One of the first times we took Ethan to a baseball game at Comerica Park to watch the Tigers play we returned to our car with him weeping. It wasn’t because of the baseball game. I think the Tigers actually won, they were winning a lot back in those days. It was because of what he saw after the game or more specifically who he saw.
Most of us who have been going to Tigers games have seen the many homeless men and women before and after games. That night, one of the men came up and asked us for money. We don’t carry cash and had nothing to offer. Our interaction didn’t really register with me. If I’m brutally honest, I was probably annoyed more than anything else. Ethan, on the other hand began to weep as we walked away. He had seen this man. He had seen the man and heard the man. Ethan was deeply moved by the reality that this man had no home, no money, my guess is Ethan was probably also sad and frustrated by the fact that his own father didn’t have much compassion.
This morning I turned to Matthew 8. I read this story,
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then 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.” Matthew 8:1-4, NIV
The theologian/scholar in me is fascinated by Jesus commanding the man to “don’t tell anyone.” Yet, as I consider the reality of life and ministry, two other things really stand out to me.
The first is that Jesus reached out and touched the man with leprosy. Jesus could have simply spoke and the leprosy would have been healed. We learn that his words have power. But, Jesus touches him. A man with leprosy, would have been a man who hadn’t been touched in a while. For Jesus to reach out and touch this man put himself at great risk. To touch this man was an amazing act of compassion. His love for this man was displayed first by his touch. There is power in the touch. Jesus’ touch communicated presence. The man with leprosy knew that Jesus was with him.
After the touch, came the words, “I am willing.” I have to wonder, am I willing? Am I willing to reach out and touch the leper? In my context, suburban Michigan, leprosy is not really a thing. But, there are other forms of the “leper” within our communities. Am I willing to reach out and be present with them? Am I willing to, in a sense, become unclean like Jesus was?
How about you? Are you willing? It’s the question that we have to wrestle with day in and day out.