Mark 1:44
Then he said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”
I went back into the Old Testament to find out what was required as an offering for a cleansing after being healed from leprosy. There is a lengthy section on that in Leviticus. But the first part of the cleansing ritual includes an offering of two birds. One bird is killed, the other bird is dipped in the blood of the first, and then set free.
Now, if sin is very much like leprosy for the soul (and I think it is) we have in this cleansing ritual another example of what is called a “type” of Jesus.
The study of types in the Old Testament reveals some marvelous connections with the New Testament. I have been fascinated by them since I discovered how [God has revealed the New Testament in the Old Testament and completed the Old Testament in the New Testament] let me repeat that. It is amazing and exciting, at least to me, to find these points of reference.
So, let us get back to this particular typological reference. Jesus became a man, died, and shed his blood, just like the first bird for a leper shed its blood. The big difference is that Jesus is God and man. It is not just a symbolic shedding of blood as with the birds, but is a real offering that, I think, was anticipated in the Old Testament, and pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus.
So here we are in the first chapter of Mark and we are already hearing about the sacrifice that Jesus was going to make for our sake. He was going to free us from sin. And we need to be washed in the blood of the lamb, just as the second bird had the blood of the first bird on him when he was set free, so the blood of Jesus sets us free. Do you understand that? Or should I repeat it?
Another curious point in this gospel story is the fact that a leper was not allowed to enter towns, and certainly not the temple in Jerusalem. After Jesus healed the leper, the gospel tells us that Jesus could not enter towns and had to stay in the wilderness because too many people were coming to see him.
I do not know if I want to call this another example of a type of Christ, but it is very… curious… that Jesus brought a man back to society by healing him, and he was beginning to be pushed out by the same society. At first, it was not a rejection of him, but it later became that. I believe this is also our fate if we are going to choose to follow Christ.
This goes in cycles. There is a time when we are looked to as the people of God as Jesus was looked to when people needed healing. But when the kingdom of God is preached with authority, the world turns against Jesus, and against his church. I believe we are headed into a time when the world turns against us.
Now… I need to address a very different and upsetting issue. We had a Pastoral Council meeting here at Saints Peter and Paul this week. One of our marvelous crew of church sanitizers brought in some very disturbing information about things that have recently been found in the church.
Over the last few months there have been five used masks, six used tissues – two with blood on them, five pieces of used gum, a container with French fries, a container with shredded cheese, spilled milk, snacks – I presume for the kids, even a dirty diaper… And this is not all of the items that have been found.
Our cleaning crew has asked that something be put in the bulletin about this and that an announcement be made in this regard. Their gentle request for a comment was: “In order to keep our church clean and safe for all, please remember to take home any items that you have brought with you to keep the pew areas clean.”
My comments are much stronger. Leaving things behind that you brought into the church, especially food or waste items shows a terrible disrespect for other parishioners but more importantly for God. We cannot continue to have a wonderful place of worship if people are not willing to see it as a place of sacredness and beauty.
In addition, some of the ropes that are in place to help maintain social distancing have been found removed and laying in the pews. Please do not do that!
Just as we are called to keep our souls clean from sin, so we are called to keep the house of God clean for all those who choose to come to worship. Honestly, I wish this never had to be said.