Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Touch Was All It Took

Jesus had just finished giving his most famous speech, the Sermon on the Mount.  He had spoken to people about the importance of prayer, loving their neighbors, and he admonished them to not judge others.  A crowd was surrounding him as he came down the hill.  He had his own followers ("groupies" if you will) who witnessed his power, his love, and his faithfulness to the Jews.

A man approached him.  I don't know the name of the man.  But everyone who approached Jesus, regardless of their stature or position, left changed.  Sometimes it was for the better.  Maybe someone was healed.  Maybe they obeyed Jesus's commands and left everything to follow him.  Or perhaps some saw the light, but rejected it and instead chose to delve into greed or lust or power even more than they had before.  The man who sought Jesus didn't have much to go back to.  He was a leper.  And the name he was called wasn't his own.  People would call out "leper" whenever he passed by.  No one would go near him out of fear of contracting the skin disease.  He was an outcast.  But something caused this man to want to be close to Jesus.  To seek him. 

He comes up to Jesus and says, "If you want to, you can make me well."

Jesus replies, "I want to".  Then Jesus does something no one else was willing to do.  He reaches out and touches the man.

I don't know if this surprised anyone in the crowd.  No doubt many people had come to hear Jesus speak.  There must have been some skeptics.  Some who thought, "What is all this malarky about?"  But many saw his wisdom and holiness and were asking the questions, "Is this the Prophet we've been waiting for?" and "Could he be the Messiah?"  No doubt many came to see him heal others.  The handicapped, the hurting, the sick, the poor.  Jesus saw more than just their outer appearance.  He was able to look at the heart and know a person's deepest need.  The sorrow, the pain, the rejection, the loneliness.  When it comes down to it, these are the things that stay with us the longest, and can define our days, our years, our lives.  Just like the leper, we pass by people and they don't see the true need.  They walk past, even avoiding us.  And so we're left with the feeling that, "No one sees."

But there is one who sees, and that's God himself.  And His notice, His opinion, His presence does matter.

Back in the Old Testament, Abraham was told by God that he would be the father of many nations, and the whole world would be blessed through him.  God said that that promise would come through his wife Sarah.  But both Sarah and Abraham were old, and Sarah never bore a child.  To get around what appeared an impossible promise, she had Abraham take her Egyptian maid, Hagar, as his wife.  It may seem like a good deal for Abraham, but Sarah was merciless in her abusive treatment of Hagar.  It may be out of jealousy, because Hagar did actually get pregnant.  Whatever the reason, it drove Hagar away.

Can you imagine how Hagar felt?  Rejected.  Alone.  Carrying a heavy burden - as a single mother -  that no one would understand.

The story doesn't stop there.  God sends an angel to meet Hagar at a spring of water.  "I will greatly multiply your descendents, so that they will be too numerous to count...Behold, you are with child, and you will bear a son.  And you shall call his name Ishmael because the Lord has given head to your affliction."  Hagar calls God, "El Roi" or "God who sees".

If that was all that it took, we wouldn't need any more than that.  "God sees my pain?  That's great.  God sees and I still have pain."  But God promises to do more than just "see".  Jesus once told the story of an unjust judge.  A judge who didn't fear God and who didn't respect people (hmmmmmmmm....good thing no such judges exist today, huh?!).  A widow continued to go to his door each day, knock, and plead with the judge to give her justice against her opponent.  And he would slam the door in her face every time.  It came to the point that he couldn't take it any longer.  "I'll grant her justice, just so she won't wear me out by continually coming."  The thing is this: God is just.  He loves you as well.  He isn't like an unjust judge who hears a cry then slams the door.  Jesus concludes this story with saying that God will grant justice to His chosen ones who cry out to Him day and night.  He's not just the God who hears...He's the God who acts.

It goes back to trust.  When one reads the bible, God continues to come through for the ones who trust in Him:

Elijah hiding for his life in a cave, and God confirmes that he's not alone.

Joshua about to lead the Jews into a new land.  God confirms that He would not forsake Joshua, and then gives the land of Cannan into his hand.

Hannah cries and prays for a child, promising to give him to the temple after he's born.  She becomes pregnant within the year.

A single mother on the brink of starvation, and God provides food and new life for her son.

In each instance, God answers and provides the need that dissolves the fear, pain, and loneliness felt for those in need.  What is your need?  Is it for someone to hear your pain?  Is it for someone to draw alongside and encourage you?  Regardless of whether or not you feel that others don't see, there is One who does: God.

"He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer.
This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD. 

For He looked down from His holy height; from heaven the LORD gazed upon the earth,
to hear the groaning of the prisoner,
to set free those who were doomed to death."

If you feel lost, know that He is the One who found you.  If you feel like no one hears, feel confident that He not only hears what has been said but also what has not been said.  And if you feel as though no one else will act, understand that He will.  He is not only there when you're on your knees, but will answer your cry.

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