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Spirituality Spiritual Reflections What’s in a touch?

By Pastor George Saylor If you are a parent, do you remember when your first

child was born? You couldn’t keep your eyes off the baby, could you? You felt like you could just stare forever at your child’s face and never get tired of it. The baby couldn’t get enough of you, either. He had to be held, touched. And remember when he wrapped his tiny hand around

your finger for the first time? What a grip! How did that feel? Have you ever fallen in love? Every time your loved one

walked into the room, you would get that goofy, excited feeling. Remember the first time she touched you? Perhaps you were walking somewhere together and you realized she’d slipped her hand into yours. It is amazing what is in a touch. But if you’re a leper,

people don’t want to touch you anymore. People can’t even look at you without revulsion or fear. Have you ever been a leper? Maybe you fumbled the

ball in a big game. Maybe you were the object of gossip. Perhaps your character flaw had been discovered. Or maybe you were going through a divorce … or diagnosed with an illness. In biblical times, leprosy was the most dreaded disease

known. The condition rendered the body a mass of ulcers and decay. Fingers would curl and gnarl. Blotches of skin would discolor and stink. There are even certain types of leprosy that would numb the nerve endings, leading to a

loss of extremities and fingers, perhaps even a hand or a foot. The social consequences of leprosy were severe. Since

they were considered contagious, lepers were banished or quarantined. Throughout Scripture, the leper is represen- tative of the ultimate outcast. Now I think you can understand the state of the man

who came to Jesus for help. He was a leper. Now the fact that he comes to Jesus was a shock. Lepers

were forbidden to approach anyone. But this leper came to Jesus through a crowd … and had to violate all the neces- sary standards of exclusion to get to Jesus. But his approach, however shocking, was reverent, humble, respectful and hopeful. He came begging and kneeling. “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” Mark says Jesus was moved with compassion. He

stretched out his hand, touched the man, and said, “I’m willing, be cleansed.” Jesus healed with a word and a touch. No liturgical cer-

emony or fanfare, just a touch and a word. Then Jesus sent the man to Jerusalem and to the priest

for examination, because only a priest could pronounce a leper healed or restore him to his former life. Jesus gave two commands. First, go to the priests. Second, say noth- ing to anyone along the way. The leper disobeyed the command to say nothing. He

spread the news around to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city for the crush of the

crowds. Now the leper is free to come and go where he wishes, free to resume his life, to go back to his family and career. But Jesus now has to stay in the countryside, because he could no longer go into a town openly for the crush of the crowds. In a sense, Jesus traded places with the leper. And that’s

a metaphor for what he did for us on the cross. We were the spiritual lepers who lived in alienation and isolation from God because of our sin, and he who knew no sin took our guilt upon himself and suffered the penalty for us in our place. On the cross, Jesus was forsaken and we were adopted into God’s family as pure, undefiled, cleansed children. I don’t think anyone here has been a leper in a medical

sense, but spiritually, emotionally or perhaps morally, we all have been there. There is someone, the Son of God, who with a touch and a word, can cleanse of us of all unrighteousness, all sin, all guilt. He is not appalled by our spiritual uncleanness. He is not frightened by our predicaments. His heart goes out to us. He’s ready to say, “I am willing. I am willing. I am willing to touch you, to cleanse you, to even die for you.”

Pastor George Saylor leads services at Chandler Presbyterian

Church, 1500 W. Germann Rd. in Southern Chandler. For more information, call 480-963-3821 or visit www.chandler-

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