Since at least medieval times, meetings with kings and queens have been governed by elaborate protocols that emphasize the monarchs’ grandeur. One historian has summed up the proper etiquette that applies even today when meeting the king or queen of the United Kingdom: “You don’t kiss them, you don’t touch them, you bow— over and over again.”
In light of such customs and the distance they mark between rulers and their subjects, perhaps the last thing one might expect is for the one who is “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15) to willingly touch someone even most commoners would shun. And yet that is precisely what happened in our passage today, as Jesus “reached out his hand and touched” a man stricken with leprosy (v. 3).
This act is rendered more remarkable by what followed. A centurion approached Jesus and asked him to heal a paralyzed slave. But when the centurion proclaimed that Jesus need not come to his house to do so, Jesus said, “‘Let it be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that moment” (v. 13). In other words, Jesus had the power to cure even from a distance.
His decision to touch the leper was not because physical touch was necessary for that man to be healed. Rather, Jesus’ touch was a sign of mercy and compassion.
Philippians 2 exhorts us to “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus,” who took on the nature of a servant. In what ways might you cultivate this mindset in your life? What opportunities for sacrificial service might you identify? How can you emulate Jesus in extending mercy and compassion to those whom society often shuns?