The creation story in Genesis 1 and 2, records that God spoke everything into existence, except man. We are told that He formed man out of the dust of the earth and later formed woman from one of man’s ribs. The process implies touch was involved in this aspect of creation.
I am thinking of the fact that during His physical sojourn on earth, Jesus touched several individuals while performing miracles. For example, when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:22-24, 35-43), He took her by the hand and then spoke to her. We know His spoken word was all that was necessary for the miraculous to occur: consider the deliverance of the demon possessed man (Mark 5) and the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11). Jesus, after all, is the Word made flesh.
The leper, whose story is told in Matthew 8, had an experience similar to Jairus’ daughter but his was also unique. The Bible does not tell us how long he was afflicted with leprosy but the nature of the disease meant he had been exiled from his loved ones, and very likely had not been touched by anyone except another leper for a while. Imagine not being touched by anyone for years.
Dacher Keltner, in his article, “Hands On Research: The Science of Touch,”* notes that day to day gestures that we typically take for granted, for example, patting someone on the back, “are our primary language of compassion, and a primary means for spreading compassion.” In addition, he notes that research has documented that touch produces extraordinary emotional and physical health benefits, and is essential “to human communication, bonding, and health.”
As noted above, Jesus could have just spoken the words of healing to the leper, but He touched him before He spoke the words that made the leper’s body whole. I am convinced that Jesus’ touch must have felt to him like water does to someone parched with thirst. Jesus’ words healed his body but I suspect that His touch healed the man’s spirit of the various deep wounds such as those inflicted by the rejection, fear, and cruelty of others. If Dacher Keltner could interview the leper, the leper would personally validate the research finding that, “touch produces extraordinary emotional and physical health benefits.”