Reading through the Gospels, it becomes apparent that protecting purity was a big deal to the Saducees and Pharisees. These religious leaders protected the social boundaries, and even saw varying levels of holiness. So, what a shock to their world view it must have been to see a Jew touching lepers, encountering “unclean spirits,” daring to get close to the outcasts, the sick, the dead, etc. Jesus wasn’t afraid of being contaminated by ritual impurity, he was more concerned with extending the borders of the kingdom and extending his holiness to others.
Touching is a big deal in Mark. It communicates a clear message to those watching that holiness and purity were things Jesus didn’t want to be guarded but to spread. Jesus and the reign of God was about righting the wrongs and bringing wholeness to a people who needed to be redeemed. And it wasn’t just for Jews, but Jesus even astonishingly brings his ministry of touch and the extension of the kingdom to Gentiles.
Maybe the church could learn a few lessons from Jesus still. That we shouldn’t guard our congregations from those who are sin-sick or different than us. That we should be more concerned with people’s wholeness and not how many times they attend service. Maybe, if we were more concerned with extending the borders of the kingdom in our communities instead of marking the less-fortunate as outside our realm of help we could impact our towns in a more fuller way. Communities don’t need churches to just be a building on a street in anywhereville, USA, but communities of kingdom extenders longing to help bring Jesus healing wholeness to all.