Have you ever stopped to think about ‘touch’? Me neither. At least, not until the last few days. It is only as I try not to touch my face and wash my hands that I have started thinking about how much I do touch my face and how many surfaces have my finger prints on them: door handles, fridge handles, kettle handles, taps, books, phone, computer, cutlery, plates, mugs, bag handles, TV remote, chip and pin pads, pens and stationary – the list is endless! Then there are those more relational touches, when I hold my wife’s hand or pick up my children for a cuddle or to gently clean the latest skinned knee. It is difficult to imagine having to go without these touches for a few hours, let alone days or weeks!
What would it be like if you couldn’t touch anything? What would it be like if you couldn’t touch anyone?
In Jesus’ day, no one would dare to touch a leper. It may still be like that in some parts of the world today. As well as the fear of infection there was a social stigma: leprosy made a person religiously and socially ‘unclean’. It was a living death which caused the whole body to breakdown leading, eventually, to a dying death. It meant complete isolation from family and friends and the social and religious institutions which others took for granted. Leprosy was considered a picture of what it meant to be sinful and under God’s curse: sin causes moral death and decay and isolates people from the God of life leading, inevitably, to death. A life without touch!
One day Jesus met a leper who asked to be made clean. No priest would think of touching the man before he was clean, for fear of contamination. But this is what the Bible says:
Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.”
He touched him first and then made him clean. This is what is unique about Christianity. Many religions teach that you have to do something to clean yourself up before you can come near to God. But in Jesus Christ, God has come near to sinners. He reaches out to touch us before we are clean in order to make us clean.
God commends His love to us, in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus still touches people today – by His Spirit and through His Word the Bible. He touches hearts which are unclean, sinful, troubled, proud, broken, weary – all kinds of hearts. And what He touches is made clean and whole.
You can read more from Ben on his blog http://fidzbit.blogspot.com