A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured. Mark 1:40-42
Have you ever noticed that our culture is not a culture of ‘closeness’? Many Americans don’t like to be close to things or people. Cars have bucket seats so that passengers have enough room and their own space. People have personal bubbles. It is far easier to stand at a distance and speak with others. Often, when people stand too closely to us or lean their faces too near ours, we become uneasy and tend to back up. We like our space, we like our boundaries and we protect our personal bubbles that we so diligently establish.
Have you noticed it happening in other ways beyond personal space? Try calling your bank or credit card company. Does a real person ever answer the phone or are we guided by automation? Have you ever shopped online where you do not have to deal with real people, long lines and a cashier? Just the other day I was in the subway in Boston and instead of purchasing tickets from a person, I bought my tickets from an automated machine. The world we live in does not seem to create closeness.
Though the world we live in often avoids being close, we have a God who chooses to be closer than we expect. In Mark 1, Jesus heals a leper. Jesus does not stand at a distance and tell the leper to follow the automated guide pushing numbers for desired results on his phone. “And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, ‘If you will, you can make me clean.’ Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.” [1:40-41]. Jesus stretches out his hand and touches the leper! Can you imagine what this scene must have looked like? Lepers were the outcasts of the society, forced to live in colonies outside of civilization. When lepers would come into town they would have to make it publicly known that they were lepers. In this account, we have Jesus not only associating with lepers, but also reaching out his hand and touching a leper!