May 7, 2015 | 10:42 am

The Gospel is in that Grasp

I have spent the past two months working through the Sermon on the Mount with our youth group on Sundays. The Sermon on the Mount is a concentrated collection of Jesus’s teachings, from the Golden Rule to turning the other cheek to removing the log in your own eye. If you want to get to know the preaching of Jesus, read Matthew 5-7. It’s great. It’s wonderful. It may change the way you live.

But if you want to get to know the ministry and love of Jesus, read the next three verses:

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8: 1-3)

Jesus wraps up this lofty, glorious teaching on the mountaintop. Then he descends to the valley. Here he encounters a leper – an outcast, an unclean person, someone that no rabbi would touch, and in this encounter we see the words of the Sermon on the Mount turned into real action. Jesus reaches out and touches this man. Frederick Dale Bruner says, “The gospel is in that grasp.” The words “Be made clean” may have pronounced the healing, but the miracle was in the touch. Jesus came down from the mountaintop and brought heaven to earth.

This week we continue our series, “Living the Questions” with a look at the Jesus of the gospels. As we remember his words and ministry on earth, may we be challenged by the way Jesus left the mountaintop and touched his fellow humans. The Jesus of scripture was accessible, inclusive, present, and covered in the dust of humankind.  That is why the masses followed him and why I choose to follow him today.