“Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ He said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.” — Mark 1:41-42 NIV 1984
The healing of the leprous man in Mark 1 would have been an awkward experience for the disciples. Aside from the discomfort they would have experienced from the man’s physical deterioration, Jewish law said that a leper was to be an outcast and was unclean (Leviticus 13:45-46). They would have been taught all their lives to avoid a person like him, but Jesus was filled with compassion, a compassion so deep that it permeated the core of His being and it moved Him to action.
Jesus could have healed the man in many different ways. We have accounts of Him healing through words or asking people to bathe in certain waters, but it seems particularly important in this case that Jesus touched the man. Under Jewish law, touching someone with leprosy would also make them ceremoniously unclean. People would have avoided touching this man because of his uncleanness, and his leprosy would have made him unable to feel their touch even if they had. We can only imagine how many years it had been since this man had last felt a human touch.
But now, to the shock of the disciples, the leprous man experiences the touch of the divine. Jesus, the maker of heaven and earth who knows every hair on our heads, who had witnessed the scorn, shame, humiliation and guilt this man felt every day, says, “Be clean!” With His touch, the man’s leprosy was immediately healed. Rather than becoming unclean by touching the man, what and whom Jesus touches is restored and becomes clean!
The point of this story is not simply that Jesus can do miracles. Three different Gospel writers include this account because it taught the disciples, and teaches us, about Jesus’s priorities regarding people. He came for those who are unclean and who recognize their brokenness. As Jesus Himself said only a few days later, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
The entire purpose of the ministry of Christ is to reach out and redeem the “unclean people” of our society. All of us are “unclean” because of sin, but Jesus makes us pure and whole through His death and resurrection. When we believe in Him, He invites us to join in His mission to heal the hurt and broken of our world, both physically and spiritually. One touch from Jesus makes clean what is unclean, so may we take seriously the privilege that Jesus has chosen to work through us in a world that so desperately needs the touch of the divine.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I need You to heal my vision of how I view others. Thank You for Your compassion and for making me clean so I can show the same compassion to others. In Your holy name.