Jesus is Willing to Make You Clean
40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.
What is an enacted parable? It is a story that is historical but is shared to demonstrate a theological truth. This is such a story. The Exodus is such a story. The very fact that stories are told should lead us to ask if every story is such a thing. There are many stories that are not told. Mark has chosen these to tell for a reason.
The reason this story is told is because Jesus is revealing that He is willing to make people clean!
The next story is told to demonstrate that Jesus has the authority to make people clean!
And the story after that is told to reveal that Jesus’ very purpose in life is to make people clean!
So, because we are going to talk about cleanliness issues for a few weeks, let’s begin with the term itself.
- What is Unclean?
- This is a technical term
The first mention is in Genesis 7. This indicates that the issue predates Moses, but it is Moses who gives us real help in identifying clean and unclean things. (Jesus is THE prophet like Moses and He does the same!) So, these animals are called clean and unclean. But the definitions of those terms won’t be stated by Moses for hundreds and hundreds of years. It is after the law is given, more specifically in Leviticus that we have the cleanliness laws expressed.
What does it mean to be unclean? Let’s start by defining the word clean: From the dictionary:
- free from dirt; unsoiled; unstained: She bathed and put on a clean dress.
- free from foreign or extraneous matter: clean sand.
In the Bible Dictionary:
Freedom from ceremonial defilement
- The context is physical, ritual or ethical
At times there is overlap.
We talked about this when talking about baptism.
Clean means appropriately accepted by God. If God says it is not allowed, then that makes something unclean.
So, in Leviticus 11 there is a fairly exhaustive list of animals, some clean and therefore the Jews are free to eat them, and some were unclean and so were excluded.
Jesus speaks to this in Mark 7
In Mark 7: 14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” 
17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
And in Acts 10 Peter acknowledges the same:
13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
Leviticus 12 We have laws relating to human sexual practice and reproduction that relate to cleanness. Menstruation, sexual contact, childbirth etc. Obviously, these are issues related to physical cleanliness and ritual cleanliness. But all manner of sexual behavior that is outside of marriage is ethical uncleanness because it is a violation of God’s created order. Childbirth obviously is not!
In Leviticus 13 we have the regulations about skin problems that make someone unclean. It is important to note that in this case, the priest is the one who decides whether or not a skin problem meets the standard of making one unclean. Not all skin problems that make people unclean are leprosy. But leprosy is obviously one of the skin problems that creates the problem of uncleanness.
9 “When anyone has a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to the priest. 10 The priest is to examine them, and if there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white and if there is raw flesh in the swelling, 11 it is a chronic skin disease and the priest shall pronounce them unclean. He is not to isolate them, because they are already unclean.
45 “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.
Leviticus 14 covers the resolution of the skin issues by the priests and appropriate sacrifices. It also introduces the issue of mold making things unclean.
Leviticus 15 covers any bodily discharge and its impact on cleanliness from spitting, to seeping wounds to bleeding etc.
Leviticus 21 emphasizes the importance of the priests not becoming unclean
Leviticus 22 emphasizes the importance of following the cleanliness guidelines carefully as they relate to worship. God wants them to behave this way.
Now, most of these cleanliness issues are ritual. But if you don’t care about them and you break them, not caring what God has said, then the issue has moved into ethical uncleanness!
In Jesus’ ministry, He emphasizes ethical uncleanness.
- Jesus consistently emphasizes the ethical
Does God really want us to be free of dirt?
Or does God really want us to be free of sin?
The ritual acts as a metaphor for the ethical.
And Jesus will resolve the ethical in terms of judgement and guilt. But we must accept the mantle of acting out God’s good standards in the world.
The answer to the question: How does God want us to live? It is ethically.
Ethical: what is good or bad, what is a moral duty or obligation?
Jesus and the Pharisees get into conflicts because Jesus emphasized the ethical and the Pharisees emphasized the ritual, much of which they had added to the law in order to keep from breaking the law. Jesus’ teaching is a corrective to all groups: Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots and Essenes.
One example among many:
Matthew 15: 1Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?
Ok, so we have surveyed the issue of being unclean.
The Leper is shouting out, according to the law: Unclean. He is too close to people in contradiction to the law and he asks Jesus to resolve his cleanliness issue.
The impactful statements are: If you are willing, You can make me clean.” And “I am willing.” Let’s look at these in part two here:
- Why is Jesus Willing to Make One Clean?
There is a pretty big interpretation difference as it relates to Jesus’ response to the statement of the leper: “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
NIV: Jesus is indignant. Footnote:
Many manuscripts Jesus was filled with compassion
- Compassion or indignation
For God so loved the world…
Jesus’ whole mission is to make people clean.
1.To forgive their sin and
- connect them to what God is like (If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. I am the way, truth and life).
This is why some groups practice foot washing. It is seen as a symbol of Jesus’ ongoing work to make us clean. And then we wash each other’s feet in solidarity to this practice. Again, the great need is not to have the dirt removed from our feet, but to have our needs met. We join together with others: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What is the “law of Christ?”
6 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Note that the burden here is ethical! Bear those. That fulfills the law of Christ.
John 13 just after Jesus washes the Disciples’ feet:
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (This is the Law of Christ!)
- Angry at the impact of sin on people
The explanation for indignation. Jesus hates what sin does to your life personally. This would be a great way for us to see sin in each other’s life as well. Get the competition and comparisons out of our thinking and look at each of us with our true potential, to reflect God’s character in the world.
In the life of our senses: Sexuality, eating, recreation: Discipline—Man does not live by bread alone!
In the life of our money: Work, possessions, giving. Be a giver, not a hoarder. See what you have as given to you by God. But we are not called to give what we must use for our needs. At least not very often!
In the life of our self-image and identity: We are defined by God! We are created in His image and we bear that image. Sin mars the image of God in us. And the worst sin is the sin of pride. Pride is us thinking too highly of ourselves or too meanly of others. We talked about this extensively in our sermons on James 3 and Godly vs Worldly wisdom. People who are full of pride would like to see themselves as great. That is still available to all people. Greatness is found in following Jesus. He did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life a ransom for many. If you want to be a great manager of people, a great parent, a great spouse, a great citizen, learn to be servant of all! But first a servant to God. We give people what they need, not what they want.
- I am willing
Jesus is willing to resolve the impact of sin on all of our lives. He does this by paying the penalty of our sin before God.
He does this by showing us the way to live best in God’s world. But He does not do this for us.
It is the same faith in Who Jesus is that brings us to both forgiveness and following Jesus.
Look at that statement of Jesus: “Be clean!”
Who or what is Jesus speaking to? The statement doesn’t mean much if it is made to this man. He has already proven himself unable! But, the impact of sin on his life, the dirt, the diminished life, the painful sorrow, Jesus speaks to this! This is an amazing statement! It is the best of things to be said.
Just as Jesus declares all food clean, He declares that those who have faith in Him are also clean!
The only impediment to Jesus making us clean is our own self. My choices muck up the water. Jesus cleans me once and for all and over and over! I am made perfect forever and I am being made holy.
III. How to be Made Clean
- Ask Jesus to make you clean
This presupposes the understanding of need. Do you need to be made clean? If you have something as obvious as leprosy, then it is plain. Everyone in culture reminds you constantly that you are unclean. This is why Jesus hangs with tax collectors, sinners etc. This is why he has a prostitute as one of His closest followers. If you look at other people and see them as unclean while you are clean, then Jesus won’t be of much use to you! But if you recognize your need for Jesus to make you clean, then you will be made clean!
- Do what Jesus says
- It is the duty of the priest to declare that the man is free.
- It is the duty of the man to follow the law as it relates to him sacrificing and waiting for the priests to declare him clean. It’s gonna take at least a week of them watching him.
- It is the duty of the man to do what Jesus says.
If Jesus makes one clean and they are not willing to do what He says, then His work is made more difficult. In what way? More attention from people who want Jesus to serve them instead of the reverse. Trouble from the priesthood since the man is not following the law. I can see an assumption that is stated overtly later that Jesus is teaching against the law.
What does Jesus teach about obedience to Him?
If you want to be my disciple… you must die. What does this death look like? In clearest terms in relationship it looks like loving your enemies. That is the death of all of my indignation, my anger, my bitterness, my revenge. This is the death of much of my energy in life! What can possibly replace this death? Resurrection. Jesus will give you new life, but you won’t know what it is until you step into faith. The faith that allows you to die to what you are currently attached to that is sin. “Sin desires to have you.” If you define yourself as a victim, there is apparently no end to the ways in which you are victimized. But as long as you look at other people as the source of your victimization you will not deal with your greatest enemy.
Your greatest enemy is you unwillingness to submit to God. This is what prevents you from Resurrection to new life today!
Adam and Eve: Did you eat? What have you done? They are victims. And God curses them and all who follow. God’s curse on sin remains on all of us. Jesus will set us free. But only when we stop looking outside of ourselves.
Cain and Abel. “Sin desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
- What does Jesus say to you?
- Confess your sin
- Jesus will cleanse your sin
- Follow Jesus’ teaching
- You will be walking in the light and not sinning.
I John 1:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.