The leper was God's object lesson of the effect of sin upon the body; it was the picture of evil within stamping its likeness upon the whole frame, And so in the healing of this leper we have the very principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it deals with the double question of sin and sickness. You must always associate the two together. The leper stood before the priest crying: "Unclean, unclean," and the poor fellow bore the stamp of his uncleanness. It is all presented in great fullness in the fourteenth chapter of the book of Leviticus.
CHRIST COMES TO US
First, the priest goes to him outside the camp. Here we find Jesus Christ, of whom this priest was the type, not waiting for us to get fixed up and come up to the level where He can heal us, but coming down to the level where we are and lifting us up to Him.
Yes, He will come to you, He will be your righteousness and lead you every step of the way, and although you may be a sinful, paralyzed, unclean leper, He is your High Priest, and will come to you just where you are and help and heal you.
The first step always is Jesus. "I am the Way." "Tell me the way to Jesus," somebody said, and there never was a better answer, "There is no way to Jesus, for Jesus is the Way. There is not even a step; there is nothing for you to do before you get to Jesus. Jesus is the first thing, Jesus the next thing."
Then the next thing we see in the story of this leper brings us up to the cross and the Crucified One. It is the sweet picture of the death and resurrection of Christ presented by two little birds that were to be brought, the one sacrificed and the other set at liberty. The first little bird was to be killed, and we know what that means, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is through that that our cleansing and our healing come. The cleansing of the leper was through the blood of the little bird; your cleansing and healing are through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ-the death of Christ. It is the greatest fact in the history of the world, and it is fitting that we should take it fully in. You can cry over the passion of Christ. That will not make you a better man or a better woman. It is faith that must enter in and take the real meaning. It means, my dear friend, when He died that afternoon you died and I died. That was the end of the old I, the sinful, guilty self.
God does not take the old man and fix him and cleanse him; the old man is put away. And that is the meaning of resurrection life. It does not mean that our natural strength is improved a little, but our natural strength is as good as dead. It is crucified with Christ. It means that we have taken another kind of life-the life of the risen Son of God. It is not our strength increased, but it is our strength displaced and God's strength given instead.
Not only is it the death of the little bird; do not dwell too long on that, for quickly you are carried right along in the double action of the figure to the other little bird that was held beneath the dripping blood of the dead bird, was sprinkled with its blood, and covered with the drops of its life, and then all crimson and stained and baptized into the death of the dead one, it was set free in the open field and went singing away in its glad liberty, a picture of the resurrection. One bird could show the dead Christ, but it took the other bird to show the living Christ. So this other little bird tells us that we are cleansed and healed by the resurrection of our Lord. It tells us that we may enter into the partnership of His death just as the living bird did. It was just baptized into the death of the other, and so we are to be baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, buried with Him in baptism and then we are to go free, just as if we were another being born out of Him, and alive forevermore. For a moment you see the flowing blood and the gasping bird, but in another moment you hear the glad cry of the living bird and the triumphant song of freedom and life.
It is a cross where He hangs no more; it is a grave where He lies no more, it is a vacant cross, it is an empty tomb, it is a living Christ.
I do not know of any finer picture of the true meaning of the cross and resurrection than that of the sculptor who cut in marble a cross, but immediately covered it up by twisting around it a beautiful vine, and he hung the leaves and the clusters so thick upon it that you could scarcely tell the cross was there. There had been a cross, but over it hung the thick, rich clusters of leaves and fruit of the vine. And so the death of Christ is now covered over with the fruit of His risen life, and Easter ought to be to us a glad, bright, glorious new year of the heart and of the life; the resurrection rather than the death, the death only as a pathway to the resurrection. It is the life of Christ that makes us pure, happy and well.
Listen to Him as He cries: "A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have. Handle Me and see." Bones, flesh, a man, human every whit! And "we are members of His body, and His flesh and His bones." It is the risen Christ. He is your head, He is your very heart, He is your true life, He shares with you His life. And so right here in the cleansing of the leper we have this other picture, the death and resurrection of the Lord as the secret of our life both for soul and body.
The story of this leper is carried on through a series of deeper processes which we can only touch upon.
First, we have the washing of his clothes; that means the habits of our lives. Then there is the washing of himself; that is not only the outward but the inward life. And then there is another process, the shaving of his hair; not only the hair on his head, but even his beard and his eyebrows. It was a very keen and a very heart-searching process. You know the hair means our own strength, it is the type of human strength, and here we are taught what it really means to die with Christ. It is not to die to your evil habits only and your evil nature, but it is to die especially to your strength, to your confidence, to your self-sufficiency, and especially to your own opinions and ideas. The hair of your head, your intellectual mind, your eyebrows, the way you look at things. Oh, how we have to die to all this before Christ can heal us! What a revolution we have to pass through, until we see as He sees and lose confidence in our views and judgments.
And then comes a little later that other beautiful rite-the dipping of the finger of the priest in the blood of the sacrifice and applying it three times to the leper; first, to the right ear, next to his thumb, and then to his foot. It is just a touch of the blood to the ear, the organ of hearing; the hand, the organ of activity and action; the feet, the members with which we walk.
The blood always means the life; the life is in the blood, and it means the life of Jesus-divine life, the personal life of the Son of God, has come to our brains, our minds, our hands, our activities, our feet, our walk, our life.
And then after the blood had come, the oil followed. This meant something more than the life, for the oil represents the Holy Ghost. You need the Holy Ghost to possess you, to give you power. It is possible to have the life without the power. The oil means power. "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you," effectual life, life with power behind it.
And then there is just one more type. He uses the remnant of the oil-all that is left is to be poured upon the head of him that is to be cleansed. That is the filling with the Holy Ghost, coming into every part of your being, getting in the utmost possible measure God's highest thought and will.
Well, here we have in this little picture, it seems to me, the whole story of redemption for the soul, spirit and body. Could there be anything harder than the case of that leper? Your case is not worse. But could there be anything higher than the height to which he is raised, for this beautiful picture carries him on and up until he is filled with all the fullness of the Holy Ghost. And all this is brought right down to our level! All this is waiting for us through our Great High Priest, who is coming forth to us without the camp, and is now waiting to bless us!