peace when He’s doing something. Sometimes when we invite the Holy Spirit to do things, we might cry or feel really happy. Again, God works as He wants to. He is God, not us.

All we know is that when we come to our Father God and ask for him to intervene with his touch he WILL act and do something, whether we feel anything physical or not. We can be reassured that he has heard us and will bring about whatever is needed, whether it’s peace, reassurance, healing, resolution to a problem. But whatever He does it will be in accordance to His will and not ours. He loves us and knows what is best for us.

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Although Jesus isn’t here with us physically in this room, when we make ourselves available to him and ask him to use us to serve him, he sometimes uses us to answer other people’s prayers. Perhaps we might feel led to offer a helping hand to someone, to give someone a hug or share some encouraging words with someone else. Maybe God wants to work in and through you today to help someone else. 

Why not take a few minutes now to listen to God and reflect on what he is saying to you today.  

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Let’s recap on what we have learnt over this series on ‘Developing our Spiritual Senses’: 

God is good and he loves us – he invites us into a relationship with him because he has a great plan and purpose for each of us – Taste and see that the Lord is good – it says in Psalms!

When we are in a relationship with him, we longs to share things with us about how much he loves us and others. He has good things to say, are we making time to listen?

He wants to share His perspective with us, to help us to understand a little more what is going on in the world around us and in our hearts. He will give us his eyes to see situations as we ask him to.

As we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we become like the aroma of Christ to those around us, some will be attracted to the fragrance and want to know more about why and how Jesus died for us, others will reject it and turn away. But our job is to carry that aroma around and let God work through us to spread his aroma.

And finally, God became ‘close enough to touch’ when he came as a man in the person of Jesus. Jesus shared God’s expression of love through, amongst other things, touching the untouchables in society. There is nobody whom God is not willing to touch. He loves everyone he has created. That includes you and the person sitting next to you, your family at home and even the person who really irritates you the most. All loved by God.

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As you pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you afresh now, ask God to bring his loving touch once more today, to refresh you. Maybe a specific situation will come to mind that God wants to touch in your life and do some transforming work in it, maybe there’s a person he wants you to bless and encourage today. Just listen and see what he has to share.

A prayer to finish: 

Father God, thank you that in Jesus you had an opportunity to share a hug with some of your friends. Thank you that Jesus shared our physical experiences and thank you that he went further and even died a horribly painful death on our behalf so that we could have a relationship with you again.

Thank you that you sent the Holy Spirit to guide and be our counsellor and help us to understand how much you love us. Holy Spirit we invite you now to come and fill us afresh and to meet each of us in our individual situations where we are today and to speak to us again. Amen.

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