I like to put my hand on the shoulder or arm of the person I’m talking to. This drives my friends crazy. It’s not so much a tactic I use to gain their attention as much as it is my way of displaying empathy and connection. While our society moves further away from such physical acts of affection in our relationships with one another, we see this was not the case with our Lord Jesus. The Gospel writers highlight that Jesus often touched the people He healed.
In Mark chapter 1, we come across two healing accounts in which Jesus incorporated touch into the act of healing. It wasn’t that Jesus needed to touch those who were weighed down with illness; His was showing Himself to be the compassionate and empathetic Savior.
In this way, Jesus related to the suffering of those who needed Him.
When Peter’s mother-in-law lay sick, Jesus “came and took her by the hand and raised her up, and immediately the fever left her” (Mark 1:30-31). It is not difficult for us to recognize the warmth and affection of this act. This was the mother of His beloved disciple’s wife. He cared about her, and He treated her with affection by touching her.
The second miracle account in Mark 1 magnifies this act of touch even more. Mark tells us a leper came and knelt down before Jesus and begged Jesus to heal him. Jesus “stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed’” (vv.40-41).
According to the law, this act made Jesus ceremonially unclean. This miracle with the leper is a supreme demonstration of compassion for those subject to one the most painful miseries of this fallen world. Leprosy made a man both ceremonially and socially unclean. Lepers were not allowed to come into contact with others. Imagine not being able to touch another person—in some cases, for decades. This isolation is a symbolic picture of the effects of the uncleanness of our sin. Yet Jesus touched the leper in the act of healing him.
In order for something unclean to become clean, something clean had to become unclean. Jesus was made unclean on the cross. He was treated as a spiritual leper at Calvary.
God the Father “made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the cross, Jesus took the sins of the lepers and the isolated—of all of us—upon Himself. He did so willingly, so that His touch might heal us.
Written by Nick Batzig