Saturday, January 25, 2014

You Can Make Me Clean

When we think of the term "unclean" in Scripture, we usually associate it with matters of the soul. Unclean spirits attack and torment. Sin pollutes us. The sins perpetrated on us leave us feeling contaminated. 

But in a hospital visit today, it struck me that Scriptural uncleanness also has a very palpable and physical meaning, too. For in Matthew 8, a leper comes to Jesus saying, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." (8:2) Think about what sickness and disease do to us. No matter how well-bathed, no matter how good your hygiene, you feel unclean. Bodies decay and stink, wounds ooze, limbs swell with fluids, cancer eats away at healthy tissue, mucous and phlegm congest, bowels malfunction. The average hospital visitor feels strongly the need to disinfect upon leaving. Nurses and doctors know better than most that what they’re dealing with is uncleanness, viruses and bacteria and diseases that require very tangible fleshly help to bring about some sense of cleanness and order to the body. A patient’s comments about messed-up hair or lack of make-up or decent clothing are commentary on this deeper feeling. "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean."

And in response Jesus says, "I am willing; be cleansed." (8:3) What marvelous words those are! Here the Lord’s heart is opened to us and we see His great desire to make us clean in both soul and body. This is the very purpose for which the Son of God was made man, to purify you from all that ails your flesh and spirit. Later in this chapter, it is written, "He Himself took our sicknesses and bore our infirmities." (8:17) This is your Savior, the One who took into His own flesh all that attacks your flesh. He knows, He has felt your sickness in the deepest way possible. In His scourging and on the cross, His body was opened up and laid bare to every pathogen that threatens your life. He died a bloody, infected, unclean mess. But by that very death, He conquered all your sickness and your disease and the grave itself. For in the body of God made flesh, all corruptions of the flesh met their match and their end. Jesus’ body did not see decay or corruption in the grave (Ps. 16:10). By the wounds of Christ you are healed and cleansed. The One crucified and now risen in the flesh is your cure.

"I am willing; be cleansed." This our Lord spoke to you in your baptism, washing you, giving you the sure hope that your lowly body will be transformed to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:21). Every divine service you hear those words. For in the absolution God speaks words that are life to you and health to all your flesh (Proverbs 4:22). And the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, which you receive at His table, cleanses you from all sin (1 John 1:7). It is surely the medicine of immortality and the guarantee of health and marvelous wholeness that will be yours in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.

Jesus can make you clean. He is willing. Be cleansed.