Leviticus 11:1-12:8; Mark 5:21-43; Psalm 38:1-22; Proverbs 10:8-9
One of the things I LOVE about The One Year Bible is how, even though I've read it more than a dozen times, God always has something new to show me. Today, I was thinking about the difference between the immediate uncleanness of the woman who has just given birth and the interval of time called "the days of her purification" (Lev. 12:4). For the first week (if the child was male) or two (if the child was female), the new mother was "contagiously unclean" versus "individually unclean" (a distinction I uncovered in The Bible Knowledge Commentary) for the following 6-12 week period of time. In the first case, anyone who came into contact with the new mother would "catch" her ceremonial uncleanness (and therefore, like her, be unable to participate in the religious life of the nation). In the second situation, the new mother was still excluded from corporate worship, but she could interact with her friends and family and neighbors without making them unclean as a result of associating with her. She may not have been able to be a part of religious activities, but she didn't experience any isolation or separation.
Then, in Mark 5, we read the story of a woman "subject to bleeding for twelve years" (Mk. 5:26). This chronic hemorrhaging has stolen her health, has kept her in pain, and has impoverished her (see vs. 27). This on-going discharge makes her contagiously unclean; because of it, she's a social pariah. Everyone who knows her avoids her because they want to retain their religious privileges. This woman shouldn't be in this crowd of people; she's endangering the ability to worship of all those around her. (I suspect she travelled from some other location to be in Jesus' presence, so that no one would recognize her and force her away.) She is desperate - financially, physically, socially, religiously desperate - and, out of her need, turns to Jesus in such confidence. "If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed" (Mk. 5:28). Such faith! Such certainty!
Everywhere else in Scripture, if something unclean and something clean touch each other, the unclean thing makes the clean thing unclean. (Say that five times fast.) We see this transfer of unclean to clean in our Old Testament reading, where the unclean dead reptile makes the clean pot unclean (see Lev. 11:32-38). But not with Jesus! Here, the clean Jesus and the unclean woman touch - and she is made clean because of his cleanness! Amazing. The holiness of God wipes away her stain (and heals her, too).
I am so glad for this reminder. Even in the darkest hours of my sin, Jesus' cleanness is cleaner than my uncleanness. It's the ultimate Magic Eraser. No matter how long-lasting, no matter how foul, no matter how ostracizing, Jesus' holiness can instantly do away with my sin. I, like this bleeding woman, am healed in all the ways that really matter when I trust Jesus with my uncleanness. Praise be to God!
- Sarah Marsh
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