The Untouchable, Touched

“Hello, a few days ago I got back from spending the summer in a developing country and now I have this really nasty cough,” I told the woman at the hospital’s check-in desk. I was asked a few questions then immediately put into isolation where I remained for the weekend as tests were run. Fortunately, it was just a case of pneumonia and I was able to go home.


Less fortunate were the first century lepers who had to spend their lives in isolation from the society. Much like modern hospital procedures, this isolation was mandated in the Jewish community as a practical way to stop the spread of skin disease (see Leviticus 13). But these isolated lepers were treated as social outcasts and considered cursed.


Matthew records the account of such a leper:

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. [Matthew 8:1-3]

The context is immediately following the Sermon on the Mount. There Jesus had “astonished” the people having spoken with “authority” (Matt. 7:28,29). It seems our leper was on the outskirts of that crowd or had heard the reports of Jesus' authority. Challenging a lifetime of experience, the leper declares by faith, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean”.


Jesus wills and immediately acts.


In preaching on the mountain, Jesus' authority was evident in his words. But in healing this man, Jesus stepped down and "stretched out his hand". He could have healed by speaking (as the very next healing story illustrates), but choses instead to touch the untouchable.


Scenes of creation come flashing to mind. For 6 days God had been creating by His words. “Let there be…”. “And there was…”. God’s words have creative power! But when it came time to create man, God stepped down, took His hands, and crafted him from clay. Similarly, He shaped woman. God could have simply declared, “Let there be humanity”, but instead opted for something far more intimate.


What an awesome thought: God longs for an intimate relationship. Not just to create and heal from a distance, but to be close to us.


Granted, there are times when we are overcome with feelings of impurity and fear; thinking that it would be wrong for us to approach God and taint His holiness. But notice that when Jesus touched the leper, Jesus didn’t become unclean, but the leper became clean. Jesus' healing power is more contagious than man's sickness.


Still today, when we by faith come to Jesus and in recognition of our sinfulness plea, "Make me clean", Jesus immediately acts. His purity prevails over our impurity.


Let nothing keep you from to Jesus. He is longing to extend his healing hand and restore the intimate relationship for which he created us.

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