8 And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. 9 And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean. (Leviticus 14:8-9)
28 But if she is cleansed of her discharge, she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean. (Leviticus 15:28)
Both the laws concerning cleansing lepers (Leviticus 14) and the laws concerning a person cleansed from a bodily discharge (Leviticus 15) ordered a seven day waiting period after the cleansing before the one cleansed could rejoin society. I suppose that makes sense. People wanted to make sure the person was actually cleansed. We understand that better than ever in the Covid era, don’t we? We get a period of self-isolation after exposure to an infected person. We have uttered the words “Out of an abundance of caution…” more times in the past couple of years than we ever thought we would.
If there is any doubt about the completeness of the healing, you err on the side of caution.
But now, fast forward a few thousand years. Jesus is traveling on the border between Samaria and Galilee. He encounters ten lepers who beg to be healed. Jesus commands them to “‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14)
I had always been critical of the nine that never returned. But because of today’s reading I can at least give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they were just good, law abiding ￼Jews, and they were observing the seven day waiting period. You know, just in case the healing wasn’t complete.
But the Samaritan either didn’t know about the seven day waiting period or didn’t care. From all we can see, he never made it to a priest to begin with. Instead he raced back to Jesus and fell at His feet in gratitude. Why?
Because he had no doubt that his healing was complete.
The same with the woman with the issue of blood in Mark 5. She had been waiting twelve years for her bleeding to stop. Now, read the words of the Law in Leviticus 15 again. Only this time, read it as the daily catalog of shame, humiliation, rejection and isolation this woman dealt with for twelve years. Twelve years! Four thousand, three hundred and eighty days of:
Every bed on which she lay being “the bed of her impurity.”
Every chair on which she sat being unclean.
Everywhere she went, anyone who came in after her saying, “Did the Bleeding Lady sit here? She did??? Great. Now I’m unclean!“
No wonder she tried to go unnoticed in the crowd! No wonder she tried to sneak up stealthily, and just touch the edge of His garment.
But, thank you Jesus, no wonder that “when she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease,” (Mark 5:29), she didn’t isolate herself for seven more days.
Instead, she came and fell at Jesus’ feet. Trembling, she told Him the whole truth. (Mark 5:33).
“Yes Lord,” she might have said, “I know the law says to wait in isolation for seven days. Forgive me Lord, but I have been in isolation for twelve years.”
And, oh my Jesus, thank You that You did not turn her away for the sake of the Law. Thank You that you knew your healing was full, and final, and absolute. Thank You for letting her wait be over.
Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.