It is not unusual to casually look past the condition of the man. Leprosy was a nasty and devastating disease. Because of the nature of the disease and the fear of catching it, people feared being around lepers. They were forced according to the law to walk around and declare themselves unclean. Scholars say they would have to clang a bell announcing they are unclean so everyone would know they were coming.
Because of their disease they were required to leave their family and their community and live in isolation. Since there was nowhere else to turn, they would find themselves living in leper colonies where at least they could attempt to comfort each other. To take it one step further, many of the Jews of the day would not come within six feet of a leper for fear of catching the disease. I guess this was a Biblical version of social distancing. Some scholars say that if there was a strong east wind people would not come within 150 feet of the leper.
This is the man that approached Jesus. Isolated. Shunned. Separated from his family and community. People saw no value in him because they could not see past his condition. What a tragedy – until Jesus comes on the scene.
When you look at the story after the man asks Jesus to heal him, Jesus did not heal him first. The first thing he did was reached out his hand and touched the man. Please don’t overlook that. Jesus did something that nobody else would dare do. Touch a sinner, maybe. Touch a leper, never. Yet Jesus touched him.
Think about the last time this man was touched by anyone. I can only imagine the emotions that flowed through this man and I can very easily imagine him breaking down in tears because Jesus touched him. But Jesus touched him because he seemed to have this habit of doing what nobody else would be willing or able to do.
What are the lessons we can learn from the touch of Jesus?
The man needed to be healed of leprosy. But the man also needed to be reminded of his humanity. He needed someone not to run from him but to him. Not to cross the street when he came around but to walk in the same path. Jesus saw this need, and before he healed his body, he also healed his emotions. It’s a simple reminder that God doesn’t do partial work, he does the complete job. Though he had a physical need, he also had an emotional one, and Jesus addressed both of them.
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The second thing we see is that you are not too far gone for Jesus to reach you. If you look at the verse in the NIV it says this man was covered with leprosy. What that means is that he had an advanced case of leprosy. He was in serious condition. Yet despite how bad his condition was, he was not too far gone for Jesus to bring him back.
This is true of you or someone you may be praying for. No one is too far gone. If you think you are beyond Jesus’ touch you are wrong. Don’t get distracted by the outward condition you may see in yourself or another person. All it takes is one touch from Jesus to bring you or them back, so never give up hope.
I love the fact that Jesus ignored what everyone else would say about this man. The same is true of you. When Jesus sees you - while he recognizes and acknowledges your condition - that’s not how he sees you. If you are willing to open your heart and life to him, like this leper, then he sees you as a healed, free, and brand-new person.
Once you give your life to Christ, he sees you as a finished product, even though you are a work in progress. Jesus was restoring humanity and identity to this man. He will do the same for you. The bottom line is you are not what people say you are. Jesus sees something different and that is all that matters.
The other thing this touch did for this man is it told him “you have value.” So often when you get “defined” by the outside world, you begin to believe it. I have always said that if you tell somebody something long enough, they will eventually believe it. This can be positive or negative. I suspect that this man had rang that bell and shouted unclean so many times that all he could think of himself was unclean. When Jesus touched him, he was saying you are more than that – you have value to me.
You should also note that Jesus reached out to the man first. I know the scriptures don’t say this, but allow me for a moment to have some creative license. This man was on the ground begging for Jesus to heal him. I can almost picture Jesus kneeling down with this man opening his arms and wrapping his arms around him. I could almost see him holding him and saying in his ear be clean. To those around him, they would probably say “why are you doing that? He is a leper.” Jesus didn’t see that, all he saw was the value the man had.
This is what makes Jesus so incredible and so awesome. He meets you right where you are. He could have healed the man first and then touched him, but he didn’t. He met him in his unclean place. Touched him when he was still unclean and then he healed him. He will do the same for you. He will meet you in your unclean place, touch you, embrace you, then heal you because he meets you right where you are.
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The last thing the touch of Jesus told the man is that you are worth it. You are worth my time. You are worth my touch. You are worth it all. The one thing you will consistently see throughout Jesus’ ministry is he was constantly reaching out to those who were unclean. The same holds true today. He never stops reaching and never stops touching.
The last act of reaching for Jesus was when he stretched out his arms and allowed them to be nailed to a wooden cross. Why did he do it? He did it for the same reason he reached and touched that man who was a leper. Because you are worth it.
There is this old song we used to sing called He Touched Me. Here is the chorus:
He touched, O He touched me
And O the joy that floods my soul
Something happened and now I know
He touched me and made me whole
This song was the story of the leper. This song is also the story of everyone who has ever trusted Jesus to be their savior. He touched you and made you whole. Thank God that the same way he reached and touched then is the same way he still reaches and touches now.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Jon Tyson
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, author and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and has just released his first book, The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled trying to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.