Jesus touched the untouchable
Matthew 8:1-4 tells this story. One day, as Jesus makes his way down a mountainside, a leprous man emerges from the shadows and kneels before Jesus. He asks to be made clean and Jesus touches him. And just like that; he is clean!
In one touch, Jesus breaks all laws and boundaries set by society and touches the untouchable. In one touch, Jesus not only heals him but gives him the gift of being clean. Back in those days, lepers were outcasts and could not be touched. There was a stigma attached to being unclean in Jewish society. After all, lepers were on the “unclean” list with pigs! Jesus not only restored his skin and probably his limbs, he gave him a new status in life. Through the kindness of Jesus, he could live “clean.” He could give and feel the touch of family and friends.
Today, the kindness of touch is often overlooked in several cultures. A French Psychologist, Sidney, Jourard, visited cafes and observed friends interacting for an hour. During this hour no one touched in England. In the United States, he counted two touches. In France, 110 touches; but in Puerto Rico, there were 180 touches! What is the advantage of touch?
In an on-line article, Psychology Today says that touch is able to communicate, “joy, love, gratitude and sympathy.”1 We can communicate other emotions too but what if we cultivate the kindness of touch? What if we gave purposeful hugs, high fives, or a gentle squeeze of the hand of a child or an elderly person? In one touch, we could give the gift of kindness that could positively change someone’s outlook.
Jesus spent time with the rejected
Consider tax collectors. Back in Jesus’s day, tax collectors were Rome’s henchmen to collect taxes in the local areas. This worked well since they knew the area and the people. Since they were hired by Romans, they were often thought of as the enemy to Jews. Tax collectors also added a surcharge to taxes. Most of the time, it was in excess but it was money they kept for themselves. They also seemed to have a relentless power to take any amount of money from the Jew.
Jewish society often listed them with the unclean and sinners. They were despised and most likely, if they wanted to reach out to God they would not have chatted with a Pharisee or other religious leaders.They were the outcasts in temples and synagogues.
But Jesus was different. He crossed this barrier when he saw a man named Zacchaeus sitting in a tree. Apparently, Zacchaeus had some interest in discovering something more than the riches he acquired. He was there to get a glimpse of Jesus and he climbed a tree to watch him pass.
Unlike other religious leaders, Jesus stopped when he saw Zacchaeus. Perhaps Jesus perceived that he longed for meaning in his life or he wanted to connect to God. The Bible does not say but Jesus saw a need and simply spent time with him. According to Luke 19: 5; Jesus told him, “Come down from that tree. I’m going to stay at your house!”
We don’t know the full conversation between Zacchaeus and Jesus but we do know the people around started to gossip. “Jesus is going to a sinner’s house!” It seemed almost scandalous!
My favorite part of this story is this. Jesus did not evangelize Zacchaeus. The Bible does not report Jesus telling him he needed to repent to be with Him. Because of the kindness of Jesus, he accepted Zacchaeus as he was. He didn’t require Zacchaeus to change so that he could be in his presence. Perhaps, because of this unconditional acceptance, Zacchaeus stopped Jesus in his tracks and said, “I will give half my possessions to the poor. If I have taken too much from anyone, I will give back four times as much.” It is amazing what happens under the blanket of kindness.
Jesus showed compassion to the suffering
I can’t imagine walking in a large crowd of people; let’s say at the end of a concert or on a subway during rush hour, and saying that somebody touched me. I’m sure folks would look at me as though I had lost my mind. But this is what happened to Jesus. He was pushing his way through a crowd perhaps with urgency. Jarius’s daughter was sick and Jesus was on his way to see her.
Suddenly, Jesus inquires, “who touched me?” Everyone around starts to say, “It wasn’t me.”
Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples points out, “It’s crowded and people are pressing in on you.”
But Jesus understood what happened. “Someone touched me because power went out of me.”
One lone woman who suffered from an issue of blood for 12 years came trembling toward Jesus and fell down at his feet. She explains that she touched him and instantly, she was healed.
“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace,” He says (Luke 8:48).
In this story, the woman was considered ceremoniously unclean because of her flow of blood. I get the feeling that she didn’t want to speak out concerning her issue. Back then, women may have been less vocal about discussing a personal issue in public and talking about it with a man.
Most likely, from the ground, this woman reaches through the crowd, and touches Jesus’s hem. He responds in kindness. He doesn’t put her in “her place” or reprimand her for touching him. In fact, he called her, “daughter.” This is a title of endearment and a way to say that it was okay that she reached out to the Master to receive healing power from Him.
In these three stories we see the power of kindness and its impact on three people’s lives. Jesus demonstrated that if we step outside of our lives and create acts of kindness to the unsuspecting, the undeserving or the hurting, we could change the world. We could make the world a community where love and joy flow and heal broken places. A life with this type of resume changes the world.
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