In Mark 1:40-41, we read, “A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. ‘If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,’ he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be healed!’ (emphasis mine).
Mark tells us Jesus wasn’t just making a point when he touched the leper – he did it because he was filled or moved with compassion. Leprosy in Jesus’ day wasn’t just a health issue. A leper was cut off from his community. He would’ve received no physical contact since he contracted leprosy. That is why Jesus touched him.
I recently came across a story about a nurse who was working at a residential care home. One evening, quite a few residents were feeling very restless. It could be the more than normal, humid weather. An old woman who had only hours to live was yelling out for help. She was a very unpleasant individual. Demanding and bitter, she would complain loudly for hours on end and daily. Most of the nurses disliked her. Even the most long-suffering residents had given up trying to befriend her. And no family ever visited her.
More than once, the nurse would go to the old woman’s room only to discover she didn’t need any assistance; she only wanted company. She complained she could not sleep and demanded that something be done about it. The nurse returned later with a sleeping tablet. As she tried to calm the woman down who seemed exhausted by this stage, she suddenly looked up to the nurse. With terror in her eyes, she said, “I know I don’t have much longer to live and I’m afraid”. Tears began to roll down her wrinkled cheeks.
The nurse filled with compassion, put her arms around the woman to comfort her. By now, it was near midnight. Her frail body shuddered as she sobbed, “I’m afraid to die”. Eventually, the nurse was finally able to calm her down. She then pleaded with the nurse, “Would you stay with me? I’m so afraid”.
This brought back memories of her childhood when she lost her mother while she was only a little girl. She remembered waking up from nightmares with no one to comfort her. With tears filling her eyes, she nodded affirmatively, folded back the sheets and climbed into bed with the old woman. She gently held her frail little body and stroked her until the sleeping pill took effect and she went to sleep. Hours later, the nurse returned to check on the old woman. She looked peaceful but upon closer inspection, she discovered the woman had passed away. She was overcome with emotions when it dawned on her that her kindness had been the woman’s final experience before she died.
Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (NIV). May we experience afresh God’s compassion. May we also learn to demonstrate God’s heart of compassion to those who need it most in our lives.