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More than words: touch and Jesus

August 2020 | by David Last

Jesus instructed the eleven to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). He wasn’t simply asking them to use their own words to tell others about him. As their rabbi (John 11:8), he was commanding them to pass on his story and teaching in the form he had taught to them. He had filled their minds with his words; they were to do the same for others. All of Scripture is like this: the Lord’s words getting into our heads (2 Peter 1:20, 21). However, in these articles I am glancing at secondary features of Scripture’s communication and seeking to learn lessons from them too. Thus far we have covered voice, translators, teachers, sight, and story. We finish this month with two more, starting with touch.

Thomas needed to touch Jesus to quieten doubts (John 20:25-28). We understand his desire because physical connection is so precious to us. That is clear early on in the Bible, when God uses touch to create Eve (Genesis 2:21- 22) and brings the couple into touching intimacy (Genesis 2:23-25). In his first letter, John writes of his physical contact with the incarnate Son (1 John 1:1-4) to counteract the wickedness of those who only value the spiritual and thus allow freedom to sin physically (1 John 2:4-6). Jesus left us with food and drink to handle when remembering the shredded flesh and drenching blood of his sacrifice (Matthew 26:26-28). Scripture causes our sensory nerve-endings to fire.

Praise God that he doesn’t deal with us as souls trapped in bodies. Our hope is not to be a heavenly spirit but a resurrected person like our Lord to live in a new creation (Revelation 21:1). Maintain that concern for the physical. The Christian who rarely or never takes the Lord’s Supper or exchanges a holy kiss (1 Thessalonians 5:26) is in a strange country. Touch is part of communication. Current technology gives us little of that, although haptic gadgets may eventually convey tactile signals. But that will not be enough. We need the warmth of another’s hand, the kind handling of one washing our feet (John 13:14). Technology must not steal that from us.

Which brings us to a last feature. There are a few to choose from but only space for one. I think I have to end with the obvious: the Word of God brings us to THE Word of God, Jesus (John 1:1). Though Scripture is impressive (Psalm 19:7-11), all its design and content is given to impress him upon us (Luke 24:44). The one who truly listens to Scripture ends up loving the King of Heaven. The Bible is personal throughout because it brings us to a person. All I’ve described contributes to that. At the end of Scripture, when John has finished receiving the visions he needs for the final written revelation, what does he do? Calls for Jesus to return (Revelation 20:21) and closes with the benediction of Jesus (Revelation 20:22).

Give adoration to the Lord, praying that meeting him in the Word would set fire to your heart (Luke 24:44). Then pray that your use of communication technology would always have something of Jesus about it. Remember how Paul spoke of himself as the aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). Remember how the Jewish rulers noted that Peter and John had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). If Scripture fills you with Christ, may your communications carry him within them. Search for ways to do that.

Thirty years ago, I wrote a conferencing app, never imagining how valued such programs would become due to a pandemic. But as you deploy the multi-faceted wonders of our electronic age, keep learning from the oldest communication in the world, the book which started when God sat Adam down to tell him of things ‘in the beginning’. Like nothing else can, it will teach you truly how to communicate.

David Last is Pastor Forest Baptist Church, Leytonstone, London.

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