Lepers were to be treated as though they were dead. You took them to the edge of town and you left them there. And yet Jesus touches the untouchable. Who needs our touch?
Jesus the Rule Breaker
In the story of Jesus healing a leper in Luke 5:12-16, we hear the man begging Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Verse 13 tells us of Jesus’ response. “And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately, the leprosy left him.”
Anyone reading the story in that culture would have been shocked, not by the healing, but by Jesus doing something that was absolutely forbidden. He touched the leper.
Leviticus 13 tells how the priests were to diagnose leprosy and then treat the leper. They were to examine the sores but never touch. Once diagnosed, the leper was cast out of the community, beyond the city walls. You treated him the way you would treat a corpse.
He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.Leviticus 13:46
But Jesus Broke the Rules
Notice, Jesus didn’t wait until the leprosy was gone before he touched the man. Jesus touched and then he was healed.
Jesus didn’t wait until he got his life together and then accept him. He didn’t wait until he had made himself presentable: looked right, dressed right, smelled right, and then touched him. Jesus touched the leper.
What message do we send when we withhold ourselves from those who haven’t gotten it all together yet? We are telling them that we will be there for them—the church will be there for them—once they fix themselves. And, since we are the Body of Christ, we inadvertently tell them that Jesus will be there for them once they get their act together.
Until then, keep your distance.
We need to take a lesson from how Jesus encountered the leper. It was his touch that brought healing. When he reached out to the one that was hurting, rejected, and marked as “unclean,” he brought the healing the man needed.
Who in our lives that needs to know that kind of touch? That they’re welcome in our lives now—not once they get cleaned up? Who is it that needs us to reach out to them?