“Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I have.” (Luke 24:39)
Touch is an important part of human life.
Touch is such an important aspect of our development that infants who don’t receive enough human contact are at high risk for emotional, behavioral and social problems. In some cases, babies can die out of neglect from a lack of touch. If you have ever held a baby you have likely experienced what an important connection that is.
Touch can be a good thing.
When we get hurt (which seems to happen to me too often…) an embrace is almost just as important emotionally to a healthy recovery as it is to medically treat the injury. We often greet one another with a handshake, high five, fist-bump (or a hug when appropriate) as a sign of greeting, welcome and connection with another person. We sit by our friends, hold hands with loved ones as a sign of affection, and lovers express their relationship to each other through other meaningful ways. Touch can lead to new life being born.
This of course can go wrong when touch is unwelcome.
When touch is used to to lash out, to display power, to intentionally hurt, dehumanize or to take advantage of someone, it can damage, scar, destroy and kill. When this touch like this happens, not only our flesh is damaged but our well-being is compromised and our humanity is violated. Touch can leave its violent mark upon us. Healing, when possible, takes time, patience and often a community of caring people who can help that person cope and recover.
Jesus experienced the worst kind of touch at human hands. He was tortured and executed. In addition, he was touched with words that mocked and humiliated. When he needed his friends most to hold and reassure him, he was denied and abandoned. He was left to die, and buried once his lifeless body breathed its last. Yet he appeared – not as a ghost, but in the flesh -asking his friends to touch him; hoping for something to eat.
What do you think this invitation to touch him means?
Could it be that Jesus sought to heal those closest to him who betrayed him? In Jesus’ ministry it was often through the act of touching the untouchable and through eating with those not usually welcome at the table that his restorative work took hold of people. Now these same disciples that watched him touch and eat so many times with others offered his physical presence to be with them. In the same way he sits among us again and again each time he says, “take and eat, this is my body” and his restorative presence reaches us too.
At this table Jesus invites you into a whole new community and way of being. It is here that Jesus invites you to share his healing with a hurting world that often feels taken advantage of, violated, neglected and abandoned.
When our lives are touched by the resurrection – new life begins.
P.S. If you or someone you know has been threatened or abused in any way – please talk to someone who can help. There is never a time where it is normal, appropriate or expected to be be treated this way. You are a beautiful human being created in the image of God, and it is our calling together to protect one another from harm; stop those who do; work diligently to prevent it from happening again; and help one another flourish.