When Jesus 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 cleansed of his leprosy (Matthew 8:1-3).
How many years might it have been since the leper felt the gentle touch of another person? No hugs, no high-fives, no handshakes, not even a friendly pat on the back, for years. How astounded he must have been to have the son of God touch him! The one who we are so unworthy to touch, touches us. He believed and knew the power of the ministry of touch and presence.
Jesus could have just said, “Be clean!” But he didn’t. What speaks even more to the strength of this encounter is that Jesus touched the leper before he healed him. Although leprosy can easily spread through touch, Jesus committed the forbidden act of touching the leper in his sickness.
Despite the risk or discomfort or what others might think, Jesus went for it relationally. He touched the leper, knowing that touch might have meant more than the actual healing. Once he was healed, it would quickly become commonplace for people to touch him. He would be clean, after all!
But what a great proclamation of Jesus’ love was his touch before the healing.
“You are loved. You don’t have to be clean for me to love you. You are worth the risk. You are chosen. You are cared for. I’m right here for you.”
Do our actions proclaim these words to those around us? What if we decided not to care whether something’s a little ugly or messy and instead embraced each other wholly? Not caring about what it might cost us, because the loving ministry of presence was worth it?
As someone who’s felt the heaviness of brokenness in the lives of those so dear to me, but who also feels the weight of brokenness in my own life, it is so crucial that we become unafraid to touch the diseased parts of one another’s lives. We’re not Jesus, but we can pray for restoration and healing while sitting with those in pain, no matter what uncontrollable circumstances they might be in. You never know how much one simple touch might mean.