A widow lived alone. She made dinner every night for one and had conversation with none. Most of her closest friends had died, people rarely stopped by, and her phone never rang. She experienced a loneliness that grew day by day. She longed to fellowship with her brothers and sisters, to hear their conversation, and to feel their touch. Her fragile health forced her to be quarantined in her loneliness for a number of weeks.
One Sunday morning she mustered all the strength she could to dress herself and get ready for church. Her anticipation grew as she thought about how good it would be to meet with others again. She pictured herself receiving a handshake from the pastor; maybe a hug from her sisters in Christ. She needed to feel the warmth of someone’s flesh besides her own.
She attended the service but returned to her home even more desperate and lonely. You see, the people didn’t even notice her as they filed past her to get to their own circle of friends. No word of greeting, not one handshake was extended to this lonely widow. No warm conversation took place such as “We’ve missed you so much. We’ve been praying for you! How are you feeling?”
In the Bible a leper knew not only the physical pain of a dreaded disease but loneliness and isolation as well. In the Bible times leprosy was a disease that had severe social consequences. Throughout the Bible we read about this and can easily conclude that lepers would have extreme reticence in personally approaching or being approached by anyone. They were accustomed to being shunned; an outcast from their peers and even their families.
“A leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean” (Mark 4:40). This leper stepped out in boldness. Or perhaps it was desperation that led him to take the risk of being rejected or reproved publicly as he approached Jesus.
But our Lord did not turn him away nor did He instruct the disciples to remove the outcast. Instead Mark describes it this way, “Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him.” What Christ did in stretching out His hand and touching the leper was very significant. This man was so unaccustomed to the human touch that this loving act by the Lord must have been extremely meaningful, even if no physical healing had accompanied His touch (though certainly it did).
Try to imagine what it would be like to live devoid of the touch of other people, such as leprous people are consigned to. I am so blessed with a happy marriage (46 years this May) and so many other sources of compassionate human touch that I enjoy daily. In our home we regularly enjoy a family hug, where we essentially gather in a huddle and all hug at once. I know many of you have similar blessings which can easily be taken for granted.
Today there are people all around you who need the compassionate touch of another caring person. For many it’s a component to wholeness. They have a longing for someone to reach out and touch them, to pray for them and believe with them for their need. Perhaps you’re not within reach of the person God puts on your heart but a phone call, text or email may very well lift their spirit. We have opportunity to represent the body of Christ as we reach out to others physically and spiritually sharing our love and support!