Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Transformation of the Unclean





Scripture

Of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai, who took a wife from the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and he was called by their name.
(Ezra 2:61 NASB)
These searched among their ancestral registration, but they could not be located; therefore they were considered unclean and excluded from the priesthood.
(Ezra 2:62 NASB)
The governor said to them that they should not eat from the most holy things until a priest stood up with Urim and Thummim.
(Ezra 2:63 NASB)
And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone,
(Luke 8:43 NASB)
came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak, and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.
(Luke 8:44 NASB)
And Jesus said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing in on You.”
(Luke 8:45 NASB)
But Jesus said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.”
(Luke 8:46 NASB)
When the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.
(Luke 8:47 NASB)
And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
(Luke 8:48 NASB)

 

Observation

These are two seemingly unrelated scripture passages and yet, in a way they are connected. In the first place we read about a clan of priests who are returning from exile. They are unable to function as priests because they cannot prove their connection to the priesthood. Also, interestingly they have taken the family name of a woman, which is highly unusual. The priesthood was not open to women, and an argument in many churches throughout history is that women cannot serve in the priesthood because they have their monthly cycles which make them unclean.

What is interesting to note is that in the case of the priesthood it was the blood of the sacrifices which made people clean. However, in the case of women it was the blood which made them unclean. Was this as a result of the fall of humanity? That we do not know but we do know that it resulted in the exclusion of women from places of service within the kingdom of God. As God had predicted, the punishment of the woman Eve would reach out through all of humanity and women would be subordinate to men, suffering pain in childbirth and all that comes with that -- including a monthly cycle in which she was unclean to the world. The blood, the very thing which would normally bring life and cleansing, in the case of women brought separation and at times suffering.

This brings us to the brief story of the woman with the issue of blood found in Luke 8. Generally we read over this and hear the story of one woman, but could there be more to its presence here in the gospel? The woman with the hemorrhage would have been unclean for the last twelve years. She knew better than to touch Jesus because touching him would cause him to be unclean. However, just as Eve set things in motion for the fall of female flesh, so this woman by reaching out and touching the hem of Jesus' garment reverses that direction. The symbolism of her healing here is huge, not just for her, but for all women. She is healed of the thing which has made her unclean -- the one thing that makes all women unclean. Jesus' power is revealed because he has come to restore all things, including those things which were corrupted by the fall of humanity. The woman who reaches out in faith can find restoration in Jesus Christ. She may step out in faith and live in the peace of God.

 

Application


The implications for this type of restoration of humanity are huge. Jesus is the second Adam and throughout his life he demonstrates that he is again setting things right, as God has originally intended before the fall of humanity, and the final victory over sin and death comes through Jesus' death and resurrection. Saved female flesh is no longer unclean! No longer does she live in the fallen state of subordination but is invited back into God's original plan of equality for male-female relationships, and into a direct relationship with God through Jesus Christ who is the Head -- or source of all things. Through this woman Jesus reveals that he has also healed the female flesh from her time of being "unclean" and this is no longer a prohibition for her to reach out to God through Christ. No longer should it be an excuse within the church to keep a woman from serving at the table -- because she is unclean. Jesus has already done the work of cleansing her!

When the church does not preach this complete message of restoration for all of humanity -- both male and female -- then people suffer. In many countries of the world women and children are still seen as commodities which may be bought, sold and traded. Somehow they are viewed as less than total humanity. This perspective is a result of the fall and Christianity has an obligation to share this news with a world that desperately needs to hear about how God values all human flesh. This is not an American cultural view, but is a biblical view of restoration. It is a message of hope for a world that desperately needs to know that there is good news which is transformational. In some places it may seem to go against the norm of culture, but so be it! The kingdom of God is counter-cultural. Jesus was counter-cultural. That's what made the religious officials so mad! And yet that did not stop him -- he continued to preach, teach and touch people whose lives were transformed.

 

Prayer


Lord, thank you for opening our eyes to what you have provided for all of humanity. Please, help us to be faithful in communicating what you desire. Amen.

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