Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent, the last Sunday before Christmas. This morning I preached from Mark 1:40-45, where Jesus heals a leper. To be a leper, or to have what in some translations call a "dreaded skin disease," meant to be cast out, completely, from the culture. According the rules concerning leprosy in Leviticus 13:45-46, persons with this skin disease wore ragged clothing, had unkempt hair and they had to cry out a warning to others that they were approaching, so that they didn’t make direct contact with someone else and transmit their uncleanness to anyone else. Verse 46 ends, "He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp."
Imagine waking up one morning with an itch on your skin, looking at your skin and knowing as you see it that you have this disease. Immediately, everything in your life is changed. Perhaps you are a mother or father, and instantly you are torn from your spouse and children. You had a family and a home and now you are separated, watching them from a distance, at best. And perhaps this situation goes on for years and years.
This is the desperation of the leper as he approaches Jesus. He comes and asks for Jesus to radically restore his life, believing that Jesus has the ability to do so.
"If you will, you can make me clean."
The response of Jesus is to reach out and touch him, the untouchable person, and say,
"I will; be clean."
Mark then says,
"And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean."
Just like that, at the touch of Jesus, the man is made clean. He is no longer cast out from society but is in a place to be fully restored.
This is a picture that helps us to see the work of salvation that is done as we come to have faith in Jesus as Savior. When we come to Him in faith he reaches out and touches us, giving us the salvation and restoration with God that we long for but can’t do on our own. He removes our sin, our uncleanness, every last bit, so that we can be in the presence of God.
We may not understand our situation as clearly as the leper did his, but it is every bit as desperate. Sinners, we are cast out from the presence of God, never to come in, unless there is some sort of miracle. And that miracle is what we celebrate on Christmas. The only one who can possibly heal us, who can possibly make us clean, comes into the world for exactly that purpose.
May you know the saving touch of His hand in your life today, a hand that, when it touches you, holds you now and forever.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.