A couple of years ago a man came into our church facility. I was there alone. He asked if I was a pastor. I told him I was. He looked filthy and smelled of sweat. He had scrapes and soares on his arms. He said he had contracted HIV and needed help to buy medicine. Then he did it. He said his name and extended his hand...
I was just sitting here looking at my hands. To think of the places they have been and the things they have done. They look old and worn to me now. I wonder what they looked like the day I was born. Did my little fingers wrap around my mom’s finger? I wonder how old I was when I threw my first ball, waved my first hello, or even gave my first hug. I bet it wasn’t long before my hand pulled the dog’s hair or reached into a forbidden cookie jar either.
I remember when my hand stole a combination lock from Albertson’s and when my hand made a fist and threw its first punch. I also remember folding my hands in prayer and asking God to forgive me for all my hands had done. I remember lifting my hands in worship exhilerated by feelings of love and forgiveness knowing I could start over.
What a story my hands could tell. All of this is possible because of the kindest heart that ever extended a hand. I am so glad Jesus touched me. He has a habit of touching fithy people.
In the Bible, Matthew writes of an untouchable. Here we meet a man that no one would touch. Not his wife or his children-no one. In fact, he had probably been banished to a leper colony. Leprosy was greatly feared by many. Few really understood it. They just knew they didn’t want it and this unnamed man had it. As far as he knew, from this point forward, affection from another would only be known in dreams. And then Jesus did it...
When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Matt 8:1-2
I wonder what that moment must have felt like for that man. For years, no one dared touch him. He was an outcast; a reject of society. Many would believe that he must have sinned greatly for God to punish Him with leprosy. And what does Jesus do? He reaches out and touches him.
"I am willing!" I love that! Jesus is willing to touch us. He doesn’t have to, He wants to! It is His word that has the power not His touch. What’s amazing is that He could just speak his healing but He also touched. He is willing not only to heal but to touch us, to hold us; to embrace us. That is why I follow Him.
Hands can give or take. Mine felt like they had mostly taken. But he has given my hands new life. Now my hands can give life. They can give the life of God that lives in me. The fruits of love, joy, peace, and patience can now be expressed in acts of kindness. Every time I extend my hand in Jesus name, I extend His heart. Every time I allow His Spirit to fill me and use me to serve others I give people a taste of God. I nourish them. This is God’s heart-that we would extend His. That His life would flow from His heart , through ours, and into others.
"Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who trust in him!" Psalm 34:8
When the man extended his hand toward me, I must admit a strange mixture of fear and faith came over me. In that moment, no small battle was fought in my heart. And then I did it...I extended my hand, shook his and said, "My name is Chris. Nice to meet you. What is it you said you needed?"
I pray that your hands are extended today. May your hands give love. May your hands touch the lives of others. May your hands be God’s hands touching our world in Jesus name.
Extending my hand,
"And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." Matt 10:42