Good weekend? Great weekend.
What is greater than a weekend jam-packed with church, family, and food? Basically nothing. Christ is risen people! Enjoy the resurrection. Enjoy life. Enjoy Christ.
“I am the resurrection and the life.” (NKJV John 11:25)
Last week was a beautiful journey. While tempted to redefine verbosity, I told myself to put the blog on hold for a few days. Now we’re back to business and I’ve brought the blog back to life (see what I did there?). Hope I carry out my task without boring you too much.
Saturday night, my church was packed. I went home to Tampa for the weekend, and it was like Egyptian-sardines packed. I’m sure your church was too. To the point where walking in the procession (zaffa), I did not think the deacon bearing the icon was gonna make it out alive.
Close your eyes and imagine the scene. Deacons. White victorious sashes hanging all around the church. Hymns. Incense. And tons of people. See it? Now are those people standing still and in reverence, eyes closed and in that saint-like “true orthodox” pose? If you’ve ever been to a Coptic church – then absolutely not. They’re moving around, strollers in the aisles with babies crying, unorganized, chaotically singing, and most likely climbing on top of one another to pay their respects to the icon and receive its blessing.
Heres a quote I’d really like you to remember:
Icons do not make Christ present; they rather show us that He is.
So with that in mind, in your mental scene, change the icon, to the Archetype, to the Image Himself. Imagine the risen Jesus walking around the church and the people all reaching over each other to touch Him, with all the more chaos! Crazy scene. This happened in Luke’s Gospel.
I love Luke. Of all the gospel writers, he definitely makes my top 4.
He’s very detail-oriented and mentions things particular to him being a physician. Like in the account of the woman who had the issue of bleeding. You know the story, but if you don’t remember the details read it here, its short.
…But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped. And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’” But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately. And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace. (NKJV Luke 8:42-48)
This woman – St Veronica – was in the midst of the chaos. But she approaches Christ with a confidence in His capacity to heal. But lets focus on Christ in this passage. He’s walking through the town, and the people are literally all over Him, trying to touch Him. Just like in the church zaffa, with the icon.
Jesus questioned who touched Him. Big turning point in the story. He may have walked for a while, but it is when He “perceived power going out” from Him that things came to a complete stop. Putting myself in the scene, I feel like right then the chaos would have stopped, everyone would get dead quiet, and Jesus would probably have to re-ask the question “who touched me?”. Everyone was confused/scared/ready for some sign/confused (again). Then Peter (who else?) could not bite his tongue, and just exclaims his confusion to Jesus. Imagine the deacons stop singing and the zaffa comes to a halt – the entire church would be silent and everyone would be very concerned – ‘whats going on?!’. You could hear a pin drop.
Christ here, with His stop, kindly defines for us 2 types of ‘touch’ that we must differentiate – there is the touch of the crowds, the ‘thronging’. He juxtaposes this beautifully with the touch that receives power, of the woman. And if 1thingisneeded here, it’s the power of God.
So I can approach Christ and just be in this huge “fan club” or I can touch Him seeking something, His POWER. Similar touch, different result. I want us to approach Christ looking for His POWER. Every time.
2 chapters earlier, Luke writes:
“And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.” (NKJV Luke 6:19)
Can you name a time in which someone sick approaches Jesus for healing, and Jesus turns them away? No? That’s because it never happened. Good job with the Bible trivia. He would never reject someone seeking healing and power from Him. Regardless of their past.
I imagine Veronica must have heard about what was going on in Luke 6 (before this verse). Jesus was healing left and right…and POWER was going out from Him. Demons, sicknesses, miracles. Non-stop. Watching the scene at church with the icon made me wonder if I was there for the right reasons. Are you excited yet Karim? Don’t you want to take part of this POWER? or do you just want a fan-club membership and show up to church like everyone in the crowd that day? Remember also St Veronica (named by tradition in the Eastern Orthodox church) was unnamed at the start of the passage, but at the end she was His “daughter” – His POWER doesn’t just heal, it changes. It is limitless. It transforms.
St Cyril of Alexandria says:
…He performed very many wonderful miracles, rebuking demons, delivering from incurable diseases whoever drew near to him, and displaying his own most divine power…Christ did not borrow strength from some other person, but being Himself God by nature, even though He had become flesh, He healed them all, by the demonstration of power over the sick.
There is another type of touch that Luke mentions (and here comes the mnemonic for this entry) in chapter 18 of his gospel. Luke was a physician (he was also an artist actually – talented) so for the sake of this, let’s say he was a pediatrician. He focused on kids (for the medically illiterate) – and we all know we are ‘kids’ till we hit how old? yep – 18. So Luke->doctor->kids->18. The connection sticks, just try it.
Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” (NKJV Luke 18:15-17)
Dudes. That verse is so popular. So learn the mnemonic to make it stick (which it definitely will) and I want us to look at this verse and remember 1thing: that Christ is accepting. Jesus will always accept me approaching to touch Him. Even if the ‘disciples’ try to push me away. He wants you in His arms. And why did all the people (ch 6), St Veronica (ch 8), and the children (ch…….18!), all approach Him to touch Him? They sought His POWER. Even if it means bringing someone to Christ that cannot come themselves (like the children – chapter__) . I.e. bring your friend, parent, cousin, Sunday-school class-clown, etc. Bring them seeking His POWER.
So, let’s be real for a minute. Off topic, but what superhero would you be if you could be one? It’s always been a toss-up for me – between Wolverine and Spider-Man – but Spider-Man always takes the prize (insert mental Spider-Man image here…).
Why do we have favorite superheros? It comes down to their superPOWER. That’s how we decide 1 is greater than another. I mean shooting web from your wrists, agility, strength, climbing walls and (basically) flying? Sold.
Christ wants to give you more of His power than you can imagine.
I cannot talk about touching Christ for POWER, and not mention the Holy Communion. Ask yourself, when was the last time I approached the Communion as if I was approaching Christ – seeking POWER? Was I coming to Him like the crowds, or like Veronica? The Body and Blood of our Lord is not something to ‘throng’ to, but it is something to pursue expecting His gift, His life. His blood will heal my ‘issue of bleeding’, and cure my sin “immediately”. I worry that the church is filled with people from the crowd, myself being the first, and Jesus doesn’t ever stop to say “who touched Me?”
We touch and kiss the icons in the church, but are we reminded of Christ’s presence? Do I seek Him in the church (His dwelling place) looking for His influence on my life, or do I just show up to (God-forbid) keep my membership going in the fan-club of Jesus?
In reflecting on this past weekend my brothers and sisters, 1thingisneeded as we saw the most unlikely woman experience His POWER as well. Mary Magdalene was healed of her demons by Him, and at the tomb, what did she seek? to touch Him. He told her to go preach the news to others.
…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death… (NKJV Philippians 3:10)
She experienced the POWER of The Resurrection and was transformed from just a woman to an evangelist – the most unexpected of people. God qualifies the called. He does not call the ‘qualified’. We are no different from her.
So for the next several weeks, go to the church seeking to touch Him. Bring someone with you and explain your reasoning. Even send them this blog to read. Really, every time I remind myself of what I’m missing out on, I regret skipping any liturgy. FOMO – on a heavenly scale. We can receive His POWER every time. Open confession here though? Its my lack of repentance that holds me back. I sleep in because I “just went last week” or “I’m tired/busy”. It comes down to me not recognizing that I need His life-giving sacraments. While you’re there you will see the procession, know that Christ Himself is in the church, it’s His home. Approach the communion seeking His power. And live your life daily with the power of His Resurrection.
Today, 1thingisneeded: don’t join the fan club, but have Him ask “who touched Me?”
Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!