Sunday, February 16, 2014


'A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter."

The Law of Moses forbade anyone to touch a leper, for they were unclean (Lev. 5:3). Yet the Lord Jesus touches this leper, and in so doing He cleanses the leper from his leprosy. Has the Lord broken the Law? No. Why? Because the one that touches the leper shares in his uncleanness, is made unclean by it, and becomes guilty for failing to preserve himself in purity. Does Christ become unclean? No, but rather His purity overcomes the uncleanness of the leper to make him clean and pure. If anyone else had touched the leper, he or she would be subject to the infection, corruption, and disease that comes from mingling with what is unclean (in this case, leprosy). Why? Because anyone else is born into the world under the sway of the devil, whose power over us is death. And the sting of death - the sting that we are stung with - is sin. And the power of sin - that is, what highlights it and makes us see it but cannot deliver us from it - is the Law.

But Christ is not under the power of the devil. He is conceived by the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary. As He says before going to His crucifixion, "I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me" [Jn 14]. The Lord Jesus is God's Son, very God from very God, begotten, not made, being of one essence with the Father, but who for us men and our salvation came down from heaven and was made Man. He is the Life of the World, and all things that are made have been made through Him. He is not bound by the devil, He is not subject to death and corruption, He commits no sin. In essence He has no need of the Law, because the Law is given to sinners so they will have knowledge of their sin. The Lord Jesus is Lord over the Law, and the one who comes to fulfill it.

So in this way we see that the Lord was not careless about the Law, or disobedient to it (as a Jew circumcised into the Law on the eighth day). He is Lord over it, uses it according to its purpose, and upholds it. How does He uphold it? He tells the one cleansed to show himself to the priest - whose job it was to certify if one was cleansed of leprosy - and to offer the sacrifice prescribed in the Law. In this way the Law witnesses to the priest and the people of God that this one that was unclean, this one that was required to wear disheveled hair and torn clothes and live away from everyone else in exile - this one can come home to his family and friends, for he is made well and whole again.

We know that what the Lord Jesus does for the leper is just a microcosm of what He had come to do for all people of all time. If for the leper the Lord Jesus touched his leprosy, for us He touches our stinging sin with His precious blood, taking away our sins in forgiveness. If for the leper the Lord Jesus crosses the barrier of isolation by reaching out to touch him, for us He crosses the barrier of death by the death of His cross. And as the leprosy was taken away, so has death's hold on us been taken away, and with it the devil's grasp on us. Christ made the leper free from physical illness and exile, but in us He breaks the hold of sin, death, and the devil and implants the kingdom of God within us.

That is the great triumph of Christ, that He accomplishes a cleansing for the whole human race - even the entire creation. His resurrection from the dead has opened the kingdom of heaven to all that will put their trust in Him and obey His voice.

I think many of us naturally want to recoil from people like this leper - and I mean people who seem disadvantaged to us, like people who are visibly impoverished, or visibly impaired in their body or mind, or clearly overcome with circumstances we would not wish on anyone. I think at some level we recoil because we are afraid it's contagious - not necessarily in a literal way, but maybe in such a way that their problems will become ours, and we will be sucked down into their misery. And this is frightening.

But the Lord Jesus teaches us to be unafraid of other's misery. He does this by securing our joy. He does this by becoming our life, our meaning, and our love. He does this by training us to say no to all the false joys in the world, with their false security: money and possessions (give them to the poor), pride (see Publican vs. Pharisee), lust of the eye (pluck it out!), food (fast and pray), and whatever else makes us take no thought of the kingdom (deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow). One by one we are encouraged by our Lord Jesus to dig up what we find in our heart that stands between us and the kingdom planted therein by Christ. And when we recoil from those people who need goodness and love, we can be sure there is something that needs to be dug up, because we are afraid of what cannot hurt us, instead of encouraged by the One who wishes to crown us with glory! But when we train our free will in the way of Christ, the love of Christ flows and gains momentum, and all things become new - in our lives and in the lives of the people we reach out and touch.

Christian love can be bold, because Christ Jesus is the guarantor of that love, and He will back it up 110%.