Touch and the difference Jesus makes
If I was to use a picture to describe life, it would be the splash of water following a stone tossed into the sea.
We leave ripples behind us which reach out and touch others. There will always be a ripple; even the most talented divers at the Olympics left a little splash when they entered the water.
In March this year, a new TV show was aired called Touch and I was drawn in from the very first episode. I ached for Martin, the father of Jake, a young boy who couldn’t bear to be touched and couldn’t communicate with words.
Jake found a way to reach out to his father through numbers. The numbers led Martin to various people and somehow his intervention was just what they needed right at that moment.
Their lives were changed, and usually for the better, all because a father chose to believe his son and follow the numbers to people, even when they didn’t make any sense to him.
There are days when we ask ourselves, ‘What difference am I making?’ Sometimes we might be tempted to think that the world wouldn’t notice if we weren’t here.
There are very many people who feel invisible and untouchable. Touch is a powerful action — a handshake, a hand on the shoulder, a hug. It says something that words can’t say. It says, ‘I see you and you do matter’.
Jesus saw people. Luke in his Gospel tells us of one of the many times when Jesus demonstrated the powerful lesson that God’s priority is people. Jesus had been invited to dinner to the home of a leader in the community, a Pharisee called Simon (Luke 7:36-50).
Simon was a man who knew the Law of Moses and was respected by his friends. Jesus had been doing incredible things. It was being reported he was a prophet and Simon wanted him as his guest.
The table was set. Jesus was reclining when he felt tears fall on his feet. Standing beside him was a woman who clearly was not on the official guest list. The life she lived meant she was one of the untouchables. She had lived a life of deep shame that left her feeling worthless — until now.
She had heard stories of this new man in the town who was transforming people’s lives. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain. She grabbed her most precious possession and made her way to where she heard he was.
What did she see that made her cry so much? What did she feel that moved her to wipe his feet with her tears? Did she see the tenderness in his eyes? She couldn’t remember the last time someone looked at her that way.
She was ashamed of her life, but she also knew that this man could be trusted. He saw beyond her reputation and wild lifestyle and caught a glimpse of a broken heart longing to know peace, longing to be set free.
She didn’t come to ask for anything from Simon, or to sit at the table; she came to be restored. She didn’t care if the others were uncomfortable with her tears; she knew that Jesus was the only one who could take her broken life and restore it.
She recognised something in Jesus that Simon didn’t. She realised that he had the power to forgive her sins. She knew that even if she spent her entire life shedding tears it would never wash away her guilt.
So here she stood beside a man who took from her, not her dignity nor her reputation, but her sins and, in exchange for her sins, gave her a fresh start. He gave her eternal life.
Other men had stolen her very fibre, but Jesus made her whole again. Jesus did not turn from her touch. He didn’t flinch at the tears and perfume, unlike Simon who questioned Jesus’ standing as a prophet because he was allowing a ‘sinful woman’ to touch him.
Simon assumed that, if Jesus knew what the woman was, there would be no way he would tolerate her touching him! Simon was way off the mark. Jesus demonstrated that he was exactly who he said he was by the fact that he didn’t judge from the outward appearance, and was true to his word that her sins were forgiven.
Simon was confused. He was a Pharisee, she was a sinner. Did Jesus not know the difference?
Jesus then shows the most effective way of teaching a lesson. Get someone to figure it out themselves and then come in with the punch line.
Jesus tells a simple story about two men who owe different amounts to a money lender and both have their debts forgiven. Then he asks Simon, ‘Which one will love him the most?’ Simon almost grudgingly says, ‘The one who was forgiven the most’.
Jesus agrees: ‘You have judged correctly’.
The next part of the lesson is incredible. Jesus turns away from Simon and looks at the woman. He sees her tear-stained face and hair bedraggled from wiping Jesus feet, perhaps even with dust from his feet clinging to it.
He then says to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’
The truth was that Simon hadn’t really ‘seen’ her. He had seen her sinful life and an interruption to his beautifully planned evening with Jesus, but he had only seen the woman as an untouchable who had no business being around holy people. He had ignored her rather than speak to her.
Jesus teaches this powerful lesson — there are no interruptions, only people looking for someone to mend their broken lives.
We don’t know her name, but we know that she was forgiven and given a new start in life because she came to Jesus. She touched him with her tears but he changed her heart.
Have you experienced the touch of Jesus? And, if so, who can you reach out and touch today bringing the light of Jesus into their life? Jake and his dad brought light and relief into a busy world by stopping to see people.
Jesus is still the same. He looks past all pretence to those who recognise they can’t sort out their lives themselves and who know they need to be forgiven.
But it is not enough to just hear about this. This woman wouldn’t have been changed if she had stayed where she was. She took the risk of going to Simon’s house, and then walked away with a new life.
Are you going to stay on the outside hearing about Jesus, or are you going to come to him and experience his amazing touch of forgiveness?