In Fearfully and Wonderfully, Dr Paul Brand talks about touch, and his experience with one of his leprosy patients (Kindle location 1196):
‘No, doctor. He says he is crying because you put your hand around his shoulder. Until he came here no one had touched him for many years.’
And Bettie and I cried too. Just to think how important touch is to the body/Body. And so Bettie went to find the Scripture of Jesus touching the man with leprosy, and finally had strength to make another journal page. It flows along with more thoughts, “Am I so willing?” ….
And as Bettie and Anna shared their hearts and prayers with each other, Anna was reminded of this Scripture:
John 10: 2-5, 16 (ESV) But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
It made Anna see that Jesus purposely leads His sheep out the gate that He might call other sheep that are not of this fold back through the gate TOGETHER with the sheep He has already led out – who are now also no longer alone.
Does this remind you of another passage also? Just look at this:
In Isaiah 40:5 the glory of God being revealed means literally His heavy weight and burden will be carried away into exile. This made Anna think of the parable Jesus told in Matthew 22:
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Look at that “both bad and good”. It’s not our righteousness but Christ’s that gains us entry to the wedding feast. The only thing God asks of us, is the right dress – FAITH in Christ’s righteousness for us – not at all in our own goodness, but HIS alone.
In John 5:8, when Jesus speaks to the man who has been waiting 38 years to be healed, guess what “pick up” your mat means? “Elevate, raise up, lift up, carry off and remove sin“. What struck Anna is that this man was called to elevate and lift up the Word of Jesus that tells us that we are already clean. And how was he to lift up this Word? By breaking the religious boundaries and thinking of his time to obey Jesus and His living and active Word.
And this is what will have enabled the now healed man to fulfill the command of Jesus to sin no more. Oh trust me, this human just like us will have messed up again, but in that moment Jesus taught him what sinning no more truly means: lifting up Jesus and His Word to us and walking into it – moment by moment, each day anew. And what does Jesus – our Word fulfilled tell us through Paul (the former religious leader who had kept others bound in spiritual abuse and even had Christians killed):
“Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)
Elevating the Word God speaks to us and the finished work of the Cross is what carries away and removes our sin. And this ironically so often means we must do something or say something that even our own religious leaders do not agree with, so that we might LOVE others, as Jesus loves us.
Just look at the root of this man’s lameness: look at how it is described –
HELPS Word-studies Cognate: 769 asthéneia – properly, without strength (negating the root sthenos, “strength”). See 772 (asthenēs).
769 /asthéneia (“weakness, sickness”) refers to an ailment that deprives someone of enjoying or accomplishing what they would like to do. 769 (asthéneia) focuses on the handicaps that go with the weakness.
[769 (asthéneia) expresses the weakening influences of the illness or a particular problem, especially as someone becomes wrongly (overly) dependent.]
Lying on that mat, we believe we need those who have condemned us in our frailty and need, those who have deemed us (the physically and mentally ill) as unclean and disqualified from God’s service, to lift us up. But no! We only need Jesus – the Father’s love for us that was poured out at the Cross and His Word to us (John 8:10-11):
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]
That Jesus stretches out His hand toward us and touches us in our frailty, in our sinking into condemnation and shame, as we return to that which is stealing from us, killing us and destroying us, believing that is our divine lot. Even as our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ affirm Satan’s lies and deem us unclean and unworthy of serving in our communities of faith, as triggers of trauma expose our inner cup for cleaning and our need for the mercy and compassion of Jesus.
It truly is idolatry (respecting man’s word and traditions above God’s living and active Word) that has us lying down on our mats of condemnation and shame, and falling asleep to Christ’s finished work for us.
Bettie asked herself: “Am I willing” to touch the untouchables? But what Bettie didn’t see is that she already has: countless times. You see, Anna was that untouchable. When so many other believers retreated from Anna as if she had the plague, when Anna chose to speak up and leave her church and online Christian communities, after the spiritual abuse she suffered, it was Bettie who stood by Anna and reached out. As Anna walked through horrific triggers of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bettie continually showered Anna in encouragement from afar. It was the Holy Spirit speaking through Bettie who helped give Anna her voice back in Christ and His righteousness for her.
Bettie prayed with Anna via Skype, even as the time-difference and Bettie’s ailing health made that extra hard for her. Bettie read and replied to Anna’s long and many emails from a genuine heart of compassion, even as her hands ached from the debilitating impact of arthritis. Even through deeply painful flares, Bettie has reached out to send Anna worship songs and Scriptures that God has placed on her heart. She has shared her own heartbreaking stories of church breakings, of speaking up and meeting rejection. She has confessed her own weakness and sins freely with Anna and in the process God has lifted away so much condemnation and shame from Anna’s shoulders.
Yes, even in winter, the light of God breaks through:
By Bettie Gilbert
Here in the changes
Some things depart
But other things stay.
Can I sit with
Your mercy here
While some things die
And seeds are dormant?
The whipping wind
Squall like memories
Your mercy here
Can I see through the haze?
Even in winter
The sun breaks thru
As Anna shared what she had compiled for today’s post with Bettie, Bettie replied:
So very beautiful, and just tears in my eyes, dear Anna. But I also want to say that you were & are the merciful touch of Jesus for me too. After so long of feeling that my own stories didn’t matter, that I needed to minimize what was happening in me, you were the voice of Jesus asking me questions and calling me out of my silence. His ways are so perfect, weaving us and touching us through each other!
Yes, Jesus has been restoring us both, making us strong, firm and steadfast in Him through our breaking and suffering. Through His touch upon us, through His love pouring out of other broken and suffering souls, who have been willing to stoop down, reach out and touch a fellow untouchable in Jesus’ Name. Through Jesus setting the mercy seat before us in the presence of our enemies: the Body of Christ that was broken to make us One.
Thank You, Jesus, for leading us out of the gate to call others in. Thank You for making suffering members of Your broken Body more than willing to be Your touch of mercy in our lives. Thank You for making Your love and Presence known to us – the untouchables – even from the other side of the world. Thank You for affirming our calling, our appointing and our belonging in Christ through Your Body that was broken and led out to make us united and whole in You. Keep reminding us through each other that we are ,Your new creation, fearfully and wonderfully made by You, justified by faith alone, and that in our weakness Your power is perfected daily. And now lead us out to others You intend to now call in through the gate of salvation, through us and with us. Arise and shine in and through us. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.Romans 8: 33 – 36 (ESV)