I am willing, be Clean

In the gospels, Jesus performs many of his his healings by touch. A leper (5:12-14), a dead boy (7:12-15), a bleeding woman (Luke 8:43-48), Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:51-55), and many others (Luke 6:19).

But it isn’t often realized what a radical statement Jesus is making with his touch. Each of the above examples (touching the dead, the leprous, a bleeding woman) are supposed to make Jesus ceremonially unclean. But they don’t! Instead of uncleanness flowing to Jesus, his cleanness overcomes and flows out to everyone he touches. N.T. Wright, commenting on Jesus’ healing of the leprous man, has this to say:

Nobody has touched this man, we may suppose, for years. His body was now riddled with the disease; it had clearly been, quite literally, eating away at him for a long time. And now Jesus reached out and touched him. We can only imagine the sense of awe and joy that this brought to the Leper.

In theory, this action should have made Jesus both ceremonially unclean and liable to contract the actual disease. But, as with so many of his healings, it worked the other way around. His cleanness, his healing power, ‘infected’ the man, just as the love and grace of his touch must have gone through his whole personality like a hot drink on a cold day.

N.T. Wright, Luke for Everyone

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