Ab, it was hard. A couple times it was actually sort of traumatic. I’m healing from other wounds. Now I’m processing this.
I swallowed hard.
This was us.
When Friends Keep Their Distance
Jess offered that in a phone call after our families had been together. She’d seen us up close. Jess was gentle, but I got the gist: our family dynamics were a downer. There was more downside than upside to being with us.
I felt unclean.
Friendship is risky. Traveling with friends is riskier. Sharing bathrooms and kitchens mean that faults will be exposed. And just like that, whatever bloom there was was off the Wallace rose.
Whenever we “put ourselves out there,” we risk being canceled or rejected. And in a Christian culture that promotes relational boundaries even good friends may be wise to draw their lines.
So I don’t blame Jess one bit. The burden of us it was just too much to bear.
Jess needed her distance from us.
Jesus Doesn’t Keep His Distance
But Jesus never did that. He never kept his distance. The Word became flesh to dwell among us (John 1:14)— the contagious, outcast, and unclean. The Son of Man visited his sinful people (Luke 1:68), and said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
Our burdens—tense family dynamics, secrets too secret for our best friends, the reasons we travel alone—don’t scare Jesus. Not one bit.
In fact, he knows all about them. He knows your issues better than you do. In fact, he knew you, and your burdens, before you even began to know you.
And Jesus doesn’t keep his distance because our sin doesn’t contaminate him. Our burdens are not to much for him to bear (Matthew 11:28-29). He doesn’t need to place boundaries. In fact, he destroyed the dividing wall that once created hostility and distrust (Ephesians 2:14).
But we’re fragile and frail. Jess is. I am. You are. This side of heaven, we are all saints, sinners and sufferers; we are victims and victimizers.
Healing For The Unclean
That reality hit me when our first-grader was infected by a bigger boy on the school bus. That morning, forever etched, made me want to protect my little boy. I wanted to keep him off the bus, and far away from “that boy.”
So no, I don’t fault Jess. Sin spreads. You can catch bad habits. Disease is contagious.
But there was a woman. She had been bleeding for 12 years. She probably hadn’t had either a husband or a hug in those 12 years because to touch her would make one unclean. This unclean, outcast woman knew that. Still, desperate for healing she risked touching Jesus. She risked making him unclean.
But that’s not what happened. She touched Jesus and immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease (Mark 5:25-34.). She didn’t make Jesus unclean. Jesus made her clean.
Jesus Didn’t Socially Distance
You see, in the Old Testament uncleanness, unholiness, was contagious. But in the New Testament, holiness— absolute cleanness and purity— is contagious. Jesus proved that when the woman touched him. In the New Testament, Jesus makes the unclean, outcasts clean.
Jesus brings healing.
We see this in vivid color when the leper came to Jesus.
And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.Mark 1:40-45, ESV
There’s so much here. But don’t miss how Jesus was, “moved with pity.”
Then, again: how he was not afraid of contamination. Touching a bleeding woman or a leper would leave one unclean. But Jesus doesn’t socially—or ceremonially—distance to avoid infectious disease. He touched the man and made him clean.
As Kevin DeYoung so potently stated, Jesus doesn’t just overlook uncleanness. He conquers it.
DeYoung continues, He conquers it by trading places with it. The one who is unclean is clean and the one who can make everyone clean becomes an outcast. Jesus gives him his cleansing and restores him to the community. And now at the end of this great miracle, where do you find Jesus? He’s an outcast. He ends up, “in desolate places.”
Does that truth stir your soul? It about made me cry. We were that unclean. We needed healing. So a Healer came. The Holy and clean traded places with the canceled, unclean. All for love.
This is the gospel. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). In other words, we’re forgiven because he was forsaken. By his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). Talk about trading places.
Jess’s words left me feeling unclean. They left me desperate for healing.
Which is just fine. Because I have a Healer who doesn’t stay away. He doesn’t simply overlook my sin-sickness. He conquers it and makes me clean.
Jesus comes with healing.
But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.
You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.