THE AWESOME POWER OF A DIVINE TOUCH
Matthew 8: 1-17
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, "What does love mean?"
The answers they got were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined. See what you think:
"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. My grandfather does it for her all the time, even after his hands got arthritis too. That's love." Rebecca - age 8
"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth." Billy - age 4
"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other." Karl - age 5
"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your french fries without making them give you any of theirs." Chrissy - age 6
"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired." Terri - age 4
"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him to make sure the taste is okay.” Danny - age 7
"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more. My Mommy and Daddy are like that." Emily - age 8
What did all of these quotes have in common? Some form of touch. We all need human touch, but human touch is not enough. We all need from time to time a Divine touch in our lives. What was your Divine touch?
Following the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew gives three stories of Divine touch.
THE TRANSFORMING TOUCH
“And when He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’”
Picture the scene: the multitude had gathered around Jesus on the side of the mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee. He had just spent a long time with them unfolding the characteristics of a person who is a Kingdom citizen. He had described how the grace of God works in a person’s life. The Sermon has now ended, but the multitude has not had enough. They continue to follow him as he comes down from the mountain. They want more understanding and blessings.
One such man was not supposed to be there for he was an outcast, because he had the dreaded disease of leprosy. Today, we call it Hanson’s disease. It begins with a scaly spot on the skin and then begins to eat deep into the flesh. A foul odor comes from the places on his body where his flesh is decaying. The disease spreads over his face, arms, stomach, back, and legs even down to his feet. Without treatment, the leper could expect to live about nine years. But his dreams, relationships, and soul would die within him long before his body would succumb to this terrible disease. He would have been isolated from his family for no longer could he be with his wife and children. He would have lost his career for no longer could he work in his chosen profession. He would have been isolated from the synagogue and could no longer worship with the people he loved in the faith. The law required him to cover his body from head to toe and to cover his mouth and say out loud, “Unclean! Unclean!”
But while the attention of the crowd was on Jesus, this leper made his way to the side of Jesus without being noticed. He bowed at the feet of Jesus and exclaimed, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
What would Jesus do? Would he break the law and defile himself? Would he pay attention to this nobody? The crowd waited in stunned amazement that Jesus would be approached in such a way. Then Jesus did what no other Rabbi in Israel would have done. He stretched out his hand and touched him. Why, this just wasn’t done. Nobody would touch a leper. But Jesus did and he said, “I am willing: be cleansed.”
In a moment this man’s life was transformed. Hope flooded his soul. His body in which he had been captive to a slow death was given new life. His spirit soared in the excitement of being a normal person again. He could embrace his wife and children in his arms. He could go back to his home. He would be accepted back into the synagogue. He could go back to his old job. He could fellowship with his friends. He had a future. He was given a new lease on life.
Jesus told him not to tell anybody yet, but to fulfill the law which required that he go and show himself to the priest and make an offering of gratitude. After he met the requirements of the law, he would be pronounced clean by the priest.
This story illustrates that no one is too unclean to come to Jesus. We were all spiritual lepers at one time and Jesus reached out his hand and touched us. The Scripture expresses it like this: 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Ephesians 4:22-24, “That, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”
Colossians 1:21-22, “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach”--
Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
“I am willing: be clean!”
THE TRIUMPHANT TOUCH
The second story that Matthew includes after the Sermon on the Mount happened as Jesus entered the village of Capernaum.
“A Centurion came to Him, in treating Him, and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home suffering great pain.’”
Have you ever wondered what type of people would approach Jesus if He came to Chattahoochee Hills? If it were announced that Jesus would be present at Friendship Baptist Church, who would show up to seek Him out for a personal request?
At Capernaum, it was a Roman soldier. It is interesting that the synagogue officials or the local town council did not approach him. It was a Roman Centurion who had the responsibility of 100 men assigned to patrol this area of Galilee. A servant in his household had suffered a stroke and this soldier brought this need to Jesus. What did he expect Jesus to do about it? The answer to that is very clear. All he expected Jesus to do was to just give a command that the servant be healed.
Jesus responded to his need by saying, “I will come and heal him.” The Centurion said, “I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but just say the word and my servant will be healed.” It is interesting that the soldier did not feel worthy to have Jesus visit his home, but he had heard of the compassion of Jesus to help those in deep distress. He understood Jesus in a deeper dimension. He said to Jesus, “I understand authority. I serve under the Emperor of Rome. I am given the authority to say to a man, ‘Go’ and he goes, and ‘Come’ and he comes. ‘Do this’ and he does it.” In essence he was saying to Jesus, “I believe that you have authority from on High and whatever you command will happen.” Jesus was amazed and said, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. Go your way: Let it be done to you as you have believed.” Then Jesus lamented the faith of Israel and then warned that those without faith in Him would not enter the kingdom, but be cast into outer darkness.
The Centurion had been trained in how to win battles. He wanted to be triumphant in war, but this experience gave him the ability to be triumphant in his faith.
There is a line in the hymn, ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS, that says, “At the sign of triumph Satan’s hosts doth flee; on then Christian soldiers, on to victory! Hells foundations quiver at the shout of praise; Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise!”
THE TRANSCENDING TOUCH
The third story that Matthew includes after the Sermon on the Mount is about a visit to the home of Simon Peter. There he saw Peter’s mother in law lying in bed sick with a fever.
William Barclay says, “In the regions where the Jordan River entered and left the Sea of Galilee there was marshy ground; and both Capernaum and Tiberius were areas where malaria was prevalent. It was often accompanied by jaundice and ague, and was a most wretched and miserable experience for the sufferer. It was most likely malaria from which Peter’s wife’s mother was suffering.”
I looked up the present day understanding of malaria: it is caused by
the female Anopheles mosquito and is the only mosquito that transmits malaria. There are more than 100 species of malaria parasite. The most deadly is known as Plasmodium falciparum. Once the parasite enters the human body, it lodges itself in the liver where it multiplies approximately 10,000 times. Two weeks after entering the body, the parasite bursts into the bloodstream where it begins infecting red blood cells. Symptoms begin 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, although a person may feel ill as early as 7 days later. Symptoms include fever, headache and vomiting. If drugs are not available or if the parasites are resistant to them, malaria infection can develop to anemia, hypoglycemia or cerebral malaria, in which capillaries carrying blood to the brain are blocked. Cerebral malaria can cause coma, life-long-learning disabilities, and death.
Picture the scene: Peter’s wife’s mother who lives with them is in bed with this dread disease. Jesus goes in to her bedroom and sees her in that terrible condition. You would have thought that Peter or his wife would have requested that Jesus healed her. But no such request is recorded. It appears that Jesus did this on his own as a gift to the family because of his appreciation for their hospitality. Capernaum was his headquarters during his Galilean ministry and He likely stayed in the home of Simon Peter.
His grace transcended their request. He simply touched her hand and the fever left her. This transcending touch caused her blood to be pure again and the infection left her body. She got up off the bed and said, “Let me prepare the meal for it’s been so long since I have done that.”
Has God ever done something for you that you didn’t ask Him to do? His grace is ever working in our lives transcending our requests. He does it just because He is Love. The news of this recovery quickly spread through the village of Capernaum and that evening Peter’s house was filled with people who were sick in their bodies and in their minds. Some were demon possessed and with a word he cast out evil spirits and healed all who were ill. With a word it happened. He spoke with the authority of heaven and diseases and spirits fled before His power.
Concluding his account of these events, Matthew quoted from the prophet Isaiah and said, “We are seeing the fulfillment of the prophecy, “He Himself took our infirmities, and carried away our diseases.”
The transforming, triumphant, and transcending touch of Jesus is available to us today. Do you want a Divine touch on your life? If you believe as the leper did – you can be cleansed. If you believe as the Centurion did – your faith will be rewarded. And if you are a servant of the Lord like Peter – God will do wonderful things for you and your family that you don’t even request.
A minister said to Bill Gaither: “The Bible is filled with stories of Jesus touching people. You ought to write a song about that.” And Bill wrote that marvelous song we love entitled, “He Touched Me.”
“Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame; then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same.
Since I met this blessed Savior, sense He cleansed and made me whole; I will never cease to praise Him, I’ll shout it while eternity rolls.
He touched me, O, He touched me, and O the joy that floods my soul; something happened and now I know, he touched me and made me whole.”
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!