It was India, 2003. I was walking down a crowded street when a young boy of about 15, a leper, held out his hand, begging. I snagged a rupee from my pocket and handed it to him. In the process of the exchange, our fingers touched. Eye contact was immediate, and I am sure he saw shock in my eyes, as I saw uncertainty in his.
Suddenly, the absurdity of the situation caused me to smile at him and he shyly smiled back before we were separated by the crowd, disappearing from each other’s lives forever.
Touch is such a necessity of life. So many studies have been conducted showing the importance of touch in the development of children and the health of the elderly. Even the act of petting an animal has a calming effect. We were made to touch and be touched.
First century lepers were considered unclean. People avoided them, as they were forced by law to proclaim their condition, announcing to the world that they could not even get close enough to another person to rub shoulders. A wide berth spread around them as they walked down the streets, crying, “unclean!”
I wonder how the leper in Matthew 8 felt when Jesus actually reached out and touched him. Mark 1:41 says that Jesus was moved with compassion. And with compassion, he reached out his hand to touch this man who was untouchable.
How did the leper spent the rest of his life? How did the woman with the issue of blood, or the widow and her risen son, the paralytic, Zacchaeus, Lazarus, and the myriad others touched by Christ, spend the rest of their lives? Could they ever go back to their ordinary lives after feeling the touch of Jesus?
God takes us as fallible creatures and with the touch of his holiness we become clean. Think of all the great men and women in the scriptures, of their various sins. Yet God blessed them and used them for his own purposes. And isn’t that what life is all about? Being used for God’s good purposes?
“…those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds…” (Titus 3:8).
Though we are all unclean with the disease of sin, may we change our proclamation from “unclean” to “touched by the blood of Christ” and spend our lives leaping for joy to share that good news.