“He reached out his hand and touched him……..I am willing”
During the night I once fell ill in a remote forest whilst on a survival course in North Yorkshire…One of the leaders on the survival course ran 8 miles, through the night, to get help. After receiving medical attention all was well. My abiding memory of that whole week was that one man, who didn’t even know me, was willing to leave the comfort of his sleeping bag and tent to run 8 miles - for me.
There are few times I read this account of Jesus and the leper without tears welling in my eyes. In so many ways I have seen myself been represented by this poor desperate man. I am so relieved, comforted and inspired by the words, “I am willing”, spoken by Jesus. When I read simple and powerful accounts such as this in the Bible I am struck with the way Jesus came alongside people. (Other examples include Luke 7:14; Mat 8:15; Mat 9:29-30) In each of these passages you see the willingness and motive of Jesus manifested through the power of physical touch.
I recently read a sad article about a South American orphanage observed by a researcher who recorded what happened to 97 children who were deprived of emotional and physical contact with others. Because of a lack of funds, there was not enough staff to adequately care for these children, ages 3 months to 3 years old.
Nurses changed nappies and fed and bathed the children. But there was little time to for any physical touch. After three months many of them showed signs of distress. Besides a loss of appetite and being unable to sleep well, many of the children lay with a vacant expression in their eyes. The lack of touch and emotional nurture was having a profound effect.
Touch, of course, is the one thing we are not able to do at a time of social distancing. However, there are many ways to we can extend a personal ‘touch’ to individuals around us. The key phrase in Jesus’ encounter with the desperate leper is one of the most important statements Jesus ever made, “I am willing”. Without this statement….nothing gets done. Of course, we each know where the willingness of Jesus would eventually lead him.
Holy Trinity, you have been wonderful in your support and practical love for one another over this season of crisis - Let us continue make it our daily aim to be willing, not because we have to be willing, but because we want to be like Christ in thought, mind and deed. You don’t have to go the extra ‘8 miles’….but an extra mile is within the grasp of all of us.