Cleansing the “desire” to be filthy

Fourth Sunday of Epiphany B

January 22, 2006

Mark 1:21-28

[Mk 1:21] They *went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. [22] They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. [23] Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, [24] saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” [25] And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” [26] Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. [27] They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” [28] Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.

Changing the “desire” to be filthy

If he was not a murderer; he was certainly the one who stood behind the murder and arrest of many.  He took pride in the number of people he had arrested that were in opposition to him and wore it as a mark of his fervor.  He reveled in the fact that there were those who lived in terror at the mention of his name.

When does being evil become more attractive than being good?

Certainly in the case of this man—it was obvious.  Should such a man be killed?  Is it all right to have him murdered or assassinated?  In a just court—what punishment would be right for his crime?

Well, the highest court, the court of Jesus Christ decided to summons this man.  Raising a hand—Christ struck Saul dead…

THEN… Jesus raised up a new man—a new creation—named Paul in his place.  One could hardly call the court lenient, for the re-born Paul faced more pain and trial than a quick spear from an assassin’s hand could have brought upon him.  He underwent floggings, stoning, captivity and finally a death sentence—not for the murder of the innocents of Christ—but for the pronouncement of the innocence of Christ.

It is the greatest privilege of my life to witness men and women who have embraced darkness—who have lusted for the “unclean” and then  who become suddenly passionate about bathing with the scrub brush of our Lord.  One life at a time, through the efforts of countless volunteers and chaplains, one hears the “squeak” of cleanliness that can only come from a purified heart (there are some dramatic pictures of the cleansing of our Lord on our web site—it is an incomparable beauty when the healing waters of our Lord are too great to hold and they spill out through the tears of a man or woman cleansed by Jesus).

The word Mark uses for “unclean” in regard to demons means far more than the opposite of clean.  It means “demonic lewdness”—it implies “a desire to be filthy”.  It is an ugly, vivid term.  It certainly applied to Saul in his bloodlust to imprison the followers of Christ.  It definitely applies to the acts of many of the people who are incarcerated.  Yet, it also applies to me.  For there are too many times that I choose filth over what is holy.

An interesting thing occurs to this concept of being filthy when it is used by Christ.  Originally, the religious would avoid the “unclean” at all costs.  But what if Christ avoided Saul?  What if Ananias would not reach out to help him [Acts 9:11-17]?  What if Christ avoided me in my filth?

As the time of Christ nears; the prophets condemn all the religious as filthy and unclean; for spiting God through injustice and false worship.

As the time of Christ is revealed; Jesus rephrases the entire concept of unclean in the story of the Good Samaritan.  In this story, Jesus confronts the Pharisees and spies of the Chief Priests with a parable that basically says: “The Unclean are not the sinners.  The sinner is the one who does not embrace and wash the unclean.”

Christ finds me wounded in filth on the side of the road; then—to my amazement—he embraces me, cleanses me,  he even pays my medical bills.  The story of the Gospel is that I return to the filth whenever I do not take that incredible love to another stricken similarly on the side of the road.

Where is “that” side of the road in your town?

Mark 1:21-22

[Mk 1:21] They *went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. [22] They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Enthusiastically Urgent

Jesus’ public ministry was filled with purpose and immediacy.  He “purposed” to go to Galilee [Jn 1:43] and find Philip and he immediately goes to Capernaum [Mark 1:21] to teach in the synagogue.  In fact, look at all the things Jesus does “immediately” in this first chapter of Mark:

[Mk 1:10]        Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him.

[Mk 1:12]        Immediately the Spirit *impelled Him to go out into the wilderness.

[Mk 1:21]        They *went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach.

[Mk 1:29]        And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.

[Mk 1:30]        Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they *spoke to Jesus about her.

[Mk 1:42]        Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

[Mk 1:43]        And He sternly warned him and immediately sent him away.

Even the disciples follow him immediately upon this call.

[Mk 1:18] Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

Everything about Mark's writings conveys the immediate purposefulness of the Lord.

Mark chooses the word, “euthus” [GSN2117], it means without wavering, straightway.  The framework of the word does not imply “without hesitation,” but instead it implies a person who is charging to his goal with an urgency that is accented by enthusiasm.  Just spend a moment to look at what Jesus was “enthusiastically urgent” about:

1.        To meet Satan tête-à-tête on Satan's home field;

2.        To call his apostles;

3.        To teach;

4.        To heal;

5.        To cast out demons.

These are, in fact, the directives Jesus gives to those who would follow him: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give [Mt 10:8].”

Are our lives similarly marked by an urgent enthusiasm?  All around us the world cries for a peace it cannot find—where is our urgency?  Where is our immediacy?  “Lord, bring us back to urgent enthusiasm.”

Consistently transparent

Jesus used two styles to teach his followers:

1.        “Follow me,” or, “Come and see.”

The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He *found Philip. And Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me.” [John 1:43]

Then, look at what Philip turns around and says…

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” [John 1:46]

2.        “Go and bear fruit…”

“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you [Jn 15:16].”

He led his followers by example but knew the Good News was only good news if it bore fruit.  The greatest teacher knew his students could not model a lifestyle they had never seen and could not strengthen a muscle that they had never exercised.

People were amazed at Christ's consistent transparency.  What he preached was testified to by how he lived; Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: [5] the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM [Mt 11:4] .”

I find myself longing for two things as I explore Mark's simple Gospel.  I want Christ's “urgent enthusiasm” and his “consistent transparency”.  I long for a day that anyone who looked at me would see Jesus and that anyone who sees Jesus somehow through me sees nothing but his urgency to love them.

Jesus in the synagogue

Why did Jesus go to the Capernaum synagogue?  I don't think we should look for complex strategic or political motives.  Capernaum was the place that his new friends called home.   Jesus simply went to their neighborhood, just as he simply wants to come to ours.

I have pondered this emphasis of our Lord a great deal as I have considered the concept of “church”.  The greatest religious leader of our time didn't have membership drives or hand out business cards and say; “This is my church, services are at 8:30 and 10:00, come early for the sing-a-long.”

He went to Peter's town; Andrew, James and John's town.  He “guest-lectured” in their house of worship (a credit to Capernaum’s Rabbi—many Pastors might not even step aside for Jesus).  Eventually, the numbers of our Lord’s friends were too great to meet in most buildings of that time; so he sat with them on hillsides.  In the meantime—he taught in houses, on street corners and at Jerusalem’s temple.  Yet, he always went to his friends—he didn't wait for them to come to him.  Those who followed Jesus had to have a sturdy walking stick and strong legs.

For years, major denominations have separated the Pastoral call from the Missional call.  Jesus never did this; he pastored his closest friends and took them from town to town.  Eventually, he sent them from town to town until finally, they went from country to country in his name.  Clearly, the purpose of Christ's ministry was not to gain and maintain members but to train and send out disciples.  He took these men out of obscurity, gave them friendship and purpose, then let them see and experience how radically and powerfully God's presence could be in their life.  Literally, they would “taste and see” the goodness of the Lord.

Ps 34:1-22

1         I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

2         My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; the humble shall hear it and rejoice.

3         O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together.

4         I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.

5         They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

6         This poor man cried and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

7         The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.

8         O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

9         O fear the LORD, you His saints; for to those who fear Him, there is no want.

Where is the end of the earth?

God is not an “edificial God”.  He cautioned his people against Kings (but they wanted one anyway [1 Sam 8:5-8]); he cautioned his people against a temple (but they wanted one anyway [2 Sam 7:6-8])—we are children of a God on the move; not to be boxed, cornered or in anyway contained! As C.S. Lewis said in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “He is not a tame lion.”  Will we take our worship to where his people are in need?  Just as Abraham took the tabernacle with him, Jesus took worship to the “least of these”.  He gave us the Holy Spirit that we might take worship to the ends of the earth; we must be a people “on our toes”. 

Matt 28:19-20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So, where is the end of the earth in your town?

The Amazing Word

The people were amazed [ekplesso, GSN1605] at Jesus’ teaching.  It means they were struck with astonishment.  In this word lies a sense of; “It was too great for them to conceive.”  The Lord put it to Jeremiah likes this: “Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” [Jer 23:29]

The word “amazed” is used fourteen times throughout the Gospels describing how people responded to Jesus’ words and actions.  Luke uses it once in Acts to describe Paul’s preaching as well: 

Acts 13:8-12

But Elymas the magician (for thus his name is translated) was opposing them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, who was also {known as} Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze upon him, and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?

“And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a time.” And immediately a mist and a darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking those who would lead him by the hand.

Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.

When God places his authority in a persons’ mouth the words have the impact of a shattering hammer.  They “break” off the hard exterior and open up the soul.  I wanted to share some references that really captured the impact of what the Lord’s words can do to the hearts of people.  Take a moment, if you will, to pray over these scriptures:

Ezek 11:19

19                  “And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.

Deut 4:29-31

29                  “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find {Him} if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.

30                  “When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice.

31                  “For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.

Deut 5:29

19                  “Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!

Deut 6:5

19                  “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Deut 10:16

16                  “Circumcise then your heart, and stiffen your neck no more.”

Deut 15:7-8

7                     “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother;

8                     but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need {in} whatever he lacks.

Deut 30:6

7                     “Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.”

2 Chr 16:9

8                     “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.”

2 Chr 34:27

7                     “Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God, when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and {because} you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes, and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the LORD.

Ps 17:10

9                     They have closed their unfeeling heart; with their mouth they speak proudly.

Ps 51:10-12

10                  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11                  Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me.

12                  Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.

Ps 51:17

16      The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

Ps 86:11

10                  Teach me Thy way, O LORD; I will walk in Thy truth; Unite my heart to fear Thy name.

Isa 13:7

7         Therefore all hands will fall limp, and every man's heart will melt.

Isa 57:15

15                  For thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell {on} a high and holy place, and {also} with the contrite and lowly of spirit in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Jer 4:9

9              “And it shall come about in that day,” declares the LORD, “that the heart of the king and the heart of the princes will fail; and the priests will be appalled, and the prophets will be astounded.”

Jer 5:23

10                  But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and departed.

Jer 24:7

7                     “And I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.

Jer 29:11-13

11                  “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

12                  “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.

13                  “And you will seek Me and find {Me,} when you search for Me with all your heart.

Jer 32:38-39

38                  “And they shall be My people, and I will be their God;

39                  and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good, and for {the good of} their children after them.

The Amazing Words of our Lord can bring peace, across generations; it can restore broken hearts and soften hardened ones.  His words are destined to stop war and bring justice; causing fear among emperors, silencing the falsely religious and astounding even the prophets.  His words are healing for our past; peace in our present and hope for tomorrow.

The Authority that speaks for itself

It was a custom of the scribes and religious of Jesus’ day to bolster their teaching with quotes from other scholars.  It was as though they sensed that; a) their words were not powerful enough to convince their listeners on their own; or b) they wanted to impress the academia with the profundity of their scholarship. 

Jesus simply spoke from his heart to the heart of the simplest child who would listen to him.  He spoke from the heart to the heart.  He had no need of supporting his words except with the depth of scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit.  He was not trying to make an argument for God; he was showing how empty we each were without God and how only God could fill that emptiness.  Lengthy messages and extensive glossaries might impress the intellectuals of Jerusalem, but they would only confuse the simple fishermen of Capernaum and the poor on the hillsides of Galilee.  Jesus came to speak to simple and, indeed, the learned (like Nicodemus) were too complicated to hear his claims. They remained “in the darkness;” a term which not only means they “could” not hear, but that they “would” not hear. There’s a big difference.

Jesus’ words were authorized—not by men, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.  It continues to be the authority of the changed heart, the recovered alcoholic, the converted inmate, the elderly resident of a rest home liberated by a hymn—this is what has led people to our Lord for the last two thousand years.  The evidence of something only God’s love could achieve; the personal testimony of a sincere believer.  That will always change more lives than any study, conversion “system” or research project.  Through Jesus Christ and the bestowing of his Holy Spirit, we can go out in the confidence that we need no degree or position to tell one another; “Look what Jesus has done in my heart.”

I am convinced that people who have not seen miracles perhaps have not followed our Lord in his paths to jails, detention centers, homeless shelters, orphanages, or rest homes,  in our communities; to the places where miracles occur daily and where people consistently give their lives and their behaviors to Christ—and Christ changes them.

Ps 68:4-6

4                     Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds-- his name is the LORD—and rejoice before him.

5                     A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

6                     God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. (NIV)

Leave the sun-scorched lands behind.  Go to where the potential for the miraculous is highest (and where hope almost always seems the lowest).  There God is evident: He is there both enthusiastically urgent and consistently transparent.  There miracles occur daily.  God’s word still speaks for itself with incomparable authority.

Mark 1:23-28

[23] Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, [24] saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” [25] And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” [26] Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. [27] They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” [28] Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.

The darkness of the age

The word unclean has a horrific and overpowering meaning to the Jewish mind.  We cannot understand the significance of an unclean man in the temple without understanding this word.  The word, unclean [akathartos, GSN169], carries not only the connotation of being physically dirty—but one would use a phrase like “demonic dirtiness” or even “demonic lewdness”.  It was a word of repulsion, anything that was this dirty would turn the stomach of the common believer. 

To be unclean was not to be the opposite of clean—it was to be in opposition to cleanliness [kathairo, GSN2508], a word which not only meant to cleanse or expiate, but also to prune.  To be unclean meant to abhor cleanliness, to refuse God’s pruning; so, how in the world did this man make it into the synagogue?  How in the world was a demon allowed to testify in a place of God?  That is the question we must ask—and that is the richness of this miracle.  This miracle tells us about the religious “State of the Union” prior to the Christ’s arrival.  It tells us how dark the age had become and how ineffective the religion had become in recognizing it. It is a travesty; a horrible commentary of the religion of  the time.

There were thousands of years of history behind the term “unclean” to the Israelite.  It wasn’t something used for unwashed dishes or a child coming in from the mud.  It was used for a “condition” that permeated the soul.  If you touched an object “in that condition” you would also become unclean; “guilty” of a sin.

·         Certain foods were unclean:

Lev 5:2-5

2                     “Or if a person touches any unclean thing, whether a carcass of an unclean beast, or the carcass of unclean cattle, or a carcass of unclean swarming things, though it is hidden from him, and he is unclean, then he will be guilty.

3                     “Or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever {sort} his uncleanness {may} be with which he becomes unclean, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know {it} he will be guilty.

4                     “Or if a person swears thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, in whatever matter a man may speak thoughtlessly with an oath, and it is hidden from him, and then he comes to know {it} he will be guilty in one of these.

5                     “So it shall be when he becomes guilty in one of these, that he shall confess that in which he has sinned.

·         Women who were menstruating or had just given birth were thought of as unclean;

Lev 12:2

2                     “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'When a woman gives birth and bears a male {child} then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean.

·         Lepers were unclean;

Lev 13:3

3                     “And the priest shall look at the mark on the skin of the body, and if the hair in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is an infection of leprosy; when the priest has looked at him, he shall pronounce him unclean.”

Lev 13:45-46

45                  “As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!'

46                  “He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

·         Job professes that once “unclean” no one (meaning no person) could make you clean again.

Job 14:4

4                     “Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one!”

·         When Isaiah sees heaven revealed; he realizes how unclean he is and how unclean the world is in comparison;

Isa 6:5-8

5                     Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”

6                     Then one of the seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hand which he had taken from the altar with tongs.

7                     And he touched my mouth {with it} and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven.”

8                     Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

·         Eventually, the People of God became unclean; for acting in a manner that would spite God, killing his prophets, shedding the blood of the righteous, ignoring injustice and for committing injustice—not only ignoring the poverty around them—but actually institutionalizing the degradation of the poor.

Lam 4:12-17

13                  The kings of the earth did not believe, nor {did} any of the inhabitants of the world, that the adversary and the enemy could enter the gates of Jerusalem.

14                  Because of the sins of her prophets {and} the iniquities of her priests, who have shed in her midst the blood of the righteous,

15                  They wandered, blind, in the streets; they were defiled with blood so that no one could touch their garments.

16                  “Depart! Unclean!” they cried of themselves. “Depart, depart, do not touch!” So they fled and wandered; {men} among the nations said, “They shall not continue to dwell {with us.}

17                  The presence of the LORD has scattered them; He will not continue to regard them. They did not honor the priests, they did not favor the elders.

18                  Yet our eyes failed; {looking} for help was useless. In our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save.

Ezek 22:26-31

26                  “Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

27                  “Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood {and} destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain.

28                  “And her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, 'Thus says the Lord GOD,' when the LORD has not spoken.

29                  “The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice.

30                  “And I searched for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one.

31                  “Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,” declares the Lord GOD.


Amos 7:14-17

14                  Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet; for I am a herdsman and a grower of sycamore figs.

15                  “But the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, 'Go prophesy to My people Israel.'

16                  “And now hear the word of the LORD: you are saying, 'You shall not prophesy against Israel nor shall you speak against the house of Isaac.'

17                  “Therefore, thus says the LORD, 'Your wife will become a harlot in the city, your sons and your daughters will fall by the sword, your land will be parceled up by a {measuring} line, and you yourself will die upon unclean soil. Moreover, Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.'“

Hag 2:13-14

13                  Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will {the latter} become unclean?” And the priests answered and said, “It will become unclean.”

14                  Then Haggai answered and said, “So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,” declares the LORD, “and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.”

Zech 13:2

45                  “And it will come about in that day,” declares the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.

By the time of Christ’s arrival, all the people were unworthy and “most unworthy” were the religious leaders.  Worship in the temple had become a farce before the Lord because injustice was rampant in the streets.  One had more chance of being “clean” among the lepers than among the religious.  The situation was hopeless.

The presence of a demoniac testifying in a holy place and acknowledging that Jesus was the Son of God was not only an actual occurrence—but a symbolic event of the lost age as well.  Even the demons professed what the priests of God’s Chosen would not acknowledge.  The Holy One of God had arrived to clean out the temple.  Yet, he also came to clean out our temples; the temples of our lives.  Jesus makes a determined march to embrace the “unclean” and bring them to wholeness.  One could argue that this was the first determined miracle of Jesus (he had performed the miracle in Cana for his mother’s sake and indeed, expressly told her it was “not his time”).

Let us look at how Jesus heals the “unclean”:

Mark 1:27

And they were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.”

Mark 3:11-12

And whenever the unclean spirits beheld Him, they would fall down before Him and cry out, saying, “You are the Son of God!”

And He earnestly warned them not to make Him known.

Luke 6:17-23

And He descended with them, and stood on a level place; and {there was} a great multitude of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear Him, and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the multitude were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing {them} all. And turning His gaze on His disciples, He {began} to say, “Blessed {are} you {who are} poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed {are} you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed {are} you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.

“Be glad in that day, and leap {for joy,} for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.”

Matt 9:20-22

And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I shall get well.”

But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” And at once the woman was made well.

The story of the Good Samaritan is a radical reversal of Jewish ritualism—but also a confrontation of any church that is not focused on commissioning her people to go to the “least of these”.  In this story, Jesus confronts the Pharisees and spies of the Chief Priests with a parable that basically says: “The Unclean are not the sinners.  The sinner is the one who does not help the unclean.”

Luke 10:33-37

33 But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on {them;} and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 “And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers' {hands?}”

37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

When Jesus sends out his apostles, he does not send them out to avoid the unclean and only cater to the religious.  He empowers them to heal and cleanse and then sends them directly to the “unclean”;

Matt 10:1

1 And having summoned His twelve disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

In Acts, the determined movement of the Holy Spirit dismantles the walls of religious cleanliness and ritualism that would put barriers up and keep out the “unclean”.  Slowly, with great struggle—even undergoing persecution to push them from their comfort zone—the apostles begin to understand that they are called to go to the unclean and bring wholeness.

Acts 5:12-16

12 And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's portico. 13 But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. 14 And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to {their number} 15 to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets, and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. 16 And also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits; and they were all being healed.

Acts 8:5-8

And Philip went down to the city of Samaria and {began} proclaiming Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For {in the case of} many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out {of them} shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was much rejoicing in that city.

Then, in one final, immutable act Jesus shows Peter that anything that God cleanses is cleansed forever.  Contrast this to Job’s forlorn statement that no one can make the unclean become clean.  God can, God does!  He takes what was unholy; even our desire to be unclean and turns it into beauty, until the temple of our hearts no longer desire filth but long only for his cleansing.

Acts 10:14-15

14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.”

15 And again a voice {came} to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no {longer} consider unholy.”

Paul, the previously fastidious Pharisee, becomes the herald of a new “cleanliness” before the Lord, our God.  We are no longer cleansed or sullied by what we put “in” our bodies, but by what is inside our hearts.  Paul preaches that the deepest filth is when we do something that causes another to fall.  Paul calls us (through the Holy Spirit) to a new level of holiness / cleanliness.  Cleanliness is to be Christ’s servant to others!

Rom 14:14-23

I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Unwanted testimony

The darkness of the age had to be cleansed and Jesus dramatically chose to illustrate that in a synagogue at Capernaum.  As long as Jesus was there, evil would no longer give testimony in the holy places.  Yet, what does it mean for evil to testify to God?

·         It means that the presence of evil falsely asserts a lack of God;

·         It means that the boldness of evil candidly testifies to the powerlessness of men;

·         It means that evil insidiously takes credit for events that appear good;

·         It means that evil even adorns itself as good;

·         It means that evil is rampant and claims authority—even in the House of God.

Evil testifies to itself.  Evil declares it’s own power, it seeks and deceives followers, and then uses them to it’s own end.  The testimony of evil tries to take our eyes off the Lord.  It attempts to take the credit for good by claiming prescience about God’s plan and with prescience it makes a false bid for authority.

Again and again, Jesus smashed evil in the places where it claimed authority:

·         In the desolation; [Mt 4:1; Mk 1:12; Lk 4:1];

·         In the synagogue [Mk 1:23];

·         In the temple of Jerusalem (when he casts out the money changers [Mt 21:13; Mk 11:17; Lk 19:46]);

·         But, especially in people’s hearts:

Ps 51:2-12

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, and blameless when Thou dost judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me to hear joy and gladness, let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice.

Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.

Jer 33:8-9

8                     “And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me, and by which they have transgressed against Me.

9                     “And it shall be to Me a name of joy, praise, and glory before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear of all the good that I do for them, and they shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the peace that I make for it.”

Ezek 36:25-27

25            “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

26            “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

27            “And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

Ezek 37:23-28

23                “And they will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.

24                “And My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances, and keep My statutes, and observe them.

25                “And they shall live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons, and their sons' sons, forever; and David My servant shall be their prince forever.

26                “And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever.

27                “My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.

28                “And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”'“

Matt 10:8

8                  “Heal {the} sick, raise {the} dead, cleanse {the} lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.

2 Cor 7:1

1                      Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Heb 9:14

14                    how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

James 4:8-10

8                      Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

9                      Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom.

10                    Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

I Jn 1:7-9

7                      but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

8                      If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

9                      If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

When Jesus comes into our hearts we are totally cleansed.  When Jesus comes into our hearts we are no longer repulsive and unclean.  When Jesus comes into our hearts we no longer live in “opposition” to holiness.  When Jesus comes into our hearts the unholy will no longer testify to God.  The unholy will have no power, no comment, no authority.  The unholy will be revealed as false—as a shadow to the true light of God.

“Come Jesus!  Come now!  Possess us, Lord, that we might no longer be possessed!”

Copyright Notice

Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.  This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2005 ©

“Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, (C) Copyright The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1988.  Used by permission.”

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