"Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." Matt. 8:1-4.
In Judaism there are certain ceremonial laws regarding what makes a person unclean and therefore unfit for corporate worship (see Lev. 15).
One of the purposes of these laws was for God to teach his people about the holiness of his character and the sinfulness of man.
While being ceremonially unclean had nothing to do with a man's inner spiritual condition before God, the fact that he was cut off from the temple which was associated with the presence of God illustrates the principle that mankind cannot approach God with the defects of sin. He must be declared clean.
In our passage today, a leper has come to the one man that can truly make him ceremonially clean. And Jesus can do that physically because he is able to heal him from the disease of leprosy.
Indeed, he heals the man and sends him on his way to be examined by the priest. Then the man will be restored to the worshipping community and welcomed into the temple to be in the presence of his God.
But much more important than that is the fact that Jesus is able to cleanse him from the inside out so that he may stand before the Almighty God of Heaven.
It was not the leprosy on his skin that made him unfit to meet his God. It was the leprosy of sin upon his heart. The only ceremonially clean human being in earth's history had touched a leper and made him both physically and spiritually clean.
The leper had trusted Christ, but we also notice what he wants from him. He doesn't ask to be healed.
He asks to be made clean. In other words, the leper wants to be restored to his God and to the covenant community.
He wants to worship and serve his God and he knows only Jesus can make that happen. Sometimes we take for granted the ability and privilege to make it to God's house to be with God's people in worship and service.
But that's what we've been saved for. It's a great mistake for professing Christians to think they do not need the church. They've confused individual salvation with the unbiblical idea that it's not important to be part of a body of believers.
But ask any believer that's been unable to attend church for any amount of time. Their heart aches to be with God and his people. Do you long for that?
Jarrod Belcher is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Williamson. He writes a weekly column. He can be contacted at email@example.com.