Written by David Lenehan
As you read through Jesus’ interactions with people, it’s fairly easy to see a pattern in His approach. I don’t mean that Jesus reaches out to each person in the same way. By no means. In fact, each encounter we read in Scripture is different – unique to that particular person and circumstance. But one thing we do see over and over again is that Jesus touches people – he connects with them.
There are many examples, but one which has always stood out to me occurs when Jesus encounters a leper.
“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. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:12-13)
You might not catch the significance of what Jesus does…and I’m not referring to the actual healing. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. Lepers in Jesus’ time were outcasts. There was no cure for the disease. Once you were declared a leper, you had to immediately leave family, friends, business and your community. You lived outside of the city and could only be with other lepers. If you had to come into the city, you had to walk around shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!” wherever you went. No one dared touch you, not even your spouse or child could give you a kiss goodbye because then they would be unclean – unclean in relation to their Jewish faith and, they thought, unclean physically because someone could catch the disease.
Jesus healed the man’s REAL need first – the need for love, the need to be touched, the need to be welcomed back into community. At the same time, Jesus healed his physical need. He said He was willing to do it. Jesus had no hesitation to heal the man. But he also had no hesitation in fixing the greater heart issue at stake.
Think about that approach when you’re with your family or friends. We certainly don’t see lepers around us here in the U.S., but we do encounter people who are obviously hurting on the outside…but hurt even more on the inside, deep within their hearts. Stop for a moment and see where that real hurt lies. Maybe the first thing someone you know who’s in need is love, care, a hug or a shoulder to cry on…or someone to sit with and just be still in God’s creation. Then the greater or more obvious needs can be met, too.