Jesus Christ was an amazing healer and a great teacher. He was also a powerful cleanser in ways that would be impossible for an ordinary man. Lepers were required to live outside the camp and shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that no one would touch them and become unclean themselves. People avoided them, but not Jesus.
When lepers came for healing, he healed them—not with medicine or even a word, but by his touch. He did the very thing that would have made him unclean, yet the opposite happened. Rather than being made unclean by the leper, he made the leper clean. Under the law, when the priest examining the leper saw that the leprous disease was gone the man was still unclean. Healing from the disease was not enough to make the man clean. He also needed to sacrifice a bird and have its blood sprinkled on him. Even after that he was still not fully restored. He could go into the camp, but could not live inside his tent for seven days. Then he would shave all the hair off his head, wash his clothes and bathe. Now on the eight day he would bring a sacrifice (a burnt offering and a grain offering) for the Lord to the tent of meeting. The priest would make atonement for him. Only after all of this was he declared clean and thus restored to the community (see Leviticus 14:1-20).
Notice the difference when Jesus healed a man with leprosy. “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” (Mark 1:40-42). No elaborate ritual. No sacrifice. No washing. No waiting a week. The man was both healed and cleansed immediately.
Later in Mark 5 we see again Jesus’ purity, authority and cleansing power over the unclean. First he confronted an unclean spirit in an unclean land (Gentile land). He showed his power by commanding the unclean spirit to come out of the man and then highlighted his quest to destroy what is unclean by permitting the unclean spirits to enter unclean pigs who destroyed themselves by throwing themselves over the cliff (Gospel according to Mark 5:1-20). Next he was touched by an unclean woman who had had a flow of blood for 12 years, which meant she had been perpetually unclean for 12 years. Again, rather than becoming unclean himself he healed her and made her clean (Mark 5:25-34). He then overcame the ultimate source of uncleanness and defilement: death. Jairus, who had asked him to come and heal his daughter, was told that his daughter was dead. Undaunted, Jesus went to his house, took her by the hand (which would have made one unclean, but not Jesus) and raised her from the dead (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43).
Throughout his ministry we see Jesus reversing the effects of sin and defilement. We see him forgiving sin, healing the sick, raising the dead, all of which can be seen as cleansing the defiled. Cleanness was not contagious, but now we find one whose cleanness was contagious, one who could make the unclean clean with a mere touch.
Other posts in this series
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 1: Introduction
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 2: The Danger of Defilement
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 3: Distinguishing between the Clean and Unclean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 4: What Makes One Unclean?
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 5: Uncleanness is Contagious and Defiles the Camp
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 6: Defilement and Purity in the New Testament
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7a: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7b: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Baptism
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 7c: Jesus Christ Makes Us Clean by His Death and Resurrection
Cleansing from Defilement, Part 8: The Incarnation Was Necessary for Our Cleansing