The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)
Older readers will remember a cartoon strip that used to appear in daily newspapers titled “Dennis the Menace.” Dennis was one of my favorite characters, because I thought I was a lot like him. So did my mom and our neighbors! Dennis was always getting into mischief. His questions and his antics were a constant thorn in the side of his neighbor, Mr. Wilson. In one episode Dennis held up a handful of flowers and asked Mr. Wilson, “How can anything so pretty and clean come out of dirt?”
All of us could ask the very same thing about mankind. If we are honest, we will readily admit that we have all felt a lot like the man with leprosy who came to Jesus, knelt before Him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2). In our sinful nature, we are all lepers; we are utterly unclean and ugly in the presence of a holy and righteous God. And yet our Lord Jesus is ready, willing, and able to make us clean.
That cleansing starts when we trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, but that is only the beginning of the Lord’s work. For the rest of our lives, God will be cleaning us from the inside out; one day, when we breathe our last, we will be made perfect. We will be like Christ (1 John 3:2).
Unlike the religious leaders in Israel, Jesus did not withdraw from the leper. He did not reject dirty, downcast, and defiled sinners. He did not avoid the marginalized and the vilified. Our Lord loved the outcasts and He ministered to them. Please take note that Jesus could have very easily healed the leper without saying a word or doing a thing, just as he healed the centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:13. But here “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’” (Matthew 8:3). The religious leaders could not get far enough away from this unclean man, but Jesus met the leper in his place of deep need with the gentle, healing touch of love.
Just as Dennis the Menace held up flowers and wondered how such beauty could come from dirt, we often wonder how we will ever be conformed into the beautiful image of Christ as we stir up dirt in our lives by what we think, do, say, and desire. Fear not, Christian! Jesus is continuing to work in you, removing the dirt from your life. This will not take place in a day, but rather daily. And Jesus will not stop short of removing every speck of dirt from your life and from your heart. And when that day comes when He takes you into glory, He will complete His work, and you will be made whiter than snow.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!