While some fields of study frequently lead to cutting-edge discoveries and surprising revelations, other areas of research just seem to validate and confirm what mankind has known for millennia through common sense and shared life experiences.  A few days ago, I learned that a recent study had concluded that (drum roll, please) the physical touch of mothers was vital in contributing to a sense of calm and security in infants.  Although I was previously unaware that a hormone and neurotransmitter called oxytocin was involved in the bonding equation, the conclusions of the study didn’t come as much of a surprise.   There is great power in the human touch.

Even a cursory reading of the Gospels causes one to be struck by the number of times that close, comforting, physical contact played a vital role in the life and ministry of Jesus.  Though eternal and divine, the Word participated fully in the human experience as One who became flesh (John 1:14) and was born of a woman (Galatians 4:4).  From birth, He would have experienced the innate bonding and sense of safety that come from being cradled, nursed, and nurtured by His mother. 

In His public ministry, there were numerous times when Jesus utilized physical touch when it wouldn’t have been essentially necessary to bring about the desired result of healing.  As Creator and “Master of ocean and earth and skies,” Jesus possessed the power to merely speak and sins would be forgiven, diseases would flee, and life would be restored to the dead.  Still, He chose to reach out His hand and touch the leper (Matthew 8:3).  He took Peter’s ailing mother-in-law by the hand (Mark 1:31) and touched the eyes of the blind (Matthew 9:29).  He touched the ears and tongue of the deaf and speech impaired (Mark 7:33) and tenderly took the hand of Jairus’ 12 year-old daughter as He called her departed spirit back into her body (Luke 8:54-55).

The touch of Jesus wasn’t limited to acts of healing and restoration of life.  The God-Man not only conveyed divine power, but also communicated comfort and compassion through His human hands.  As Peter, James, and John lay face-down and terrified at the sound of the Father’s voice on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus reached down and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:5-8).  His hand increased the comfort of His voice in driving away their fear. 

Jesus cradled a child as He taught His disciples about Kingdom standards of greatness and servanthood (Mark 9:33-37).  Indignantly rejecting the protests of His disciples, Jesus took the little ones into His arms and blessed them, laying His hands on them (Mark 10:13-16).

The older I get, the less adequate I feel at times in finding the right words to say when people are hurting and confused by life’s sorrows and setbacks.  I’m so grateful that a part of our being so fearfully and wonderfully made by our Father is that the touch of a hand can effectively communicate what our hearts feel but our lips cannot articulate.

A tender embrace; an arm around the shoulder; a touch on the arm; a gentle grasp on a trembling hand.  A balm for the weary; a comfort to troubled souls; a touch that heals.