Sung Uk Lim
Assistant Professor of New Testament, College of Theology & United Graduate School of Theology, Yonsei University
Touch of Jesus in the Era of “Untact”
The essay re-imagines the “touch of Jesus” through the lens of “untact” (zero contact). The Coronavirus pandemic is challenging and changing the whole world, to take public health as top-priority. In order to prevent the spread of the virus, the vast majority of global citizens have recently made it a habit to maintain social distancing, which is designed to make lesser or none contact with others, in daily life. In this context, even a contact or touch with neighbours, not to mention strangers, is entirely socially and culturally banned.
However, a closer look at the episodes of Jesus’ healing, especially in Mark’s Gospel, divulges that he sometimes strenuously touches the sick (a leper, a deaf and mute man, and a blind man; Mk 1:40-45; 7:31-37; 8:22-26) and is, in other times, stealthily touched by a bleeding woman (Mk 5:25-34). Seen from the Markan perspective, healing the touch of Jesus can be construed as a symbol for salvation.
This essay wrestles with the meaning of healing and salvation in the era of “untact,” in which safety is believed to be guaranteed only through the sheer lack of contact with others.