Refreshment in Refuge
by Gina Burgess
A leper comes up to Jesus and says: Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.
Not “heal me” or “make me well.” We learn a lot from that Greek word used here. If we look closely at how it is used in a moral sense, we can get an excellent understanding what Jesus’ blood does for believers. The Greek word is katharizō. It means:
1) to make clean, cleanse
1a) from physical stains and dirt
1a1) utensils, food
1a2) a leper, to cleanse by curing
1a3) to remove by cleansing
1b) in a moral sense
1b1) to free from defilement of sin and from faults
1b2) to purify from wickedness
1b3) to free from guilt of sin, to purify
1b4) to consecrate by cleansing or purifying
1b5) to consecrate, dedicate
2) to pronounce clean in a levitical sense
We get our English word catharsis from this Greek word. The medical definition means a purgation (rarely used, but still…). It’s the process of purging emotions, or generally the release from strong emotions.
The first public miracle that Christ performed is the cleansing of a leper. When He turned the water into wine in Cana, this was a private miracle among Jesus, His mother and the waiters of the wedding feast. Christ told His mother that His time had not yet come, but He complied with her wishes. This indicates there were other private miracles that Jesus performed for His family else how would she know He could do that? So, we know this was not Jesus’ first miracle that He ever performed.
The miracle of cleansing the leper did two things.
1. Leprosy was regarded as a mark of God’s displeasure (Miriam & Uzziah—pride). This miracle indicates that Jesus came to fix the problem of God’s wrath with the taking away of the sin through cleansing the leper.
2. Leprosy could only be taken away by God’s hand. No physicians would even attempt to heal a leper. Jesus did this and authorized his disciples to do it as well (Matthew 10:8) which indicated that the disciples were authorized by God through Jesus. Healing the blind and the deaf, the lame walking, the lepers cleansed, and the dead raised were all prophesies that foretold how the people whould know the Messiah. Too bad, they didn’t recognize Him.
The above clearly shows that Jesus was the only one who could do what the law couldn’t do—cleanse the unclean. In Leviticus 13-14, we see the priests had the authority to pronounce someone clean or unclean, but no power or authority to cleanse the person. Only Jesus could do that.
Leprosy cut off the person from any community and from any sacred worship. It was a complete wall of prickly briars surrounding the person.
Sin is the leprosy of the soul.
Sin binds us and separates us from God’s presence. God, in His perfect holiness, cannot abide for sin to be in His presence. This is why, from the very beginning, God’s plan was to send Jesus to overcome sin’s power and death’s sting. We need not fear these ever again, nor to ever fear their consequences of the second death.
We know because the Bible tells us that Jesus not only deeply desires to cleanse us from sin, but also has the power and authority to do so because of what He did on the cross.
There is no vice so strong, nor culpability so great that it can stand up to the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood. There is no sin ever devised by human thought nor devil’s instigation that Jesus’ rising from the dead did not annihilate.
However, just because Jesus rose from the dead on Resurrection Day, we cannot suppose in arrogance that we deserve what His sacrifice paid for, nor should we ever demand the gift He willingly gave His life to acquire for us.
As the leper approaches Jesus, he has an humble heart and an humble request. “If you are willing…”
Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Matthew 8:3
According to the law, anyone who touched something unclean was immediately defiled. It could range from temporary defilement until that evening, or a few days time such as when a woman had her baby, to lengthy defilement when touching a dead body, even permanent defilement until God cleansed as in leprosy. But Christ, in His perfect nature and God incarnate touched the leper.
Talk about taboo! Jesus showed us time and again that He was separate from sinners. He lived among sinners, conversed with them, ate with them, walked with them as He taught them, but was not of sinners nor of sin. He was not defiled by their sin. Sin did not rub off onto Jesus. There is comfort in that to us as well. As believers, we are not defiled by contact with the lost. In fact, the opposite can occur in that the lost can see the light through us, meet Jesus, and be cleansed. However, we can allow contamination by considering and implementing, through willful choice, wicked thoughts and deeds. We still choose how we respond.
Jesus said, “I will.”
The Greek word here is such a sweet word that declares God’s characteristics:
1) to will, have in mind, intend
1a) to be resolved or determined, to purpose
1b) to desire, to wish
1c) to love
1c1) to like to do a thing, be fond of doing
1d) to take delight in, have pleasure in
Jesus’ cleansing was on purpose; He desired to, loved to, and was delighted to cleanse the leper.
What a tremendous promise to believers that His first public miracle was an assurance of His deep, compassionate love to cleanse defilement out of our souls!
Then, when Jesus speaks, it is done. Just as Jesus speaks to the wind and waves and stillness comes, so the spots of a leper disappear.
He tells the man to tell no one [until he had gone to the priest to be pronounced clean]. Apparently, the priests of Jesus day held spiteful sway over the people. If they did not like who had done a thing, they would withhold the pronouncement of clean. Matthew Henry says that our testimony should be provable. If the priest found out before the pronouncement Who had cleansed him, then the priest might have withheld the pronouncement.This would then officially and legally negate the testimony of the man who proclaimed himself clean from leprosy because, for it to be legal, the priest had to prounce it.
Therefore as Henry states, “’Do thou offer it for a testimony, and let the priest know who cleansed thee, and how; and it shall be a testimony, that there is one among them who does that which the high priest cannot do. Let it remain upon record as a witness of my power, and a testimony for me to them, if they will use it and improve it; but against them, if they will not:’” for so Christ's word and works are testimonies.”
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She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.
If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection
Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and eBookChristian.com
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