Jump Start # 2553
Matthew 8:3 “And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
I went to grab some lunch. It was noon. The place I went to is usually packed. No one was in there. All the chairs were up on the tables. It was take out only. I handed a card to pay for my meal. The server apologized for having to touch my card. That was a first. We are traveling down some new roads these days. Social distancing or social quarantining is necessary. Don’t touch. Don’t even touch your own face. This is hard for so many reasons.
And, then we come to our passage. Jesus touched. Jesus touched a leper. Jesus was always touching. He touched the eyes of the blind. He touched the hand of a twelve-year-old who had died. When John saw the glorified Jesus in Revelation, he fell like a dead man. The text says that Jesus laid His right hand on John. Touch.
We’d think that Jesus touching lepers would be a big health risk and a real social no-no. But there is something special about a touch. It is an expression of love and acceptance. A smile on the face and an extended hand are hard to beat. They say things without words. They are understood in every language. They demonstrate that you care.
Now, I am not pushing for us to ignore health warnings and risks at the moment. This is not the season to touch. We don’t want to be spreading things and we do not want to be getting viruses. Someday we will be allowed touch again. Bumping elbows is just not the same as a hug.
But there is a much greater lesson for us to see here.
Jesus demonstrated that He cared. We can say that with a million words, but showing it is much more powerful. It’s not only through a touch, but through an act of kindness. It’s expressed through praying for each other. It’s demonstrated by helping out where you can. It’s sad to hear some say that they belong to a church but they are not sure that anyone cares about them. That should never cross anyone’s mind. To be loved, to be accepted, to belong are the three things every human needs. They need that in a home. If they can’t find it there, they will find it in a street gang or through immoral relationships that vainly offer these things. In a church, how we treat one another speaks louder than what we believe. Jesus touched.
Jesus took someone who was unacceptable and made him feel acceptable. We are not told how this person got leprosy. Was he careless? Was he foolish? Did it just happen? Does it matter? Lepers were withdrawn from by society. They were cut off. They couldn’t work. They couldn’t be with their families. They couldn’t worship in the temple. Their only fellowship was other lepers. There was little to hope for among lepers. And, then came Jesus. He changed everything. He brought hope, even for lepers. A death sentence was gone because of Jesus. He made the outcast acceptable. We don’t have lepers walking among us, but we do have the divorced, the former prodigals, former addicts, those who have served time, those whose life story is dark and damaged. There is the single parent. There is the person who never married. There is the person who left the homosexual lifestyle. There is the one with tattoos. There is the one with wild colors in her hair. A piercing. Different, at least from us. From another country. Talks differently. Doesn’t understand our heritage and history. One who keeps calling our Gospel Meetings, Revivals. The one who keeps calling the preacher “pastor.”
We roll our eyes. We sigh so heavily that it could turn pages in our Bibles. We ignore. We look the other way. We don’t invite. We don’t include. We almost wish they’d go away. Jesus touched. Jesus made the unacceptable feel acceptable. Don’t you think we could be better at this?
Jesus put someone back into service. Before this, the leper had to remain quarantined. Jesus cleansed him. Go to the priest, give your offering and he’s back into life. There was a protocol according to the law that had to be followed. Although Jesus knew the man was cleansed, a priest had to declare it. An offering had to be made. Jesus didn’t skip these steps. Jesus understood the importance of following the law. Now this man could go home. He could go to the market place. He could go to the temple. He could return to work. Life would return for this man. And, can we do the same? Can we put someone back into service for the Lord? Can we give someone a chance and an opportunity?
Jesus touched. Amazing. If you were to reach out and try to touch the President, you’d be tackled, arrested and taken away. You don’t reach out and touch the Queen of England. Untouchable are some of them. But not our Lord. Not only has He touched this leper, but by faith, He has touched your heart. He has changed your life. He has given you hope and salvation. He has lifted you up and has entrusted into our hands His kingdom.
Touched by the Savior…what a wonderful thought.