The Human Touch.
I recently heard a sermon about Jesus and the ten lepers. The pastor mentioned we don't have to deal with this disease of deterioration much today. Thank goodness! The gist of that account in scripture is that all ten lepers were healed, yet only one came back to thank Jesus. Ironically, the one who returned was a despised Samaritan. Note that Jesus, being a Jew, did not despise the outcast Samaritan. The devotional reading from our hospitality material shared the following scripture.
"A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured." (Mark 1:41-42, NIV)
Every time I read this account, I am taken aback. Leprosy, a communicable disease, was to be avoided like the plague (pun intended). Lepers were required to call out to anyone near to stay away. Shouts of "Unclean, Unclean" would be offered to warn others. Lepers could not join the larger population due to their disease. Yet, here in Mark 1, Jesus is approached by a leper. The text does not share whether the leper warned Jesus of his condition. To boldly approach Jesus was a sure sign of desperation. Upon laying out his prayer request, the leper was in for a huge shock!
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.
I shall never forget the day a young girl dragged herself into worship in a mud church at Mt Sinai UMC in Malawi Africa. Her legs would not work, but she would not be denied the chance to be near Jesus. I shall never forget her surprise when I picked her off the ground and held her close. I shall never forget how my heart was changed forever that day. Seven years have passed since that day. I can still feel the weight of her body increase as she began to relax in my grasp. She experienced Jesus in the midst of the worship service.
Consider our present day and try to imagine us reaching out to bring healing and hope to one stricken with strep throat, chickenpox, HIV, or some other threatening disease. We would defer to medical professionals and with good reason. How often I have gone to visit folks in the hospital and have had to robe, mask, and glove my body in order to protect myself from infection. On some occasions, I have covered my body to protect the patient from any virus or bacteria I might be carrying. In almost every situation, I have reached out and grasped the hands of the bedridden. Something spiritual happens when we risk this connection. In Mark 1, the leper risked approaching Jesus, Jesus risked touching a diseased person, and God worked a miracle.
Being mindful of each situation, how will we bring healing and hope to those desperately seeking a connection to Jesus? Will we look deeply into hurting eyes and see a child of God near failure? Will we draw them close in prayer and offer them the action of Jesus and hold their hand? Will we use the gift of human touch to lift a soul today?