You know there’s many a man with his life out of tune,
Battered and scared with sin and he’s auctioned cheap to a thankless world much like that old violin,
Oh, but then the Master comes…and the people cried out what made the change? We don’t understand.
Then the auctioneer stopped and he said with a smile,
It was the touch of the Masters hand.
- John Kramp, The Touch of the Master’s Hand
Having concluded his coverage of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew turns to discussing the various miracles Jesus performed during His time on earth. First up is one of my favorite stories. It involves a man with leprosy which, at the time, was a terrifying disease because it had no known cure. There were several different forms of leprosy, some of which were contagious. Often times, someone with the disease was sent to live in a separate community outside the city with other lepers until that person either got better or died. There was a huge social stigma associated with leprosy, as well as a physical cost.
In the first few verses of Matthew chapter 8, a leper approaches the Christ and asks Him for healing. Of course, Jesus is willing but it’s HOW He heals the man that I find interesting. Personally, in those days, if someone with leprosy had approached me I would have made sure they kept their distance. One can’t be too careful with contagious diseases, after all. But Jesus is different. Verse three reads as follows: “Jesus reached out and touched him.” Can you imagine that?
Here is a man who has probably not been touched by a well human being for quite some time. He might have a contagious form of a disease with no known cure. Jesus, being the Christ, could certainly have healed the man with only His words. The physical aspects of the disease would certainly have left the man. But Jesus is interested in healing the whole man, so he reaches out and touches him too. In doing so, He removes the social stigma associated with leprosy as well. Which tells me something about this god wearing skin: He doesn’t do things half-assed. When He invests Himself in another human life, He goes all the way. Who wouldn’t be at least interested in getting to know a god like that?
It also tells me something about how His people are to act. When we come into contact with a dirty, disease-ridden world, we are not to settle for half-measures of interaction. We are not to do the bare minimum. Rather, we are to immerse ourselves in the most basic needs of the people we encounter and seek to meet them where they are. Anything else is less than the real healing the Christ seeks to impart. Today, there are diseases like AIDS/HIV and there are social stigmas such as poverty and autism which plague our world. How is the church doing in its effort to reach out and remove as much of the shame as possible? I think the way in which we are reacting versus what we could be doing is the difference between a band-aid and true healing; an amateurish-effort and the touch of the Master’s hand.