A fingerprint provides evidence that a person was at the scene. Moreover, a fingerprint is the identifiable mark of a person; it identifies who the person is.
In Jesus, God came into our world not merely as a spirit, but as God-in-human-flesh who would leave fingerprints on all he touched. Over and over again, Jesus’ fingerprints left evidence that God was not merely hovering for a while above our earth, but that God was actually on the scene at particular places at particular times with specific people, and his fingerprints consistently left behind the identifiable marks of God.
The second time we have a report of Jesus touching something or someone in the Gospel of Mark, the recipient of his touch is highly unexpected!
Mark begins the story by telling us that a man with leprosy knelt before Jesus and said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”
A leper at that time was an unwelcome person, banished by law from society, and not permitted to live in or to roam the streets of any walled city. A person with leprosy was a feared individual. A leper was required to stay at least six feet away from uninfected people. If he came too close, people could throw rocks at him to drive him away. A leper was considered to be untouchable. Indeed, anyone who touched a leper would be classified as unclean for seven days and must abide by all the restrictions that applied to a leper.
As he knelt before Jesus, this leper’s words to Jesus expressed his confidence that Jesus could heal him of leprosy if Jesus would choose to do so. That is a significant expression of faith in Jesus’ power, for the rabbis taught that it would be as unlikely for a person to die and come alive again as it would be for a person to be cured of leprosy. But this man had more faith than the rabbis. He believed Jesus could do it. His only uncertainty was whether the one who was able to heal him would want to heal him.
Mark records Jesus’ reply: “Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean.”
The Greek word used here for “moved with pity is splagchnistheis, which comes from the Greek word for one’s entrails. It has to do with feeling something in our very gut. It tells us that Jesus felt this man’s agony deep in his own gut. Jesus ached inside with this man. He felt for the rejection, animosity and loneliness this man was living with. He knew the man had probably not been touched by another human being in many years.
For this reason, Jesus did not heal this man from six feet away, but stepped forward, reached out his hand, and touched the man—even though that touch meant that Jesus would be classified as “unclean” for seven days.
When Jesus touched that man, his touch left the fingerprint of God, the identifiable mark of God.
The band Casting Crowns sings a song that asks, “Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt?” But the identifiable mark that this fingerprint left upon a man who had been considered “untouchable” is that God’s compassion is so intimate that Christ feels our agony and so deep that Christ acts for our best interest despite the unpleasant consequences to himself (whether that means bearing the classification of unclean for a week or dying on a cross for us).