When you take a birds eye look at Scripture and try to pick out various themes, particularly in the Old Testament, you won’t be hard pressed to find the theme of clean and unclean. The Hebrew mind saw the world as either clean or unclean. Certain foods – clean. Other foods, not clean. Certain people – clean. Still others – not so clean, and these you did not want to get near. Perhaps this is because of the way Israel viewed unclean things. They believed that unclean stuff was sticky, and could get all over the place if you weren’t careful. For example, a dead body. If you touched a dead body, you were considered unclean for seven days (Num. 19:11) which meant you were on the “outs” with the community until your time of “purification” was over.
That’s where the mikveh came in. A mikveh was a pool of water (ranging from a natural pond to a man made pool), preferably of rain water, large enough to immerse an adult person in, and created to make people ceremonially clean. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter a mikveh as part of his preparation for entering the Holy of Holies. The pools of Bethesda and the Pool of Siloam, mentioned in the NT, are both examples of mikvehs. Here’s why I have been thinking about this. The Gospels never show Jesus taking a bath to cleanse himself. We see him touch all kinds of lepers, dead people and all kind of other sorts of unclean people, but no gospel writer records him taking a bath to be ceremonially clean. In fact, in Mark 7, some of Jesus’ disciples are eating with unclean hands, and the teachers of the law give him a hard time about it. What’s going on? What was Jesus doing? Was he taking certain satisfaction from watching the religious elite squirm? Was he making a statement, or was he simply doing what came natural?
This weekend I read from Exodus 30 about the sacred anointing oil that “consecrated” and made “holy” whatever it touched. This in turn became true of the articles of the Tabernacle that were touched by the oil – like the oil, whatever they touched became holy. Question: what if Jesus didn’t take a bath because he was the bath? What if Jesus was painting a picture for his people of what it means to be the Temple of the Holy Spirit. You are the bath and when people come in contact with you they sense stuff like wholeness, peace, purity and dignity, coming on.
The ramifications of this idea, no reality, are as complex as they are exciting, but I offer one as a way of getting us thinking about it, and I offer it in the form of a question. When you touch something or someone, does it make a difference how you treat or interact with that person or thing if you know it is holy? If you know in that moment of touch that he or she is God’s, set apart, perfectly loved by Love Himself?