1 Now when Jesus had come down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with a skin disease came, kneeled before him, and said, “Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to. Become clean.” Instantly his skin disease was cleansed.
Jesus reached out his hand, and touched him” may not seem odd to us--but it was stunning, even forbidden, in his day. Today we know “leprosy” as Hansen’s disease, an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. In Jesus' day, people called any skin disease “leprosy.” Leviticus 13-14 gave detailed rules, and called for isolating anyone with a skin disease to keep it from spreading. Most people feared these sufferers, and avoided all contact. But Jesus touched the man, and said, “Become clean.”
Lord Jesus, you knew it hurt when people shunned you. You knew the healing power of touching the untouchable. Help me know how to reach out in ways that include and heal the untouchable. Amen.
It’s strikingly simple really. “Jesus reached out his hand and touched him.” It doesn’t say that Jesus recruited an expert in skin disease from the crowd to come help. It doesn’t say Jesus announced a new program to cure every leper in the region. Or set up a foundation to research and cure leprosy. Jesus doesn’t seem to consider all the grandiose things I think I must do in order to make a difference.
Jesus responded to the hurting human being in front of him. I am convicted by the simplicity of Jesus’ act in this story. Too often it’s easy for me to think, “Why bother? What difference will it really make for me to help this one person?” Offering a meal to a person on the street who is hungry will not end world hunger, or even that person’s ongoing hunger one week from now.
My need to “make a difference” is too often about me rather than about following Jesus’ mission in the world. To be clear, I do believe as Christians we are called to address systemic injustice and change. As I do that along the Jesus Way, I cannot let my need to change the world blind me to the hurting human being in front of me.
Lord, give me eyes to see, ears to hear and hands to touch. May it be so. Amen.
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