Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Matthew 8:3
Many hospital neonatal units enjoy the efforts of “volunteer moms” who come in to cuddle, touch, and coo over newborns whose own moms are unable to play that role. What those volunteers—often grandmothers—are providing is a sort of “encouragement by touch.” It is the most natural thing in the world for newborns to be cuddled, to be stimulated by touch as they are welcomed into the world.
Human beings never outgrow the need for touch. It is an unspoken form of affirmation and love that communicates what words alone often cannot. A firm handshake, a bear-hug, an arm around a shoulder, tousling the hair of a child—all these forms of touch say, “There is no barrier between us. I’m reaching from my space into your space and connecting us by touch.” Jesus, who could have healed a leper with just a word, instead reached out and touched him. It was a way of identifying with the sick man—a way of saying, “I am with you in your need.”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a healthy hug may be worth ten thousand.
The father hugging his prodigal son must at once have dissipated every doubt of the son about the willingness of his father to forgive and receive him.