“The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a case of leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests, and the priest shall examine the diseased area on the skin of his body. And if the hair in the diseased area has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a case of leprous disease. When the priest has examined him, he shall pronounce him unclean.’” (Leviticus 13:1-3 ESV).
Throughout the Law of Moses we read about designations which may seem strange to us. People could become “unclean.” There were diseases which made you unclean, in particular skin diseases, including, but not limited to, what we know today as leprosy. Being in contact with certain animals and their dead carcasses, could also make a person”‘unclean.” And some foods were “unclean.” As we no longer use the designations of “clean” and “unclean,” these can be confusing to us when we read about them.
The problem with the things that made a person “unclean” was that they were harmful or could contain potential harm to a person. In Leviticus 13 and 14 it was skin diseases that were under consideration. We know today that these diseases are contagious. This is also why those who came into contact with an unclean person was also made unclean. This was not information that the people had at the time of Israel’s travel from Egypt to Canaan.
What do we do with a contagious disease? We place the people in quarantine and observe them. This was what the Israelites were instructed to do (Leviticus 13:45-46). They did not want disease to run rampant throughout the camp. By quarantining those suspected of having a disease they were able to keep diseases in check. And if they had a serious disease they could no longer be part of Israelite society.
If a person got well who had a skin disease, there was instruction about how to show that he was now “clean” and be admitted back into Israel (see Leviticus 14). Again, there were examinations to be done but if the disease was gone, the last thing to be done was a sacrifice involving the blood of an animal.
It is of note that while Jesus was on the earth and healing people, the lepers also began to come to him. Their disease could not be cured – the most severe forms of leprosy even today have no cure. They had no hope except for Jesus. When they came, Jesus would even touch them before they were cleansed! And heal them he did (see Mark 1:40-45).
Those with leprosy were repulsive to people, but Jesus had time for them. This tells us that no matter how repulsive we may think we are, Jesus welcomes us. We don’t have to get everything sorted out first – he is waiting for us to follow him. And he will cleanse us.
Just as the leper was cleansed through a blood sacrifice, Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice to cleanse us of our sin so that we can be made “clean” before God.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Jesus’ sacrifice provides the cleansing of our sin so that we can be part of the ekklesia – the people of God. We are then clean – we are perfect in God’s sight.
Readings for next week:
16 January – Leviticus 13:1-28
17 January – Leviticus 13:29-59
18 January – Leviticus 14:1-32
19 January – Leviticus 14:33-57
20 January – Leviticus 15