The Touch That Cleanses Us

Title: The Touch That Cleanses Us

Bible Book: Matthew 8 : 1-4

Author: Terry Trivette

Subject: Forgiveness; Touch of God; Cleansed



In your imagination, go with me back some 2,000 years to an ancient home in Palestine. There is anxiety in this home. You can sense it in the entire family.

A young member of the family has a strange white spot on his arm, and that one little spot has everyone frantically afraid. The physician is called, and he confirms their worst fears. The young man has leprosy.

To understand the devastation of this diagnosis, you must understand the seriousness of leprosy in that day. It is worse than cancer in our day, for in that day, there was no cure and no real hope for the leper.

The old writer, Richard Trench, accurately describes leprosy as, “…nothing short of a living death…a dissolution little by little of the whole body, so that one limb after another actually decayed and fell away.”[i]

The Law of Moses clearly stated that no one could have any kind of contact with a leper. Can you hear the sobs of that young man’s mother as she realizes she will never hug her child again?

Can you sense the loneliness, fear, and dread in the heart of that young man as he realizes that for the rest of his miserable life, he will likely never feel the warmth of human touch again?

If you move forward several years in this man’s life, you will find that leprosy has taken its dreadful toll on his body. Luke says that he was “full of leprosy” (Luke 5:12).

As he awakes one morning, finding his body in even worse shape, he doesn’t realize that today, his life will change forever. Today, someone will touch him. That touch will forever cleanse him from the terrible disease that now riddles his body.

In our text at the opening of Matthew eight, we find the story of Christ’s cleansing of the leper. Whenever we see the disease of leprosy in Scripture, it should get our attention.

You see, leprosy is a picture of sin. While we may not have leprosy, we all suffer from the disease of sin. Therefore, we can all relate to this man’s need for cleansing.

Matthew tells us that the Lord Jesus touched this man, and that touch made all the difference. We are reminded in this passage of Scripture, of the power of Christ’s touch to cleanse the sinner.

As we begin to look at some of the instances in which the Lord Jesus touched someone, we are reminded this morning of the touch that cleanses us from sin. There are three truths that I want us to notice from this great passage. Notice first of all:


In those days, there was no one more outcast, no one more reviled and avoided than the leper. Forced to cry the constant warning, “Unclean, unclean”, people always kept their distance from the lepers.

In our text in verse 2, Matthew tells us that as Jesus came down from giving the Sermon on the Mount, “…behold, there came a leper and worshipped him…”

Approaching Jesus took courage on the part of this leper, for legally he was supposed to keep his distance from healthy people.

Yet, we see not only courage on the part of the leper, but we see also compassion on the part of the Lord Jesus. He could have run or shunned the man away. Yet instead, we find the Lord Jesus displaying a loving attitude toward this man.

When we see the Lord’s attitude toward this man, we are reminded that while we suffer from leprosy of sin, the Lord Jesus still loves and receives us. Notice a couple of things about His attitude toward sinners. Notice first of all:

A. He is willing to hear their cry

Matthew records for us in verse two, as the man says, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” This cry of faith is answered in verse three, as the Lord Jesus says, “I will…”

When I see those two words, “I will”, I am reminded first of all that Jesus is willing to converse with those who are not worthy to hear His voice.

Just as He was willing to stop and listen to the cry of an unclean leper, He is always willing to hear the cry of an unclean sinner.

Though He holds the universe in place, and commands the cosmos, He is still attentive to the cry of the junkie who is sick of the needle.

Though He guides the governors of the world, He is not too busy to hear the plea of the alcoholic who longs to free from the prison of His addiction.

The charge of the Pharisees is still His practice; “This man receiveth sinners” (Luke 15:2) He is willing to hear the cry of those unclean in their sin.

I am glad I can say with the songwriter:

“I love the Lord, He heard my cry,

And pitied ever groan!”

When we observe the Lord’s attitude toward this man, we are reminded that when it comes to dealing with sinners, the Lord is not only willing to hear their cry, but notice also further that:

B. He is willing to help their case

Again, in verse two, this man wanted to be clean from his leprosy. In verse three came the Lord’s answer, “I will.”

When He said “I will”, he was not only showing His willingness to hear the man, but also His willingness to help the man.

Having a God that will hear is one thing. Having a God that will help is something altogether different. When it comes to the Lord’s attitude toward sinners, He is not only willing to hear their cry, but He is also willing help their case.

When the sinner cries for mercy and cleansing from sin, they do not have to twist the Lord’s arm for a response. He came to seek and save that which was lost, and therefore, He is always willing to intervene in the case of someone sick with sin.

A sinner calling on Christ for mercy is like a man asking the robin to sing. It is what He does naturally! He is a willing participant in the cleansing of sinners!

As William McComb wrote in 1864:

“Chief of sinners though I be,

Jesus shed His blood for me!”

Though we are guilty, and tainted with the leprosy of sin, we never have to worry about being rejected by Jesus. His attitude toward sinners is one in which He is willing to both hear and help them!

Notice with me a second truth we glean from this story. We see not only the Lord’s attitude toward sinners, but we see also further:


What has drawn us to this particular story is found at the beginning of verse three. There it says, “And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him…”

As we have already stated, the Law of Moses prohibited any physical contact with a leper. To touch a leper was to contaminate yourself, and therefore exclude you from the privilege of worshiping in the Temple.

Nevertheless, in this case, we find the Lord Jesus reaching out and touching this leprous man. It is an act of compassion and affection, and it reminds us of the Lord’s willingness to touch those who are infected with the disease of sin.

Notice a couple of things about the Lord’s affection for sinners. Notice first of all:

A. He will touch the contaminated

No doubt it had been years since anyone had laid a hand on this man. His disease had left him a pariah in his society. He was contaminated, and no one dared to touch him.

Yet the Lord Jesus was unafraid to put His hand on this man. His contamination did not scare the Son of God. Leprosy was not a threat to His deity.

Much like leprosy, sin contaminates us. It defiles our bodies, and slowly eats at them until finally completely destroying our lives.

Yet, when no one else can or will touch us, the Lord Jesus stands with an outstretched hand, unafraid of our condition.

He’ll touch the tainted. He’ll handle the horrible. He’ll love the loathsome. He’ll grasp the gory. He is willing to put His hand on the worst of men, and touch their condition.

I remember being asked once to visit a man in the hospital that was dieing from AIDS. I tried to prepare myself for the visit, but I was not ready for what I experienced. As I finished the visit, it came time for me to pray with the man, and I remember the fear the came over me as I grabbed his hand to pray. I wish I had not felt that way. I knew I was in no real danger, but there was still a hesitance in my heart.

I am glad that when I came to the Lord Jesus, tainted and contaminated by my sin, there was no hesitance in His heart to touch me.

He lovingly touched the leper, and He is still unafraid to touch those contaminated by sin today. Notice something else we see about His affection for sinners. Notice not only that He will touch the contaminated, but notice also further that:

B. He will touch the condemned

In that day, leprosy amounted to a death sentence. Dr. Ivor Powell describes leprosy as, “…a kind of terrible progression in which a man dies by inches.”[ii]

This man awoke every morning knowing that death was slowly but surely eating away at his body. He was for all intensive purposes, a condemned man.

While His life appeared to be hopelessly lost, when He asked the Lord Jesus to heal him, we find that Christ was not intimidated by the hopelessness of the situation.

He that would conquer death knew that this man’s sentence of death could be lifted. He touched that which was condemned, and removed its curse.

In much the same way, sin condemns men and women to death. As the Bible clearly states, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin is our condemnation.

And yet, everyday the Lord Jesus reaches out to the hopelessly lost, touches their sin-sick hearts, and lifts then from condemnation, and gives them hope and new life.

No one is beyond the reach of His touch! He can and will touch the condemned. As hopeless as their situation may be, Christ can deliver them from doom.

On June, 13, 1983, Karla Faye Tucker and her boyfriend entered a home intent on stealing a motorcycle. By the time they left, two people had been brutally murdered. Jerry Dean and Deborah Thornton were hit multiple times in the head with a pick axe. One witness later said they saw Karla Faye Tucker, with a smile on her face, trying to pull the axe from Jerry Dean’s head. In 1984, Karla Faye Tucker was sentenced to death.[iii]

Tucker was a condemned woman, sure to die for her crimes, and most people were glad for that. While in prison, she became friends with the prison chaplain, who one day introduced her to Christ. She was gloriously saved, and the prison staff, including the warden later testified of the miraculous change that came over this once brutal, evil woman.

When the Lord Jesus touched the heart of Karla Faye Tucker, He once again proved that no one is beyond His touch.

He has an affection for sinners, that He proves when He touches their lives, no matter how contaminated or condemned they may be.

There is one more truth that I want us to look at from this story. Notice not only the Lord’s attitude toward sinners, and the Lord’s affection for sinners, but notice also thirdly that we see:


While it is likely that no one had touched this man in many years, it is certain that no one had ever touched him the way the Lord Jesus did that day.

Look at verse three. After the Lord touched this man, it says, “And immediately his leprosy was cleansed…” Without delay, skin that had decayed was restored to health.

There is a reminder here that the Lord Jesus can do for sinners what no one else can. He has a unique ability with sinners. Notice a couple of truths about the Lord’s ability to help those that are sick with sin. Notice first of all:

A. He can remove our filth before God

Notice again in verse three that the leprosy was “cleansed”. The word translated “cleansed” comes from a Greek word that literally means to cleanse free from filth.

Leprosy was unlike most diseases in that it made a person dirty, vile, and filthy. Because of the nature of the disease, people with leprosy were very unclean.

That is why Jesus did not just cure the leprosy, or simply cause it to stop its progress. He cleansed the leprosy, meaning that he not only stopped the disease, but he erased its effects on the man’s body.

In much the same way, sin defiles us. It leaves us unclean, and dirty in the eyes of a holy God. We need not only to be cured of our desire to sin, but we also need to be cleaned from the dirtiness of our sin.

The good news is that Jesus Christ has the ability not only to cure our sin, but to “cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He can immediately wash away the filth of our sin before God.

The sinner that is stained with sin must answer one question:

“Are you washed, in the blood?”

In the soul-cleansing blood of Lamb”

Are your garments spotless?,”

Are they white as snow?,”

Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

The reality is that you can be! Jesus has the ability to wash the filth of our sin away, and make us clean before God!

Is your life black with sin! Do the stains of sin clutter and contaminate your life? If so, Jesus has the ability to wash away those sins! He cleansed the filthy leper, and He will cleanse the filthy sinner!

Notice something else we see about the Lord’s ability with sinners. Notice not only that He can remove our filth before God, but notice also further that:

B. He can restore our fellowship with God

Notice with me verse four. After commanding the man to keep quiet about what had happened to him, the Lord Jesus told him to, “…go thy way, shew thyself to the priest…”

You may not realize it, but that was a remarkable thing for someone to tell a leper. Part of what made leprosy so horrible in that day was the fact that it prohibited the leper from going anywhere near the temple.

It was a crime for a leper to try to enter the temple. They were defiled. However, now that this man has been cleansed, his rights to worship are going to be restored.

Like the leper, the sinner is separated from God. His holiness prohibits their sinfulness from coming into His presence.

And yet, when a sinner is cleansed by the Lord Jesus, He not only removes the filth of their sin, but He also restores the fellowship with their Father.

In Ephesians 2:18, Paul says that through the Lord Jesus, we have “…access by one Spirit unto the Father.”

Where once we could only dream of having fellowship and a relationship with a holy God, now we are granted access to Him through the work of the Lord Jesus.


Do you ever remember seeing the picture of President Kennedy sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, talking on the phone, while all the while little John is playing at his feet? No other little boy would be allowed to play in the Oval Office. John Jr. however could play in that high place, because he had a special relationship with the president. The president happened to be his father.

Once a sinner comes to Jesus in repentance and faith, they find that Christ has the ability to cleanse them, and to give them access to the God of the Universe.

Pardon my imagination, but can you hear that leper as he runs toward the Temple? He bursts forth in song:

“He touched me, Oh, He touched me,

And Oh the joy that floods my soul,

Something wonderful happened,

And now I know, He touched me,

And made me whole.”

The good news is that Jesus Christ is still in the business of touch. He can still touch the vilest, sickest, blackest hearts, and make them new.

If He has touched you, you should rejoice today to remember what it means to have His touch. If He has never touched you, today you can call on Him. You will find that He is still willing to touch the sinner.


[i] Notes on the Miracles; Trench, Richard; p. 228-229

[ii] Matthew’s Majestic Gospel; Powell, Ivor; p. 148

[iii]; accessed 7/12/07

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