“And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:2-3, New King James Version).
One of the amazing things about the ministry of Jesus was how He interacted with those around Him. His focus wasn’t on the movers and shakers of His day. It was the ordinary person—the widows, the poor, the sick, and the troubled. Some of the most moving stories within the Gospels are those times He reached out to the lone person in their time of need.
Excluded and Unclean
When we read of Jesus’ encounter with the leper, what we often miss is Jesus touched him. According to Old Testament law, lepers were to be separated from others. They were ceremonially unclean.
“Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’” (Leviticus 13:45).
Everywhere they went, lepers were reminded they were outcasts, to be avoided. Imagine the impact of someone ignoring their condition and actually touching them. Jesus did.
Lepers weren’t the only ones touched by the Master. Just a few of those He touched were:
- Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30-31).
- The deaf child tormented by demons (Mark 9:17-27).
- Jairus’s twelve-year-old daughter who had died (Mark 5:22-43).
- Two blind men (Matthew 9:27-30).
- The woman who was bent over (Luke 13:11-13).
Touch is important. It gives us a connection to each other. Author Laura Guerrero wrote, “We feel more connected to someone if they touch us” (Close Encounters: Communication in Relationships). Babies who are not cuddled and held fail to thrive and grow. In as sense, the same happens to us as adults. Touch—the pat on the shoulder, a hug, even a simple handshake—makes us feel wanted. I think it’s safe to say that feeling the touch of others is a universal need. Jesus knew this. Author Margaret Atwood noted, “Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language, and the last, and it always tells the truth.”
Touching the Untouchables
Jesus often touched the untouchables, those that society would deem unimportant or unworthy. But everyone needs to feel included, valued, touched by those around them. This includes the disabled, the elderly, those with emotional or mental issues, the homeless, those who made poor life choices. It is so easy to pass them on the street and pay no attention to the hopelessness in their eyes. Jesus would stop, reach out, and show them He cared.
If being a Christian means being Christlike, then it means caring for others as Jesus did. We cannot exclude them because of their circumstances.
We are the hands of Jesus, reaching out to touch our world.
Prayer: Lord, give me an awareness, a sensitivity, to those around me. I must not judge their value by what they are but for what they may become with Your help. We are all connected through the power of Your Spirit. Help me touch my world for You.