Clean and Unclean

Day 42

Prayer for the day

I long for your salvation, O LORD, and your law is my delight.

Scripture for the day

Leviticus 11-12; Matthew 26:1-25

The First Testament purity laws are dizzying at first glance (and second and third glance for that matter!). Why are certain animals considered clean and certain animals unclean? Why does childbirth require a sin offering? Did the woman sin by having a baby? And what does any of this have to do with holiness to God?

Cleanliness is a big deal in the First Testament. And that deal carries into the Second. Clean and unclean may not be as explicitly stated in the Second Testament, but they certainly are important, particularly for Jesus.

Were the disciples clean or unclean? All of them? What about Judas?

Jesus has some stiff words for the idea of clean and unclean. He speaks of cleanliness as a matter of the heart, claiming that it is not what goes into a man that makes him clean or unclean, but what comes out of a man that shows the state of his heart.

To all appearances, the disciples were clean. They walked and talked with the master. They were men who cared deeply for the things of God. They would follow the law of God, and seek the will of God. Yet even these men who look, to us, like the epitome of clean-ness, are not all they’re cracked up to be.

They rebuke the woman who pours the perfume on Jesus’ feet, not understanding the nature of her gift and sacrifice. They each claim to be the one who would stick with Jesus to the end. Yet (spoiler alert) Jesus dies, and dies largely abandoned by his disciples. One close to him betrays him to death. One even closer denies ever having known him.

Cleanness has very little, even in the First Testament, to do with the nature of nature. Cleanness has more to do with the declaration and will of God, and our willingness to follow it into uncomfortable and sometimes non-sensical places.

It is God who declares us clean or unclean, and the condition of our hearts which shows it.

God, make us clean.


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