Best of Daily Reflections: The Inclusive Healing of Jesus
“Those who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear their clothing and leave their hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp.
Chapters 13 and 14 of Leviticus contain further details about things that are clean and unclean. These chapters focus on what one might call "surface cleanliness and uncleanness," the surface of people (skin diseases) and buildings (mildew on walls). Here the Israelites learned how to determine when such surfaces were unclean, and what to do if they became apparently clean. The priest served a central role in verifying the cleanness or uncleanliness of the person or building in question, as well as participating in rituals to establish that someone or something had been made clean.
The instructions of Leviticus 13 and 14 can seem peculiar to us. Why so much concern about surfaces of people and buildings? Some scholars suggest that uncleanness of this sort is closely associated with death. But we don't know this for sure. Yet these chapters are essential, not only because they are part of God's law, but also because they help us understand the extraordinary ministry of Jesus. They enable us to see his healing as deeper and more pervasive than we might realize.
In Mark 1:40-45, a man with a terrible skin disease approached Jesus, "begging to be healed" (or, more literally, "made clean"; 1:40). This man was so desperate that he approached Jesus even though such behavior was contrary to the law. Yet Jesus did not reject the man. Rather, he touched him, an action that made Jesus ritually unclean (1:41). Then he announced that the man was made clean. Instantly, his skin disease disappeared (1:42).
But Jesus was not through. He instructed the man to "go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed" (1:44). In light of Leviticus 14, we can understand exactly what Jesus meant and why he said this. Only the priest had the authority to proclaim that the man had been cleansed and to allow him back into his community.
Jesus didn't just heal the physical condition of the man with the skin disease, as wonderful as this must have been. Rather, he touched the man, no doubt ministering to the lonely soul of one who had not been touched for ages. In this touch, Jesus took upon himself the man's uncleanness, thus foreshadowing what he would do for us on the cross. Then, by insisting that the man go to the priest, Jesus sought to make sure that his healing including social restoration as well as physical and psychological renewal.
Jesus wants to make us whole, not just by saving us eternally, not just by healing us physically, but also by renewing our inner selves and restoring our relationships. He is the inclusive healer, whose seeks to make us whole in every dimension of life.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever suffered from some condition, physical or otherwise, that caused you to be excluded from others? How did this feel to you? How have you experienced the healing power of Jesus? Are there areas of your life that still need to be "included" in your experience of God's grace through Jesus?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I must confess that when I first read Leviticus 13-14, I had a hard time relating to the text. It seems so far away from my own experience and concerns. I expect there's more here that you would like me to learn, and I pray that your Spirit will reveal yet more of your truth to me.
But I am struck by how much these chapters from Leviticus help me to see more clearly the inclusive healing of Jesus in Mark 1. How I thank you, Lord, that you are a God who heals us. Thank you for caring about, not just our eternal destiny and our physical bodies, but also our souls and our relationships. Thank you for your ongoing effort to make us whole in all dimensions of life.
May you continue to heal me in all ways. May I be open to all that you would do in and through me, for your glory. Amen.