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.
Saturday, October 16, 1971. I remember the day very well. The Baltimore Orioles had just tied the Pittsburgh Pirates to three games apiece for the World Series. Being a lifelong Orioles fan, it was a great win for Dave McNally and the entire team. We eagerly looked forward to a decisive game seven the following day.
But that wasn’t even close to being why this particular day was so important. It marked my second date with Mary Ann Hildebrand, and most importantly, it was when I first held her hand.
On our first date the prior Saturday, I think I might’ve gotten within five or six feet of her. She was by far the most beautiful, the most exciting girl I had ever been out with, and I was frightened to death of her.
I didn’t have vast experience dating. I didn’t even have modest experience. On the contrary, the pool of girls I had taken out on a date was way under ten. But she was the first girl that I was actually frightened of. I remember my leg shaking as I tried to put on the break as I drove her to our first date.
And on that second date, as we walked through the Columbia Mall, I screwed up my courage. Slowly reaching across the inches which seemed like the Grand Canyon, my hand touched hers and I went to hold her hand.
In preparation for that moment, I had rehearsed in my head what to do when she pulled away. I was all ready for her to reject my attempt to hold her hand, pulling away from me like so people had pulled away in the past. It was an often-repeated story of how life and happiness seemed destined to pull away from me.
But she didn’t. She didn’t pull away. Much to my surprise, she actually gently squeezed my hand back. And I looked at her, she was smiling at me. The rush of emotions and feelings I’m sure turned my face red as my hands began to sweat.
The sheer joy of someone holding my hand, touching me, was almost too much to hold in. I wanted to shout, but I held back and tried to remain calm and cool. Because that’s what was expected.
The next few minutes were a blur, but there was one and only one thing only that I clearly remember: my hands were sweating. Now, this wasn’t the normal hand sweat from playing a sport or working hard. No, this was Niagara Falls kind of sweat, a great flood of sweat that not only wet our hands but was dripping onto the floor as we walked.
I kept having to let go of her hand to wipe it off. But much to my surprise, she kept wanting to hold my hand. In spite of my fears and sweaty palms, we walked through the mall holding hands and talking.
This one little touch may seem insignificant, but little touches can be life-changing. And that’s what happened with this leper who was cleansed by Jesus.
Jesus didn’t need to touch him in order to make him clean. There's no mystical or material requirement that some form of touching occurs for the miracle to take place. On the contrary, the miracle of making him clean again was complete before Jesus touched him.
Jesus didn’t touch the leper to cleanse him, but to show him and prove to all the world that he was clean. Whether they were right or not, the religious and civil laws of the place and time forbid people from touching a leper. Since Jesus completely lived his life under that law through obedience, the cleansing had to take place before the touching.
That touch was not the method of healing, but the proof that he was healed. It was the first kind touch in a long while for that leaper, and it was the gentle touch of the Son of God.
We’ve all got brokenness in our past. Our present may be filled with ongoing pain or open wounds of unresolved relationships. Jesus offers the right kind of healing that you need.
Our healing starts the same way, coming to Jesus and asking if he’s willing. And in the same way, he confirms his willingness to heal, power to cure, and loving-kindness to touch. His touch tells us that the cure has already taken place, letting us know that all is well.
When was the last time you went to Jesus with your wounds, hurts, failures? He stands willing to meet us right where we are, just as we are.