Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dirt Always Rubs off on Clean (Well, Almost Always...)

       Recently, during a class discussion, my professor made the comment that dirt always rubs off on clean things. That is why people who were considered to be unclean were not allowed to be present with the general population in the Israelite culture. If someone who was considered clean touched someone who was considered unclean, the clean person would become unclean also. He or she would remain unclean until such time that the criteria for being considered clean were met and a ceremonial cleansing was performed. This idea of uncleanliness infecting what was clean is pivotal for understanding the spiritual implications of the passage of Mark 1:40-45 ~~~

"And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.' Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed.' Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed. And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away, and He said 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 news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere."

       The concepts of clean and unclean reach back far into the Old Testament and it is a simple universal fact that dirty overcomes clean. If you have a child like I do, you probably know this universal truth in a very intimate way. In fact, that truth frequently explains the condition of my house. Indeed, no matter what you do, you can't get clean by rolling in a mudhole. This concept, however, can also be applied to our spiritual lives.
       As it clearly states in Isaiah 64:6, "...all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. " Have you ever tried to wash a dish with a greasy dishcloth? That is a good representation of what happens when we try to get rid of our sins by performing good deeds to make up for them. At best, we are no more cleansed than we were in the beginning and there exists the possibility that we may actually make things worse since we lie to ourselves and lure ourselves into a false belief that we have actually "made up for" what we have done. These ideas are incorrect and are actually dangerous because they plant the seed of the thought that we can attain righteousness and cleanliness of our own accord, which leads us to believe that we don't need God, which could not be farther from the truth. It is a wretched state that we are in, without any hope of being able to fix things under our own power...but there is hope of another kind.

       There is One Who is clean. Not only is He clean, but His cleanness overcomes all filth. God alone, in the person of Jesus, has the power to make clean rub off on dirty. When that leprous man pleaded with Jesus, he did not merely ask to be healed of his affliction. He had been isolated from his family and his people. He wanted to be clean so that he could worship in the temple and be closer to God. Jesus saw the lonliness and longing in that man's heart and was moved with compassion. His power and compassion reversed the natural order when He touched that leper. Any other man would have become unclean through that contact, but Jesus' power and compassion cleansed the man and set him free from the burden of his disease. What a beautiful display of redemption! What a powerful symbol of what Christ wants to work in our hearts today!

       Like the leprous man in the first chapter of Mark, we are promised in Jeremiah 29:13 that we will find Him if we seek Him with all our hearts. There is no greater joy than knowing Jesus! The Author of all creation freely laid down His glory and His precious life to give us freedom from sin and death! He made us free to pursue the true purpose for which He created us - to love Him fully, in all things, with every fiber of our being - heart, mind, body, and soul. Like the leper, when we are cleansed and restored to a right relationship with our family in Christ and our Heavenly Father, we will not be able to keep our mouths shut about it! It will drive our hearts, lips, and hands into overdrive. May that all-consuming love for our Redeemer spur us into action so that more may hear, understand, and experience this hope of redemption: our risen Lord!

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