Now that may not seem all that significant on the surface, but consider a couple of things. First, Jesus clearly didn't need to touch this man in order to heal him. Not only did He heal people in other cases with no more than a word, but at times He wasn't even in close proximity to them! (In fact, note the passage immediately following this account in Matthew; Mt. 8:5-13) But while a touch may not have been necessary for the healing itself, all 3 of the synoptic writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) explicitly point out the fact that Jesus did, in fact, reach out and touch this man. And I think it's an incredibly important detail. Because in actually touching the leper, Jesus almost certainly became the first person to have any physical contact whatsoever with him since he had contracted leprosy. You see, in biblical times, a leper was part of a social strata of society known simply as Outcasts. They were cut off from normal community. They were cut off from worship in the temple. They were even cut off from their families. This man would have been required to shout out "UNCLEAN" wherever he went so that everyone around could stay far away from him. How many family get-togethers had he missed? How many dinners with friends had he not been welcome at? How many years had it been since he had been able to participate in worship at the temple? And how many years had it been since he'd experienced any form of something we all take for granted: human touch? A hug. A handshake. A simple pat of friendship on the shoulder or back. All of these things had been removed from this man's life experience by virtue of his leprosy.
That's why I love what Jesus does here! Obviously, He heals the man. But it's not just the action itself that is so significant; it's the manner in which He does it. In simple terms, He loves this man in a very real and tangible way. He pairs His loving action (the healing) with a particular context (the touch) that adds volumes to the love that Jesus is demonstrating. I promise you that this man was never the same, and on a far deeper level than just his skin disease!
At times we could take this extra step with people. Sometimes we do things that we may very well be doing out of a genuine love, and that's wonderful. But sometimes the manner in which we love and serve can be every bit as powerful as the act itself. When we refuse to be satisfied with only the loving action, but take the extra step to put it in a loving context, our love not only approaches Jesus' love more closely, it becomes much more evident to those around us who see it.
- Pastor Paul