"Then He put out His hand and touched him,
saying, "I am willing; be cleansed."
In the early 80's Princess Diana made news all over the world by a single act of kindness. At that time in our history the AIDS epidemic was growing across the world. There was a lot of confusion and disinformation about the disease. While it was known to be a behavioral disease that was transmitted sexually, there were others, even children that were contracting the disease. The scare had grown to such large proportions that people began to isolate and shun those that had the disease. Princess Di in her elegant way cast a bright light on much of the ignorance of the disease when she went into a hospital ward full of AIDS patients and personally shook hands with each one of them without any gloves or outside protection. The world gasped and many raved about the compassion that she showed on that day.
While what she did was quite powerful, not one of those patients was physically or spiritually changed by her touch. I am sure that it was a comfort to them, and it probably encouraged them as well. When she left, however, they were still men filled with a horrible and life taking disease. Jesus' touch is supreme to that of the princess or of any other person. In Jesus' day the great and horrible disease was leprosy. When someone contracted this disease, they were cast out of society completely and banished to colonies outside the city full of other lepers. As you approached them they had to call out that they were unclean. How they must have longed to be touched?! It had been years since they had felt the gentle brush of their spouse's fingers on their cheeks. They would have given anything to feel the tender arms of their children wrapped around their neck. Even a firm handshake would have been more than appreciated. However, none of this was possible, and they were relegated to loneliness and despair. Then, Jesus came! The leper in our passage cried out for healing. Jesus could have simply spoken the word and this man would have been healed, but Jesus showed more compassion than even the leper could have imagined. With the love of God on full display Jesus touched him. Can you imagine what this touch must have felt like? Maybe the leper withdrew a bit when Jesus' hand started toward him. Or, perhaps he leaned in to the touch with a longing to feel the love of someone. However it may have been, when Jesus withdrew His hand, the leprosy was gone. Everything had changed. His skin was new and the sores were gone. The pain that he had felt for so long was absent from his body. Only one thing now remained: the fact that Jesus loved him with an everlasting love.
Leprosy in the Bible is often a picture of sin. Each of us has the disease and curse of sin on our lives. There is no one that can do anything about this problem, not even ourselves. However, when we cry out to Jesus, recognizing that we are helpless without Him, He comes to our lives and compassionately touches us. His touch of salvation changes everything. He makes us new to live our lives on this earth for His glory, but He also changes our eternal destiny. Everything is different. Our sins have been cleansed and washed away. Only one thing now remains: the fact that Jesus loves us with an everlasting love.
May you feel the touch of Jesus Christ today!