“Jesus could have healed [the leper] without touching him, but Jesus wasn’t just healing him of leprosy. . . . He had to cure this leper of feeling unwanted, so he reached out and touched someone who was considered untouchable and unlovable. What his heart felt, his hand touched.”- Kyle Idleman
“Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean.’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.”- Matthew 8:3 (NIV)
Kyle Idleman continues Chapter 9 of One At a Time with his observation that God hardwired humans for appropriate and affectionate physical contact. In fact, the author adds, the medical terms ‘skin hunger’ or ‘touched starved’ describe the condition occurring when people receive little or no touch from others.
Above all, Matthew 8:3 tells us, Jesus reached out and touched the leper. And the word the NIV translates ‘touched’ literally means ‘to fasten onto.’
So, on the one hand, it’s not surprising that Jesus touched the leper. Because Jesus repeatedly reached out and touched people in a loving and life-giving way. However, Kyle contends, there’s something surprising, even scandalous, about Jesus touching this leper. Society strictly forbid contact with a leper. Yet, Kyle notes, Jesus not only healed the man of his leprosy, but:
” . . . Jesus touched him before he healed him. Why not heal him and then touch him? I think it’s because Jesus loved the man just the way he was. The healing revealed his power, but the touch? The touch revealed Jesus’s love!” (emphasis Kyle’s)
In conclusion, Pastor Idleman notes, Jesus also healed people without touching them. Certainly, Jesus didn’t need to touch this leper. Instead, Jesus could have simply said ‘be clean’ to him. Or winked at the leper or given him a thumbs-up. Most significantly, Jesus desired to heal the leper’s emotional scars. As Kyle reminds us, “What his heart felt, his hand touched.”
Today’s question: How might you apply Matthew’s account of the leper to your life? Please share.
Tomorrow’s blog: “The greatest challenge of love”