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.” Matthew 8:1-3
Matthew chapter 8 is Jesus at his best.
In the span of just 32 verses, Jesus heals a man with leprosy, a Roman centurion’s sick servant, and Peter’s feverish mother-in-law.
After those three, we have no idea how many people He healed because all the passage says is “they brought to him many… and he healed all who were sick,” which included the casting out of demons from several people. And what’s even more amazing is after all that, He still had enough energy to squeeze in a sermon about “the Son of Man having nowhere to lay his head.”
That’s a whole lot of work for just one chapter!
But it’s that opening scene of Matthew 8 that makes me appreciate Jesus the most. The text says the crowds were following Him when a man with leprosy ran up to him. Now I can’t prove it because there isn’t any video footage, but I imagine the crowd began to shrink back as soon as the man with leprosy approached. Lepers were outcasts in Jesus’ day. Their disease was viewed with disgust, so much so that they lived in separate colonies disconnected from the rest of the world. You couldn’t touch a leper, because to do so would make you unclean and unfit for religious life in Israel.
And that’s exactly what makes this passage powerful. You see, Jesus doesn’t flinch. He lets the man come and make his plea:
“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Then Jesus does the unthinkable in His day – He reaches out His hand and touches the leper.
Jesus touches the untouchable.
Now Jesus didn’t have to touch the man. He could have easily said, “You’re healed” and let His words do the work. But He didn’t. He did the work with His hands. Why is this significant? Because Jesus is sending a tremendous message in touching the man.
Think about this man’s life:
- For years he has not had the affectionate touch of a single person.
- Strangers avoid him like a plague, not wanting to even brush his shoulder by accident. Friends abandon him, not able to even pat him on the back.
- His wife and family want him to stay away because they know the disease and its deadliness.
- So for months, maybe years, this man hasn’t felt the touch from even one human hand. No handshakes. No hugs. No kisses. Not even an accidental bump in the market. Nothing but sheer isolation and loneliness.
Until Jesus stretches out His hand and brings him back into the world of human touch.
Can you imagine his joy??
Sure, the touch of Christ healed his body from debilitating leprosy, but His touch also healed this man’s heart from devastating loneliness.
Now, today, there isn’t much leprosy in our world. (It isn’t entirely eradicated, but it’s not as rampant as it used to be.)
But do you know what IS rampant?
The leper had the courage to ask Jesus for healing:
If you are sick or are lonely and feeling isolated, do you have the courage to ask Jesus to heal you?
Jesus had enough love to touch the leper:
If you are a Christ-follower, do you have enough love to tell those who don’t know Jesus about His love?
Do the unthinkable.
Touch the untouchable.
Written by Kevin Wood, Guest Contributor