In Old Testament law a leper was commanded to ‘wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he (was to) cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean’ . . . He (was to) live alone. . . outside the camp” (Leviticus 13). Jewish tradition added that the leper was to remain fifty paces from all clean people. A leper spent his life away from community and the worship of God.
This background highlights the wonder of Mark 1. The leper breaks all cultural conventions to approach Jesus. His approach reflects great faith in the power and authority of Jesus. Jesus in turn, responds with a touch. James Edwards writes, “The touch of Jesus speaks more loudly than his words. . .” In this simple touch we see Jesus’ compassion and love.
As his followers, do our neighbours, co-workers, and families see a similar “touch”? Do they see a compassion that is more than mere words? Are we willing to get involved in their lives at the potential expense of our reputations, time and pocket books?
The leper’s story does not end here for Jesus speaks. James Edwards continues by saying, “and the words of Jesus touch the leper more deeply than any act of human love.” The touch of Jesus is powerful but His words are mightier, bringing cleansing, restoring community and worship to the leper.
As his followers, do our neighbours, co-workers, and families hear similar “words”? Not our words, but Jesus' words? Do they hear the Gospel of Jesus flow from our lips? A physical touch makes a difference but the words of Jesus, “are living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), bringing life (Isaiah 55:10:11) and salvation (Romans 1:16, 17).
We must show compassion; a compassion that consists of both a touch and a mighty Word.