Reconnecting: Healing (February 2022)
“Those who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear their clothing and leave their hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp. Leviticus 13:45-46
I suspect that this excerpt from Leviticus is a close description of what it has been like in our communities over the past few years… at least in the early lockdowns! Hairstyles changed, slippers and pyjamas became the main dress-code (sales of onesies increased!). And for many of us there was the fear and anxiety of an invisible disease, I doubt any of us has not been personally impacted. Fortunately, the fear is ebbing away and there is a desire to be cleansed and escape isolation. But how do we do this well?
We may not be familiar with the book of Leviticus, which describes what is needed as a nation is built and a people recover their identity. There is an emphasis on ‘law’, which was seen as positive, constructive, and provided for life and encouraged a sense of community. [The purpose of law in the Bible was to build and give life, rather than be a source of punishment and repression.]
Despite a sense of dislocation in time and culture, reflecting on the words from Leviticus (Chapters 13 and 14 are even more instructive!) are essential, not only because they are part of God's ‘law’, but also because they help us understand the extraordinary ministry of Jesus. They enable us to see his healing as deeper and more pervasive than we might realise.
In the Gospel of Mark, a man with a terrible skin disease approached Jesus, "begging to be healed" (or, more literally, "made clean"; 1:40). This man was so desperate that he approached Jesus even though such behaviour was contrary to the law. Yet Jesus did not reject the man. Rather, he touched him, an action that made Jesus ritually unclean (1:41). Then he announced that the man was ‘made clean’. Instantly, his skin disease disappeared (1:42).
But Jesus was not through. He instructed the man to "go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed" (1:44). In light of Leviticus 14, we can understand exactly what Jesus meant and why he said this. Only the priest had the authority to proclaim that the man had been cleansed and to allow him back into his community.
Jesus didn't just heal the physical condition of the man with the skin disease, as wonderful as this must have been. Rather, he touched the man, no doubt ministering to the lonely soul of one who had not been touched for ages. In this touch, Jesus took upon himself the man's uncleanness, thus foreshadowing what he would do for us on the cross. Then, by insisting that the man go to the priest, Jesus sought to make sure that his healing including social restoration as well as physical and psychological renewal.
Jesus wants to make us whole, not just by saving us eternally, not just by healing us physically, but also by renewing our inner selves and restoring our relationships. He is the inclusive healer, who seeks to make us whole in every dimension of life.
The role of priest has changed. I don’t go around proclaiming judgement on people’s skin conditions! However, the church’s collective role is to be involved in healing and wholeness. Which includes ensuring an end to isolation, marginalisation and any barrier that prevents access to hope, love and faith!
As we look for opportunities to reconnect, please do consider both: 1) how you may need to find healing which leads to life, and 2) how you can participate in the healing of others.
We want to be a church that is truly a place of wholeness through faith, hope and love. We find it in the person of Jesus.