Last week my BSF group was studying Matthew 8. It's the beginning of Jesus' public ministry teaching and healing people. I've heard the stories many times before, but this time something jumped out at me that I'd never seen before. Let's read:
When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." Matthew 8:1-4
Did you catch that?
He touched him. The leper.
Jesus touched that unclean man who begged him for healing.
Later in the chapter, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant by speaking a word when he wasn’t even near him. He didn’t have to touch the leper. But he did. Because Jesus, being Jesus, knew that what the man needed healing - but what he really needed was love, and compassion, and someone to tell him that he still mattered. As a leper in that society, he was unclean, and anyone who came in contact with him also became unclean. The leprous and diseased had a special place outside the city limits for them to live without bothering others, and if they did have to venture inside the city with the “normal” people, they were required to announce their presence as they walked through the streets so that no one would accidentally touch them.
Can you imagine how lonely that would be?
Jesus allowed the leper access back into society by healing him, but he touched him as an unclean man. He touched him.
And he touches us. In all of our dirt and scum and mess and sin, he touches us. He isn’t afraid of becoming unclean, and he isn’t grossed out by us. Despite what we see when we look in the mirror or in our hearts, when Jesus looks at us he sees the creatures that he made and loved, and he reaches down to touch us, covered in mess, and we are instantly cleansed.