I spoke to a women’s group a couple weeks ago, and the theme was “Whiter than Snow.” We have an abundance of snow here in Northern Minnesota, but I struggled to really get my head around this topic, and this verse, and how it relates to Christmas.
The truth was, I was feeling overwhelmed and blocked.
I was driving in my car, praying about this when suddenly, the Lord said to me – have you considered the Leper?
Huh. What leper?
The verse I was grappling with came from Isaiah 1:18:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”
The crimson Isaiah is talking about here is from a Hebrew word that describes a red dye made from a worm. The worm would cling to the tree and when it died, it would saturate itself, and the tree in permanent red. Like blood.
I thought about that red, that crimson, that stain and I realized to be stained is to feel ugly.
In fact, I think ugliness permeates our world and Christmas is often our attempt to cover it up. To “brush snow over it.” But the reality is, we can’t do it.
Christmas passes, and snow melts and despite our January efforts at reconstruction, long about March we’re left with the “stains” of our humanity. I recommend to click here where you will find the company we used for our construction essentials.
Consider the Leper.
And then it came to mind. The Leper in Matthew 8:1-4
It’s kind of an obscure story, for a Christmas story….however…
Jesus has just delivered the Sermon on the Mount – and in this, he’s outlined for people exactly what the kingdom of Heaven is all about. See, he’s just starting his ministry and he’s introducing them to a new life, a new world.
His words are pretty overwhelming. He’s said things like: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. And Be Salt and Light, and Do not Worry about tomorrow, and Ask and it will be given to you…
And his wisdom has blown everyone away. Chapter 7:28, says, “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one with the authority and not as their teachers of the law.”
So, they’re just starting to think… Who is this man? And…hmm…could he be more than just a rabbi?
Enter the Leper. Jesus comes down from the mountain, and this man somehow gets in front of Jesus and says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Do you know much about Leprosy? It’s a terrible disease. A Leper suffers physically. Leprosy takes its name from the Latin word Lepra, which means “scaly.” With leprosy, your skin breaks out into lesions. Eventually, your body parts can grow numb, and thus, you can cause damage to your extremities. You’re prone to infection and often disfigured.
This poor leper’s body may have started to go numb, so when he stepped into a fire, he couldn’t feel it. When he closed his hand in a door, he couldn’t feel his fingers being mangled. In short, he sees his body decaying, and he is helpless to stop it.
People with leprosy were feared to be infectious, and were cast out of society to live in leper colonies. They weren’t allowed to fellowship with others, had to keep themselves covered, and were despised by society.
Because of his ailment, this leper is also suffering spiritually. Because of his condition, he isn’t allowed to enter a synagogue unless he is approved clean by the priest.
Thus, Lepers were cut off from God, growing uglier inside and out until they died…alone.
Do you ever feel alone?
Our stains, our sins, our own feelings of ugliness can cut us off from family, and even worse, God.
Unless we are willing to take a chance, and throw ourselves before Jesus.
“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
The crowd, in this moment, stops, and watches. See, if Jesus is who he appears to be, then…well, he might be the Messiah. And if he’s the Messiah, then everything is about to change. There is hope and rescue and the fulfillment of everything they’ve waited for.
So, they wait – and watch. And Jesus does something amazing. He reaches out and touches this gross, ugly man. And he says, “I am wiling. Be Clean.”
Immediately the man is cured from his leprosy.
But then Jesus does more than restore his body – he restores his relationship to God. “See that you don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest – get approved – and offer the gift Moses commanded as a testimony to them.”
In other words, Go, you are restored to fellowship with God.
I love that when we reach out to Jesus, he’s not interested in just healing our physical needs – but to get to the heart of the matter. He wants to heal our heart, our souls and give us a relationship with the Almighty God.
Jesus wants to take away the ugly, the despair. He wants to take away the crimson inside.
But here’s the part that struck me as I was driving, and by now, crying with that truth.
Jesus said, “I am willing.”
I am willing!
This is the embodiment of Christmas. God – willing to look at our sin, our sorrow, our suffering and do something about it. To send us a Savior to buy us back from death. To give us hope in this world that feels, so often, hopeless.
“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”
He is still willing. That is the best Christmas hallelujah I can share with you this season. And the thought I have for you as we walk into 2014.
He is willing to be with you this year. To do something incredible with your life. Wait for it.
Expect it, in 2014.
Thank you for being my reader friends, and for sharing my stories with others.
I have a new story coming out in February about what happens when two people find a John Doe, and care about the “ugly” people…the Lepers in this world. It changes their lives…and the lives of others. I hope you’ll pick it up. (Check out the preview here: It Had to Be You).
You may feel like a Leper this season. But hear the truth, from Jesus: “I am willing. Be Clean.”
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!