Epiphany 3 (2 Ki 5; Rom 1; Mt 8)

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Jesus said, “I am willing. Be cleansed!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

᛭ INI ᛭

((5. Oops!: Our sins are displeasing to God.))

Your sins, my sins, all our sins, each one of our sins, doesn’t matter their gravity in our sight (big one, little one)—each and every one of our sins is displeasing to God. They don’t make Him happy. They make Him angry. “God threatens to punish all who break His commandments.”

But it isn’t just our sins. It’s their source. He’s displeased and angry with those who do them! He’s angry with our flesh, with our human nature. “We are by nature sinful and unclean,” and that’s why we “sin against [Him] in thought, word, and deed, by what we’ve done and by what we have left undone.”

The triune God is “not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with [Him].” (Ps 5:4) The LORD “hates all evildoers.” (Ps 5:5) “His soul hates the wicked.” (Ps 11:5) This is why “wrath of God is revealed against wickedness” (Rom 1), why “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 3).

“What have you deserved from God because of your sins?” (Not to mention because of your sinfulness, your being a sinner.) You’ve deserved “His wrath and displeasure, physical death, and eternal damnation.” (Christian Questions)

((4. Ugh!: Our sins are actually disgusting.))

It’s actually worse than just displeasure, though. Our sins are actually disgusting. Yours are. Mine are, too. To God and to each other. This is why we work to keep our sins hidden from other people, and we trick ourselves into thinking that if other people don’t know, then God doesn’t either. “The LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.” (1 Chr 28:9)

I know exactly what you’re thinking, “‘Disgusting’ is a pretty strong word, pastor. Isn’t that a bit harsh?” It’s actually not harsh enough. “Sin is such a deep corruption of nature that no reason can understand it. Rather, it must be believed from the revelation of Scripture.”(SA III I) The disgusting nature of our sins is why the Old Testament sacrifices were called “a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” Without that, His people were just smelly and disgusting sinners. This is why the part of sin offerings that was unique was the burning up of raw flour. The Lord was teaching how smelly our sins make us to Him.

They make us disgusting to each other, too. It’s why our sins can shatter relationships—irreparably so. Our lack of love toward God and each other, our disregard for His decrees and commandments, make us displeasing and disgusting. Look at how many relationships you’ve soured. Look at what you’ve done, how you failed and continue to fail! Look at the good you didn’t do! You fail God. You fail others. Not just according to what we think is good and bad, but by what God lays out for you in the 10 Commandments. They tell you, quite clearly, what’s pleasing to Him in heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We add insult to injury, though. It’s not only our sins that are the problem, but it’s the good deeds we try to use to placate God, to make Him happy with us again. The Law wasn’t given to make you righteous. To that thinking Isaiah’s Spirit-inspired confession in Isaiah 64 is, “All our righteous deeds”—our good works—“are like a polluted garment” (ESV), “filthy rags” (NIV). (Definitely the Rate-G translation.)

This is what Naaman is trying to do by brining His gold and silver and all his wealth and power. He’s trying to earn his cleansing. Such a cleansing has to cost something, right? Better pony up the big bucks.

((3. Aha!: The cleansing we need doesn’t come from us at all.))

But that’s not true. Naaman’s wrong. We are, too. “The man who thinks that he wants to attain grace by doing his best (faciendo quod est in se) adds sin to sin, so that he becomes doubly guilty.” (Heidelberg XVI) The cleansing we need doesn’t come from us at all. It’s not based on anything we bring to the table. It’s not earned by anything we can bring to the table. This is the root of the centurion’s confession: “Lord, I’m not worthy that you would enter the house of someone like me.” “True hope [cannot] be present unless the judgment of damnation is feared in every work.” (Heidelberg XI)

“Talking this way does not give cause for despairing but for being humbled, even to arouse the desire of seeking Christ’s grace.“ (Heidelberg XII) Cleansing didn’t come from what Naaman did or even believed about the water of the Jordan. It all happened “according to the word of the Man of God.” Only after he was cleansed did Naaman confess: “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.” Naaman now knew that God doesn’t cleanse the clean, nor gives health to the wealthy, but He cleanses the unclean.

The true and living God is the one who worked for Naaman, for the centurion, and for the leper. It’s Jesus. JESUS IS THE GOD WHO CLEANSES.

((2. Whee!: JESUS IS THE GOD WHO CLEANSES.))

JESUS IS THE GOD WHO CLEANSES. He doesn’t cleanse the clean. He doesn’t cleanse those who’re only a little dirty. No, He cleanses the disgusting. That’s the sort of God He is. “It’s not those who are healthy who need a doctor but those who are sick.”

When it came to the leper, Jesus said, “I am willing. Be cleansed!” It’s what He wants to do for the Centurion, too. “I will come to heal him.” “I am not worthy,” the centurion cries. We do, too. That’s true confession. “All our righteous deeds are like filthy rags” (Is 64), and yet “we have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb!”

Jesus is the spotless lamb of God. No sin, no uncleanness of His own. As Zechariah prophesies: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” (Zech 13:2) That day was Calvary. There Jesus shed “His holy, precious blood” for you.

Because of His blood shed for you He answer the prayer we pray often in our church services. His blood is also the answer to that prayer! “Create in Me a clean heart, O God.” He does. His blood does. After all, JESUS IS THE GOD WHO CLEANSES.

Because of what He’s done for us, we really are clean. Only in Him are we clean. Outside of Him, in ourselves, we get into all sorts of disgusting predicaments: sins against Him, sins against the people around us. Yet, “He ever stands for us as our own High Priest.” (Heb 5) He intercedes for us, His blood pleads for us, “better things than the blood of Abel.” (Heb 12) In Him, by faith in Him, “we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Cor 2:15) No longer stinky, dirty, but pleasing.

Jesus continues to do this now for us. He cleanses us not only at Calvary, but each and every day. He cleanses us through the Gospel, “which is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.” (Rom 1:16) His Gospel Word applied to you, whether it’s with Water, through the absolution, or the bread and wine, give you a cleansing that can’t be matched!

“Sanctified,” cleansed, “by the washing of water with the word.” (Eph 5) Washed not in body, but in your conscience, in how you stand before God. Washed in Jesus’ blood. Scrubbed with His empty tomb.

Cleansing for you today: “My body and blood for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” We eat and drink and we receive the cleansing medicine of His forgiveness. “This man welcomes sinners,” the unclean, “and He eats with them.” It’s actually better than that! Jesus doesn’t just want to eat with sinners, He wants to give them something to eat. He wants to serve sinners, to serve the unclean so that they’d no longer be that way. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” JESUS IS THE GOD WHO CLEANSES.

((1. Yeah!: His cleansing alone stands the test of time…and eternity!))

And only Jesus’ cleansing stands the test of time. Our cleansing runs out. We can run out of soap. We can scrub only so hard. But Jesus shows up, and when He cleanses, He cleanses all the uncleanness away. Each and every time.

You know how good the Lord’s cleansing is, just like Naaman did: “His flesh was restored like the flesh of a young child, and he was cleansed.” The Lord doesn’t run out of His forgiveness. One drop of His blood was enough to cleanse all humanity. One sip from the chalice of His blood is enough to cleanse you in His sight, to make you pleasing to His Father, and to strengthen you in faith and in love toward those around you.

JESUS IS THE GOD WHO CLEANSES also forever. His cleansing alone stands the test of time…and eternity! “Many will come from east and west to recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” You get the foretaste of that here: communing with Christ in the most intimate way possible—eating and drinking His body and blood. (This intimacy is only matched by “the angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven” who dwell Him now, and join us now!)

One day that will be you. The God who cleanses will bring you to Himself. You’ll have His name on your forehead. (You already do! You’re baptized.) And “nothing unclean will enter there.” (Rev 22) You and who believe in Him will be there. We’ll enter because we’ll be clean. That’s what Jesus does, after all. “For in Him the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it’s written: ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

᛭ INI ᛭

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