As we’re moving through the book of Leviticus and the law is being given, today we investigate and are informed of the concept of clean and unclean. So what is clean and what is not clean? The underlying theme to all of that is that God is holy and they are invited to become holy because they are set apart as his people. So we can look at this list and go, ‘Well, what makes the lizard unclean? What makes a gecko unclean for eating?’ but that is somewhat beside the point. And we can look at these customs and say, “Man, kind of rigid, isn’t it? Kind of rigid’ but let’s not forget what is going on here. This is a horde of people, massive, over a million, and as far back as they can basically remember, for centuries they have been generational slaves. So this is all new stuff for them. God is establishing this rhythm of life that in everything and in every way is reminding them of the story of their new identity, chosen people set aside by God to be his chosen people.
So as the law is given, you can say, ‘Yeah, that’s kind of rigid. We wouldn’t do that today. Why? Why is all this clean and unclean?’ but embedded into the fabric of the culture is the story that there is a difference between being set apart and being holy and not being those things. So yes, some of these things are for sanitation. Some of these things are for health and not transmitting diseases to each other. Certainly that is embedded in here, but spiritually what is embedded inside of this is the story of their identity. They are reminded of it in just about everything that they do and it is intended to and will have a profound effect on how they live their lives and how they conduct themselves in relation to one another and how they conduct themselves in relation to God.
So we get to the New Testament and this becomes really fascinating because Jesus is invited to come and heal a synagogue leader’s 12-year-old daughter and he agrees and he’s on his way to do just that when the whole scene gets hijacked by a woman who has been perpetually bleeding for 12 years. So she has been bleeding since this little girl that Jesus is going to heal was born. The thing is, she is unclean under Mosaic Law. She has been unclean perpetually for 12 years, unable to participate in holy things and anything that she touches while she is unclean becomes unclean. So for her to have faith well up inside herself and reach out and touch a rabbi on purpose, making him unclean on purpose, that is a no-no. But she did it. She felt like ‘If I could just brush up against his clothes, if I could just reach out and touch is clothes, I think I would be healed” and she did it. That was a risk because had Jesus stopped and said “Who touched me? Who made me unclean?” well, she could have had a bad day, but Jesus didn’t react that way. He wasn’t lost in the rules. He had given the rules and he knew what they were supposed to point to. They had become a cage of ritual when they were supposed to be reminders of identity. The woman was healed and Jesus said, “Go in peace. Your faith has made you well.” It’s really, really beautiful. Striking.
So we can get hung up on the rules. We can call our freedom in Christ and say we can do just about whatever we want because we’re free from all of that and that is fine. But may we understand even in our faith journey there are things that are clean and there are things that are not. There are things that are unclean. If we’re going to dally in the unclean, if we’re going to touch the unclean, then we’re going to be unclean. And we don’t really have to unpack that very much. We know this. It may not be under Mosaic Law, but if we live our lives touching the unclean on purpose, being involved in what is unclean on purpose, then we will be unclean.
Yeah, we’re supposed to be holy and in a way these people that we’re reading about in Leviticus could have never become because we are not only set apart and made holy. We are partakers in the divine nature of God. We shouldn’t be unclean in that. So may we, like this woman, reach out and touch the hem of the garment of the Risen Christ and be made whole again and be made clean. May we hear the voice of Jesus telling us “Go in peace. Your faith has made you well. Be cured.”
Jesus, that is what we long for. Put in these terms, we can see clean and unclean everywhere. And we know where we’ve been unclean. So while we don’t bring lambs and sacrifice them to be restored to you, we do lay our own lives down as a living sacrifice in order to be restored to you, and we ask your forgiveness of the unclean in us. It is not supposed to mix with what is holy. And that explains so much of our lives. That explains so much of why things don’t work and why we get mad and estranged from you when you’re not jumping to attention because we’ve called. It explains a lot and it forces us to own our part of this relationship. You are holy and the only way we can walk with you is in holiness and that you have provided even that for us if we will simply partake and participate. And so we do. We invite your Holy Spirit to well up within us and the divine nature of the Risen Christ to overwhelm everything that is unclean in us, crowding it out and sending it away because we have been set apart as holy and we must be holy. So come Holy Spirit, because without you we can’t. There is no possible way. So we invite you. Make us holy as you are holy. And we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.