Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. (Mark 1:41)
What is the most amazing thing about this story?
That Jesus healed the man? That he sent him to the priests? That Jesus told him to keep it secret? Or that the man took little notice of this and great crowds came after Jesus?
Is the most notable detail that the man doesn’t seem to be sure whether Jesus would want to heal him? Or that Jesus seems to heal him because he felt sorry for this man, as if he might not feel sorry for others?
I don’t think so. None of these. I think the most interesting detail is in the words ‘Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.’
We can say that we care for those in need. We can express compassion for the homeless, or drug abusers. We can say that all are equal in the eyes of God, and profess that we are not racist, that we do not look down on others. We care about those who have terminal illnesses. We express sympathy for the severely disabled and the mentally handicapped. We are moved by compassion for those who have nothing.
But. But. But we keep our distance. We might express our concern, but we keep our distance.
Yet before he heals him, Jesus touches him. Before he sends him away Jesus extends his hand on the untouchable person, the one who was meant to keep his distance from others, the one who had been cast out of society for fear that his infection might spread.
Jesus touches the man. He takes a risk. He is not satisfied with kind words, but turns his words into action.
He stretched out his hand and touched him.