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This is post 1 of 6 in the series “THE TRANSFORMING TOUCH”

The Transforming Touch: Taking People Where They Are And Loving Them Into Life

Luke 8:40-50

One of my favorite authors today is a professor at Loyola University in Chicago. His name is Father John Powell. In addition to being a best-selling writer, he is also a popular lecturer, teacher, and counselor. In his book, Through the Eyes of Faith, he tells about his prison ministry. Once a month he visits the prisoners in the state penitentiary.

He describes how difficult that is for him personally. The atmosphere there is dismal, dark, depressing. However, on one such visit, Father Powell had an enlightening and inspiring experience in that stern and somber prison environment. An elderly woman was standing beside him as they moved through the waiting line. As they passed through numerous security checkpoints, they were required to produce identification, pass through metal detectors, to have their personal belongings thoroughly searched. Through it all, John Powell noted how this dear sweet woman was smiling warmly toward everyone, waving tenderly to the guards, calling many of them by name, and greeting everyone in a kind and loving way.

John Powell was fascinated by her. She was radiant. She was a ray of sunshine and a breath of fresh air in that miserable place. Suddenly, John Powell said to her: “Gee, I’ll bet you bring a lot of love into this world with your smiling face and words.” The woman replied: “Father, I decided long ago that there are no strangers in this world, only sisters and brothers—it’s just that some of them I haven’t met yet.” Reflecting on that experience, John Powell said: “That lady drew out of me a deep and warm reaction of love. Suddenly, I came to realize that what that woman was doing for me and everyone else around her was what Jesus did for those whose lives He touched. Isn’t that a great word? Jesus took people where they were and loved them into life.

That’s exactly what happened in this dramatic passage in Luke 8—Jesus loved needy and hurting people into life. The passage is especially fascinating because here we have a story within the story, or two healing stories rolled into one—and the people involved could not have been more different. One the one hand, Jairus represented the “upper crust” of society. He was the ruler of the synagogue. He was a man of substance, powerfully rich and religiously prominent. He called the shots at the synagogue. He represented the elite of the society of that day. But suddenly, he encountered something he couldn’t handle or control. His twelve-year-old daughter was dying. On the other hand, the hemorrhaging woman in the story was a social outcast. She was considered unclean and untouchable. She was regarded as being under the judgment of God. Jairus would never let her set foot in the synagogue. So here in this magnificent confluence of events these two vastly different people, the down-and-out hemorrhaging woman and the upper crust daughter of Jairus, are loved into life by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Recall the story with me. Jesus and His disciples had been traveling from town to town along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He had been preaching the Gospel and healing the people. Large crowds were gathering wherever He went, clamoring to see Jesus and to hear Him speak. When Jesus arrived in the town of Capernaum, this powerful man named Jairus came to Jesus asking the Master to come to his house because his only daughter was gravely ill and dying. Jesus agreed to go with him. As they made their way toward the house, the people began to press in around Jesus. The people were so excited to be near the Master that they were pushing and shoving and jostling for position. In the crowd was this woman who had an internal hemorrhage. She had tried everything she knew to try, but no luck, no relief, no help for her problem. No one had ever been able to cure her. Now after twelve years of agony and frustration, she had heard reports about Jesus. So working her way through the crowd she slipped up behind Jesus, and tentatively touched the hem of His robe. At once, the hemorrhaging stopped. Simultaneously, Jesus felt or sensed that something special had happened. He felt strength go out of Him. Immediately He stopped and asked: “Who touched me?” The disciples were astonished by the question. In the midst of all the pushing and shoving, they said: “What do you mean ‘Who touched you?’ Everybody’s touching you!”

But you see they could not tell a push from a touch. Jesus could! He knew the difference. He knew it was a tender touch that had drawn strength out of Him. The woman then blurted out her confession that she had been the one and she explained why she had touched Him and how she had been cured instantly. Graciously Jesus lifted her up and said: “My daughter, your faith has made you well.” Notice how gentle Jesus is with her. He gives her a new lease on life. He doesn’t chastise her for interrupting Him. He doesn’t criticize her theology. He doesn’t punch holes in her superstitious expectations. Rather He treats her with tender love and accepting grace. She was a nobody whom Jesus made into a somebody in a way I’d like to share with everybody! Although the healing came from Him, He gives her the credit. He says: “Your faith has made you well.”

The rest of the story is even more remarkable. Word comes that this delay has been costly. Jairus’ daughter has died. I’m sure at that moment Jairus was devastated. But again Jesus was gracious and generous and loving. He said to Jairus: “Don’t be afraid. Just believe, and she will be made well.” They continued on to the house. The people scoffed at Jesus for thinking that He could do anything for the little girl. It was too late. She was dead. But Jesus raised her from the dead. He loved her into life. Then—and I love this—He told them to give her something to eat!

Of course, there are many wonderful lessons to be drawn from these two dramatic stories of healing. We could go off in any number of different directions. But for the moment let’s focus on the power of love, on the amazing, incredible things love can accomplish when it is given and when it is received.

Love has the power to reconcile.

This is why Jesus insisted that the one who had touched the hem of His garment come forward. This woman had been completely rejected by the society of which she was a part. Not only was she sick but she was also lonely—terribly lonely. Jesus wanted to make it clear to everyone that He had healed her illness and He had restored her to her rightful place in society. He had reconciled her with the community.

In his book, The Preaching Event, John Claypool tells the poignant story of identical twin brothers up in the Midwest who were never married because they enjoyed each other’s company so much. When their father died, they took over his store and ran it together in joyful collaboration. But one day a man came in to make a small purchase and paid for it with a dollar. The brother who made the sale placed the dollar on top of the cash register and walked the customer to the door to say good-bye. When he returned, the dollar bill was gone. He said to his brother: “Did you take the dollar that I left here?” “No, I didn’t,” answered the brother. “But you must have,” the other continued, “because there was no one else in the store.” The brother exploded in angry denial. From that point on, mistrust and suspicion grew until finally the two brothers could not work together. They put a partition right down the middle of the building, and they made it into two stores. In anger they refused to speak to each other for the next twenty years.

One day a stranger pulled up in a car and entered one of the two stores. The stranger asked the proprietor: “Have you been in business here for long?” The answer came: “Yes, thirty or forty years.” The stranger continued: “Well, then there is something I need to tell you. Some twenty years ago now, I passed through this town. I was out of work and homeless. I had no money and had not eaten for days. I came down that alley outside and when I looked in your window, I saw a dollar bill on the cash register. I stepped in and stole it. Recently, I became a Christian. I was converted and accepted Christ as my personal Saviour. I now know that it was wrong to steal that dollar bill. I have to pay you back with interest and to beg your forgiveness.” When the stranger finished his confession, the old storekeeper began to weep as he said: “Would you do me a favor? Would you please come next door and tell that story to my brother.” Of course with the second telling, the two brothers were reconciled with many hugs, apologies, and tears. Twenty years of hurt and broken relationship based not on fact but on mistrust and misunderstanding—and then healing came, reconciliation came because of a stranger’s love for Christ. The point is clear: Christ is the reconciler, but we who have experienced this transforming touch of Jesus Christ in our lives can become His agents of reconciliation.

Let me say it plainly. Is there someone in your life from whom you are estranged? Is there a relationship in your life which is broken because of mistrust or misunderstanding? Is there a situation in your experience where hurt continues to fester? For the sake of Christ, do something about it this week. It doesn’t matter if it’s a long-time problem or a recent development. Do something. Write a letter. Make a phone call. Send an intermediary. Trust the reconciling power of Christ’s love in your life. His love has the power to heal.

And love has the power to redeem.

This story within a story gives us an amazing insight into the nature of Jesus. We are told that a great crowd had gathered to hear Jesus preach and teach. Suddenly, Jesus was interrupted by the plea for help from Jairus. So Jesus stopped what He was doing and immediately headed off toward the home of Jairus. Then He was interrupted a second time by the woman who touched His robe. Again, He stopped what He was doing to meet her needs. Only when He had done that did He go on to tend to Jairus’ daughter. Here’s the principle that I want you to grasp: The woman and the little girl mattered to Jesus. He loved each one as if each were the only one to love, what a beautiful thought!

Some years ago, the great violinist, Jan Kubelik, was to play a concert in the Queen’s Hall in London. The concert had been sold out for months. There was a struggling young violinist in London named Evelyn Bell. Kubelik was her idol. She longed to hear him play but she could not get a ticket. The afternoon of the concert, she went to his hotel room to see if he had access to a ticket she could purchase. He had no tickets. Almost at the point of tears she said: “Well, I guess I shall never get to hear you play.” The great master said: “Oh, but my dear, yes you will. Come in and sit down.” With that, the greatest violinist of his day put the instrument in his hand and proceeded to play through his entire concert for an audience of one. Evelyn Bell never forgot that, just as I am sure that the woman in the crowd and the daughter of Jairus never forgot the day that Jesus stopped everything in His life long enough to lift them to life. Did you ever stop to think that Jesus loves you like that, loves you as if you were the only one in all the world to love? Did you ever stop to think that you matter to Jesus like that?

Let me be personal at this point. My beloved, Professor James Stewart of Scotland used to say: “Every sermon well preached will cause you to die a little.” It’s true. What makes a sermon a sermon is the anointing touch of the Spirit of Christ—what the Spirit touches He sets on fire, and when He sets it on fire it burns something down inside of you. Take to the pulpit in the grip of that Spirit and it will gradually use you up. But I do it willingly because more than anything else in all the world, I want you to know that you matter to Jesus. I want you to come to know Him as your Saviour and Lord, your Master and Friend. I want you to know His transforming touch in your life. I want you to know that He loves you, every single one of you—He loves you as if you were the only one in all the world to love. So no matter what it costs, I am going to keep taking to this pulpit. I’m going to keep telling you about Jesus. I’m going to keep calling you to commit your life to Him.

Please then tuck this away in your heart today…

Back in March of 1949, the United States Secretary of Defense, James Vincent Forrestal, leaped out of his hospital room window and plunged to his suicidal death. Later they found on his bed a copy of the poetry of the ancient Greek poet, Sophocles. Also there was a sheet of paper on which Forrestal had written in his own hand these lines from Sophocles’ poem “Ajax”: “When reason’s day sets joyless, rayless, quenched in cold decay; better to die and sleep than never waking sleep than linger on and dare to live when the soul’s life is gone.” How sad. You know I can’t help wondering what would have happened if, that day, instead of turning to Sophocles, he had turned to the Scriptures and found there the story of an older woman and a little girl both of whom one day were loved into life by Jesus. Sophocles or the Saviour? Which one? Ask the woman in the crowd. Ask Jairus and his daughter. They knew the answer. The answer is Jesus—the very same Jesus who loves you as if you were the only one in all the world to love…

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