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Up Close and Personal

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. Mark 1:40–42

Jesus did not have to touch the man to heal him of his leprosy. He could have said, “hey, stay right there, I don’t want to risk my becoming ceremonially unclean by you coming to close . . . you are healed,” and the guy would have been just as healed. Why did Jesus touch him if he did not have to, especially and if all of the laws of cleanliness and religious purity required him not to. Why did Jesus touch him?

Jesus touched him because he loved him. Not just the leper part that needed healing, but the whole part of him that needed healing. Jesus touched him because he needed to be touched. Jesus touched him because his leprosy meant nobody else could. Jesus touched him because as a leper he was unclean, cast out, kicked aside, left behind, untouchable, a man with no name other then the result of his condition – Unclean. Jesus touched him because he loved him, and anything less than touch would be less than love.

  1. Who are the untouchables, the outcasts, the invisible, the nameless, the unclean around you?

  2. Think broadly and practically — make a list.

  3. What would it take for you to touch them (figuratively but not just so).

  4. Are you ever in close enough proximity to “these people” that you would ever have the opportunity to physically touch them?

  5. How does that question hit you?

  6. What emotions does it stir? Why?

In order for us to truly live into our calling to incarnate Jesus in the broken places in the world, we need to be willing to ask hard questions, to engage in hard conversations and to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is after all in the uncomfortable that we must depend most fully on God; it is the place where we often experience his presence most fully. Jesus knew this and was not hesitant to upset the apple cart, to challenge the status quo, to be a champion of the powerless with both words and with deeds, with both proclamation and touch.

We live in a culture that honors the powerful and ignores the powerless. Power has a voice; powerless does not. As the the people of God, it is on us to stop clothing power and privilege in “blessing” language, and instead to seek out the powerless so that we might know there names, become their friends, listen to their stories, give them voice, and be willing to touch them with love so that they (and in the process we) might be healed.

Peace, hope and love


P.S. I searched Bing and Google for a picture of a person in a suit hugging a homeless person and I could not find one – just saying.

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