People Jesus Touched: A Rebuke of Social Distancing
“When they had crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and anchored there. And when they came out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, ran through that whole surrounding region, and began to carry about on beds those who were sick to wherever they heard He was. Wherever He entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well” (Mark 6:53-56, NKJV).
There truly is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11), and we have a bad habit of not looking back at alleged times of “utter doom, destruction, plague, and certain death” of which this nation and the world at large have not only endured but have still managed through the grace of God to carry on and fulfill the purposes for which He created us.
I remember the scare throughout the world concerning the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Thousands of sexually active individuals were infected with an ailment that debilitated the body’s immunity and resistance to common diseases and viral infections of varying degrees. Without natural antibodies to resist further infections and symptoms, the AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) virus was the late 20th century’s version of the Bubonic Plague that ended up killing a fourth of the entire population of Western Europe in the 15th century. Medical research has been active in trying to find an effective vaccine or other means of curbing or eliminating the spread of AIDS.
A generation prior to that time was under a cloud of fear brought on by the poliovirus, which rendered its victims paralyzed. Some had to undergo the ordeal of being permanently placed in what was referred to as an “iron lung,” a medical device used to keep the polio victim alive and assist with breathing and other necessities. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) was a victim of polio, resulting in paralysis below the waist and the necessity of leg braces and wheelchairs to move. Roosevelt worked through this tragedy and served four terms in the White House, leading the country through the remnants of the Great Depression and World War II. Because of the research and development of the polio vaccine by the late Dr. Jonas Salk in 1955, polio is now all but eradicated worldwide.
The fear of catching and dying from smallpox was on the minds of our colonial ancestors. If you did not die from the effects of the pox, you were certainly left with disfiguring scars and marks on your body that would not go away. The work of American physician Edward Jenner resulted in a type of vaccination that used pox as an antibody to rid patients of the disease.
This fallen world has been cursed with epidemics, plagues, pandemics, and worldwide deaths due to influenza outbreaks, cholera, and diseases that have yet to be conquered through the studies and testing by physicians and medical research centers worldwide, who are determined to cure those sicknesses that have been a burden shared among all countries and nationalities.
We have witnessed the rapid spread (and hysteria) brought on by the COVID-19 “pandemic” that many believe was a deliberate act of biological terrorism originating in China. This new wave of sickness has also been used as a weapon of mass control by government officials and bureaucrats to stop the average citizen from doing anything that might be considered a “health hazard,” such as walking, working, and worshipping. While I do not doubt the seriousness of this disease, I am personally suspicious of its timing and use as a tool to cause panic, a lack of true information, and a weapon used to turn us against one another, separating us from one another, and a forerunner to the mass control and forced compliance that will be used by the coming Antichrist to get those left behind to take his “mark.”
I say all of this to make you think about how Christians in ages past handled and reacted to the outbreak of diseases that genuinely threatened their cities, towns, and countries.
When I look at the behavior and work of our ancient brethren in Christ, I do not see examples of fear or a sense of futility where they unquestioningly obeyed the authorities, shut everything down, and left the sick and isolated to fend for themselves while they hunkered down and waited for the skies to part and the trumpet to sound. I am sure they had thoughts of such a wondrous day of deliverance and victory because of the promises of our Lord Jesus, but I have read where the ancient Christians would care for the plague victims of the Roman and Byzantine world and of establishing the first hospitals in the medieval period. I read of Christian physicians and nurses who dedicated their lives to healing the sick with faith in God and the medications they had developed through long hours in a lab or private study.
Christian physicians, nurses, and aides have gone around the world amid the worst of diseases to offer their services and comfort to the sick and dying, and in doing so, have done it in the name and example of the Lord Jesus Christ. He never allowed anything or anyone to prevent Him from accomplishing the work He came to do. Christian pastors such as Charles Spurgeon and Richard Baxter worked among their fallen members and other sufferers during times of plague and city-wide diseases without concern for themselves. When we see how much we have capitulated to the secular authorities and have allowed them to tell us what we can and cannot do in the name of Jesus, it does bring a sense of shame to us today.
I am not advocating an attitude of foolhardiness, unpreparedness, or throwing common sense to the curb; however, we who claim to serve a supernatural God who has our lives in His hands and is still in charge of how things work in the universe need to quit being a bunch of “scared rabbits.”
I would think that when He places it upon our hearts to respond to the needs of our brethren — who are not only susceptible to the sickness we face today, but the isolation felt by the elderly and those who are hospitalized and have no one by their side due to rules and guidelines that make them feel more alone and in despair — we cannot allow the forces of the world and the deviant ideas of unscrupulous officials to prevent us from carrying out the mission of love, mercy, prayer, intercession, and support that our Lord Jesus asks of us more so today than in previous times.
Jesus never practiced “social distancing” one time in His ministry. He has never allowed the world to keep Him from being by the side of anyone who was sick or in need of salvation. He touched lepers, paralytics, the demon-possessed, the dying, and raised the dead on more than one occasion. He was always one-on-one with those who reached out for Him and trusted Him to do what would glorify God and reignite faith that had been all but extinguished in some of the people of Judea.
There have been, unfortunately, times in the history of the church where our ancestors sometimes avoided responsibilities or persecuted and harassed others for not toeing the “Church” line or were far too quick to condemn and damn those who got sick from their own bad habits and practices and not show the compassion we should have. I get it. The skeptics of Christianity have some valid weapons to use against us because of our own short-sightedness and ignorance, but that should not sway us from repenting of our sins, fears, or to blindly compromise with governing officials who oppose the work of the churches; nor should we apologize for our faith in Christ.
We need to quit letting the world either shame or silence us into affirming the truth of Scripture and its accuracy, infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency as the Word of God. We bow to no one except the Lord Jesus Christ. We have the assurance that if our obedience to Jesus Christ results in our death at the hands of a paranoid, diabolical, and evil system bent on controlling everything, rest assured that we will be far more alive in the presence of our blessed Savior than we ever were here on this fallen, diseased world.
All things will soon be made new by the Sovereign Hand of the Lord Jesus, the Great Physician. He never turns anyone away but welcomes all with not just a touch, but an embrace.