We have all experienced the sensation of innocence lost. We know what it is to carry guilt—for goodness and purity to feel farther and farther away—like we’ve permanently soiled something.
We usually don’t sit static with that feeling. We try to wish it away. We explain it away and justify ourselves. We seek other remedies, like the distraction of pleasure, substances, or companionship. We try to escape it. We try to outweigh it with good works. We try to do better. Yet this feeling of contamination lingers.
This is why it resonates with me to hear the leper say to Jesus: “If you will, you can make me clean”(Mark 1:40).
God taught the Jews about cleanliness and defilement for this reason: to keep them aware of the spiritual and moral dimensions of all their choices. Yet even when the Jews performed the sacrifices, that feeling lingered. There was still awareness of sin and defilement. These “gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper”(Heb 9:9). More simply, they ask questions like “What do I still lack?”(Matt 19:20).
The leper follows a different path. “You can make me clean.” He seeks cleanliness not from sacrifices, but from Jesus. To be sure, he is primarily speaking about healing from his leprosy. Yet the New Testament repeatedly describes the purity and cleanliness Jesus brings. “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name”(Acts 22:16). Baptism is “an appeal to God for a good conscience”(1 Pet 3:21). We are saved “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”(Titus 3:5). All of these passages express that we come to Jesus and say, “You can make me clean.”
Seeking Jesus’ cleansing means I abandon my efforts to make myself clean. I acknowledge my need and inability. I trust his power and goodwill. In Jesus, my innocence is restored. My conscience is clear. I follow him from gratitude, not guilt or fear.
Are you clean? Jesus can make you clean.