3Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. 4Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."
I was talking to a friend earlier today about how human touch is so important. I've heard of babies in intensive care getting better quicker when caressed by the loving hands of their parents or kindhearted caregivers.
Can you imagine being one of these people with oozing skin diseases or blemishes? The Law of Moses pronounced them unclean and they had to live apart from the rest of society. (See Leviticus 13:44-46) When someone happened to wander near them, the lepers were obligated to cry "Unclean! Unclean!" as a warning. They truly were "the untouchables" for if you touched them, you would be ceremonially unclean. And having to live apart from your family must have been such a sad existence!
Picture this man coming to Jesus and demonstrating such remarkable faith proclaiming that Jesus was capable of cleansing him. Jesus could heal this man and, in so doing, fully restore this person to his family, community and place of worship.
I love that Jesus said he indeed was willing, touched the man and ordered him clean. With a word from Jesus, a person's health and relationships were restored!
My Quest Study Bible notes this:
Though he upheld the spirit of the law, Jesus could be accused by his critics of breaking the letter of the Old Testament law about lepers: to touch anything ceremonially unclean was forbidden (Lev. 5:2). Since lepers were unclean, they were banished from the community and dressed as mourners grieving their own death (Lev. 13:45-46). By touching an "untouchable," Jesus demonstrated his authority over the law. He cared more about people's needs than about religious ritual.
This reminds me of the post I wrote where Jesus told the Pharisees to go and learn what "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" means. I believe people matter to Jesus more than religious traditions. If your rituals are getting in the way of your treating people with kindness, rethink things.
For a more thorough study on this passage, please visit The Gift of a Leper.