"Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. 'Lord,' the man said, 'if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.' Jesus reached out and touched him. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be healed!' And instantly the leprosy disappeared. -Matthew 8:1-3 NLT
I don't know that I've ever really considered just what it meant for Jesus to reach out and touch the leper before. I've heard this story many times. And I think I've always focused on the miracle that Jesus performed - that the man was healed. But not until yesterday as we were studying these verses in Sunday School did I ever stop to think about that short sentence before Jesus spoke the healing words.
"Jesus reached out and touched him."
Wow. Have you ever researched leprosy? I hadn't really...until yesterday. I had heard stories and even have a sister who visited some leper colonies when she was doing mission work in China. But I haven't, and don't know that I ever will fully understand the extent of it. It's not pretty. It's not comfortable. It's painful. And it's certainly not something I really want to encounter. But Jesus did. He could have simply spoken the words, "Be healed." He could have prayed over the man and sent him on his way. But Jesus reached out and touched the man with leprosy. This was unheard of in that time, and probably even today with those who still suffer from this horrible condition. It was/is highly contagious, and to go near someone who has it is risky business. But to touch them...now that's really putting yourself at risk. Not to mention the sight and smell that may have been present because of the skin condition. (Think rotting flesh...as unbearable as that sounds...) So, needless to say, this man had probably not been touched by anyone in his years as a leper. I wonder what gave him the courage to approach Jesus? I wonder what allowed him to come so close? And I wonder what his heart was feeling as he simply said with complete faith, "If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean!" There is so much to see here. He didn't ask Jesus if He was willing. He made a statement. He believed. He had faith. And He knew. I can only imagine the freedom he felt as he walked away knowing He had been healed, both physically and spiritually. The powerful, overwhelming freedom he must have experienced.
And now I think about myself. About the "spots" I carry around every day. Jesus died on the cross to cleanse those spots. Because of Him, I can come, every day, every moment, humbled and amazed at His willingness to heal...if I simply confess and ask. What a powerful thought our Sunday School teacher brought when she challenged us to think about our own "spots." To think about the way Christ takes those away as He touches us, and to consider others around us who are hurting and desperately trying to cover up their spots. We need the touch of Christ, and others who don't know Him need us to reach out and touch them as we share His love and truth.
What freedom. What peace. What overwhelming hope and joy I have. To know that Jesus was willing to reach out...and touch me. A sinner. A human. An imperfect person He chose to call His child when I asked Him to be a part of my life twenty one years ago. And now I am called to be His touch to others. I know I can't be the one to heal or save someone. But I can lead them to the One who will.
Kind words. An encouragement note. A ride for someone who doesn't have a car. Doing the dishes. Listening ears. A prayer. Childcare. Teaching. And so many other things...What will your "touch" look like today?