Article: Significance of the Special Touch: Rejection to Restoration | Shiju Mathew, India
The mission and ministry of Jesus were threefold: teaching, preaching, and healing (Mt 4:23). Healing was done in many ways. One of the ways was by touching the needy and the broken ones (Lk 7:11-14; Lk 8:44-48; Mk 1:40-45; Mk 7:31-37). Touching the dead, lepers and menstrual disorder would cause Jesus to be unclean under Jewish law. Jesus had two options: either stick to Jewish law or come out of the rigid law. Jesus deliberately opted for the latter.
Leprosy was considered a dreaded disease in biblical times. It is a progressively disfiguring disease. The book of Leviticus describes in length about leprosy (Lev. 13-14 c.f. Num 5:3). The people with leprosy are asked to shout ‘unclean, unclean,’ to keep others from touching, resulting in exclusion from society at all levels: physical, mental, social and religious. Only twice does the Old Testament record that God cleansed a leper (Num 12:10-15 [7 days of separation]; II Kings 5:1-14 [7 dips]). When Naaman was suffering from leprosy, Elisha, the prophet, perhaps knowing the Jewish law, commanded him to wash seven times in the Jordan river (II Kings 5: 10). It shows clearly that lepers were not worthy of a touch. However, the leper in Mk 1:40-45 heard about Jesus and was desperate to be healed, perhaps to become a part of his community and society. Hearing the leper’s words, ‘if you will (without presumption), you can make me clean (without doubting Jesus’ ability),’ Jesus, the true source, took a paradigm shift. He was moved with compassion (meaning having deep pity) and broke all the barriers. He touched the untouchable (showing not bound by Rabbinic regulations regarding ritual defilement) and said to him, ‘I will (Greek-present tense; authoritative pronouncement); be clean (Greek-aorist passive, decisive act received).’ And immediately, leprosy left him, and he was made clean. It was complete and visible to all who saw him. Jesus asked the leper to show his restored body to the priest, knowing the rigid rabbinic regulations. ‘But’ the leper went out and began to talk freely about it (literal meaning- to proclaim it much). The divine touch leads him from rejection to restoration.
We live in a fragmented world of divided walls based on caste, region, gender, and dreaded diseases. Though we are on the top of the ladder in technology, many in the church and society consider the ‘others’ as untouchable. Being the disciple of Jesus, we are expected to break the rigid walls of separation and restore the fragmented church and society.
The word ‘Restore’ carries three complete words: Rest, Store, and Tore. The scheme of Satan is to tear us and make us helpless, hapless, and hopeless. On the other hand, God has stored a better future for us. If we incline to His will, it will lead us to a rest that will deliver us the best through the test. The choice is to choose the best when we have the choices and do the best when we have no alternative choices. The leper had no other options than to approach the real source, the giver of life. Are we willing to be restored and restore others through our simple and humble acts?
Can we make a deliberate choice today to touch the lives of ‘Others’?