While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.
How Jesus Loved People
The life of a leper was one of isolation. The law demanded he live alone. His clothes were to be rent, his head bare, and wherever he went he was to announce his defiled condition to those around him by shouting, “Unclean, unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45-46)
There was also a law against others touching a leper. Most people would find it revolting anyway.
But Jesus reached out his hand, and touched him.
How to Love Like Jesus
A friend who does counseling once told me a patient of his came back to visit him a few years after her counseling sessions had ended. She was doing extremely well and credited my counselor friend with her improvement.
“What was it that made the difference?” he asked, “The wisdom I shared? My insights into your family life perhaps?”
“No,” she replied. “It was the hugs.”
A few years ago I read a fascinating article about the power of physical touch. Patients touched by their doctor perceived their visits to have lasted twice as long as patients who weren’t touched. Students who were touched by their teachers were twice as likely to volunteer in class. The human touch can ease depression. The human touch can improve relationships
In a Cal Berkley study, touches among NBA teammates were measured. Among all NBA teams who do you suppose touched the most? The top two were the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers — the last two NBA champions at the time of the study.
(To learn more see the New York Times article on touch)
I love living in the information age. I love email, and Facebook, and Twitter, and Youtube. I love it. I feel blessed to live in an age when all this is available. But I also know I can have a tendency to become immersed in what I’m doing on the computer or on my phone, to the exclusion of real life face to face interaction with human beings.
It puts me at risk of neglect for showing people love through touch.
And touching, appropriately of course, is one of the most effective ways of communicating love to others.
Imagine with me what Jesus’ touch must have meant to the leper from our story. Picture living in a society where it was illegal to touch a leper — illegal. Put yourself in the leper’s shoes and think what it would be like to shout out, “Unclean, unclean,” so people could stay clear of you, and completely avoid any possibility of touching you. It’s hard to think of someone who would crave the touch of another human more. Jesus didn’t have to touch anyone. He once said to a centurion, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant, who was no where near Jesus physically, was healed at that very moment. Jesus, the Son of God, had the power to heal without touching. But he nearly always chose to touch. Concerning this leper, disregarding the law of man, Jesus reached out and touched him. (Matthew 8:9-13)
I want to encourage you to get in the habit of physically touching those you love. And to be on the lookout for those who will be encouraged by your touch — you know who they are.
Jesus’ touch accomplished great things in the leper.
Your touch can accomplish great things too.
Love people like Jesus did.