I just returned from a family trip to Springfield, Illinois, where we visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Lincoln Home, the Lincoln tomb, and several other sites of historical significance in the Lincoln legacy. So many places and pictures captivated my attention and left me pondering the magnitude of this person we know as Abraham Lincoln, a man who rose from poverty and illiteracy to become a lawyer, a president and the leader of a movement to end human slavery and preserve the union of the United States.
One of the fascinating items I repeatedly saw in Springfield was a bronze casting replica of Lincoln’s face and hands. Most often these metal replicas were placed within easy reach of visitors and framed by signage inviting the guest to touch his hands and face. The Lincoln tomb itself is prefaced by a large bronze replica of Abraham Lincoln’s head and shoulders placed within reach of both children and adults. For years it has been considered good luck to rub the nose of Lincoln on this statue. The shiny worn area on the bridge of the nose makes it clear that multitudes of visitors have indeed rubbed the nose in hopes of acquiring such good luck. We were no exception.
Why the need to touch the bronze hand castings or the nose of this famous face? Aren’t the faded photographs and handwritten letters on display enough? It would seem so, yet I found myself touching the large-knuckled, worn hands of Abraham Lincoln every time they appeared. Something about touching greatness brings a sense of awe and awareness to the human spirit – an awareness that while we can all do good and achieve more than we dreamed possible, true greatness is reserved for a select few; and a sense of awe that one so humble could accomplish such a divinely-intended destiny.
When Jesus trod the winding roads of his homeland and rubbed shoulders with the common folk of this earth – the weak, the wicked, the diseased and the poor-he was the ultimate of greatness walking among us. And how often we wanted to touch him! Whether it was a leper, a blind man, a woman with a blood issue, or the woman anointing his feet with oil and wiping them with her hair, both the deity and humanity of Jesus were experienced with just a touch. Even Thomas, the disciple who doubted the divine resurrection, was invited by Jesus to touch his nail-pierced hands and side so that Thomas’ faith might be restored. Overcome with emotion, Thomas could only respond with five words, “My Lord and my God!”
I believe we all, in some way, long to touch greatness. For the believer, we most want to connect with the greatness of God. While we currently walk by faith, not by sight, Jesus’ words encourage us today: “Blessed are those who have not seen (or heard or touched) and yet have believed” (John 20:29, ESV). So let us not lose heart, for “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (I Cor. 13:12, ESV). The day will come, believer, when our faith will be sight, our eyes will behold him, our hands will touch his nail-pierced hands, and we will fall to our knees in awe of the absolute greatness of God before us. Touching greatness – what an amazing eternity awaits us!