And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him (13)
The healings and exorcisms Luke has narrated so far have demonstrated Jesus’ authority. He delivers and heals by rebuking (4.35, 39, 41).
With the cleansing of a leper, the emphasis shifts. The implication is that Jesus is alone with the man (14); what he does is for an audience of one. In the absence of any didactic, polemical or evangelistic motive, only one is left: compassion. Jesus wills to heal simply because his heart goes out to this poor leper.
No reason is given for the man’s leprosy; Luke only notes that he was “full” of it. There is no mention of sin or forgiveness. Rather, the focus is on the leper’s heart-rending appeal to Jesus’ will, and Jesus’ response – which is to touch him.
Not only does Jesus minister healing to his body, but by touching him he ministers to his soul too. For as long as he had been leprous (“full” implies a long time), this man would have been isolated. Regarded as contagious and ritually unclean, no one would have touched him or gone near him. No one would again until he had been certified clean by a priest. But the Lord had, without hesitation. No wonder his reputation grew even more (15).
The healing of the paralytic finds Jesus again in the public arena. Pharisees and teachers of the Law as far away as Jerusalem have come to check out the reports of his authority, power, and compassion. Not though with the joyful expectation of the crowds.
The flashpoint comes when he forgives sins. Jesus is aware of the problem, and of the thoughts of their hearts. So what he effectively says is “if I have the authority to heal a paralyzed man, then surely I have authority to forgive the sins which you believe caused the paralysis.” That should have settled the matter, except that the way forgiveness was secured was through sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem. If Jesus could forgive, what need would there be of a temple, and teachers of the Law? Jesus was fast becoming a threat to the religious establishment, which cared more for itself than the healing of sinners.
Why do we sometimes find it hard to rejoice at others’ blessings?
Loving Father, I thank you that you have touched my life through your Son Jesus Christ; grant that I may always be willing to minister in his name to others, embracing them with your love and rejoicing at your healing work in their lives. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Michael Hewat is currently serving as the Senior Minister at West Hamilton Community Church, New Zealand
Photo by Halacious on Unsplash