And the priest shall examine him again on the seventh day, and if the diseased area has faded and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean… And the priest shall look, and if the eruption has spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a leprous disease. Leviticus 13:6-8
Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. Matthew 26:33-35
In our reading from Matthew Jesus institutes what we now call “the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper” or “communion” or the “Eucharist.” In doing so He reveals the depth of His love for His own. He is about to give His body and shed His blood for them. Do they understand this?
No, because they are in oblivion. Their immediate and unanimous response is that they will stand by Him and die. He assures them that they will not stand by Him, rather they will all abandon Him. They repeat their assertions. Do they make good on their enthusiastic promises? No, not at all.
The disciples were like lepers who tell themselves they are clean when they are actually very sick with no possibility of healing. In ancient Israel lepers and all who had skin eruptions had to consult with the priest or one of his sons. Sick people ran the risk of spreading disease among the members of the community. They were not to be trusted to diagnose themselves. That was the responsibility of the priest.
So, too, Jesus diagnosed His disciples. Their own diagnosis was completely wrong, but Jesus told them the truth. They were cowards. They were liars. They could talk the talk, but not walk the walk. But they could not even recognize the depth of their sin and need.
That is precisely why He died. He died to save His people from their sin, which should have been as obvious as incurable leprosy, erupting on every inch of their bodies. But before they could be saved, they would need to see how utterly unworthy they were. They had horrific, spiritual leprosy coupled with serious spiritual oblivion. Is it bad? It is fatal. Eternally fatal.
Think about it
Unlike the priests in the old covenant days, Jesus could not only diagnose the illness. He could and did cure it at the cost of His own body and blood. Are you speechless? I am.
© 2017 John A Carroll Used by permission