- Sermon Notes
Free as a Bird
We come now to the section in Leviticus called, “The law of the leper.” It describes what the priests should do in case a leper was healed from his leprosy. It was a ceremonial cleansing for the leper if a leper was ever healed of his leprosy.
The amazing thing about all this is that leprosy was incurable. In other words, these provisions for the ceremonial cleansing of a leper were never done. Well, they were never done by any priest until Jesus, the Son of the Living God came from heaven and began to heal lepers.
Leprosy was greatly feared in all cultures and civilizations during that time.It was incurable throughout history until recently. Today there are less than 100 cases reported in the US each year.
In 1873 a Norwegian doctor named Hansen discovered that leprosy was caused by a bacterium. It is therefore sometimes referred to as Hansen’s disease today. Leprosy bacterium is exceptionally resistant to antibiotics. In fact by the 1960s, the world’s only known anti-leprosy drug became virtually useless.Only by utilizing a powerful multi-drug antibiotic therapy can leprosy be effectively treated even today; and that treatment may take 2-3 years to complete.
It’s amazing that God would give a provision for the ceremonial cleansing of a leper when leprosy was incurable.In the entire Old Testament there is only one known case of a leper being healed, and he wasn’t a Hebrew, so this scripture would not have been applied. Both Moses and his sister Miriam experienced momentary leprosy, but they were instantly healed and not considered lepers.
Leprosy represents sin in the scriptures. There are many similarities, starting with the fact that sin is incurable. In the days of Moses, the only known cure for leprosy was a miracle. The same is true for sin; the only known cure is a miracle.
Let me say that again, the only known cure for sin is a miracle. The only way a sinner can be healed of his sin is by the miraculous intervention of God. And every time a sinner is forgiven and reconciled to the Living God, it is a miracle of God’s doing.
The priestly ceremony for the leper healed of his leprosy is clearly a picture of Jesus Christ. The symbols are nothing short of amazing. The only known cure for sin is when the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is applied to your life.
As you will see from these verses, He doesn’t just heal incurable sin; He makes you free as a bird.
I. Begin with an Honest Diagnosis
- Can you imagine suffering an ailment and the doctor glosses over the truth because he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings?
- No, when it comes to your health, you want the truth so you can deal with it straightforwardly. I suggest that when it comes to your eternal soul, you would also want the straightforward truth.
- Jesus said, “If you abide in my word you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- In other words, the first step in being set free is knowing the truth. You need an honest diagnosis.
- Here’s the truth - sin is a debilitating disease that will destroy your life -- and it’s incurable.
- Once you know the truth you can deal with it straightforwardly.
A. Leprosy and sin begin insignificantly
- Leviticus 13:2 describes how leprosy begins with a spot that appears minor and insignificant. It is painless. But it gradually increases. Deep in the body something frightful was at work; the leprosy would utterly consume the victim.
Leviticus 13:2, When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons, the priests.
- Each of these symptoms is a picture of the beginning of the appearance of sin.
- For example, there’s the swelling of the flesh; it’s a picture of the pride of life.
Scrip – Pride puffs up, but loves builds up.
1 John 2:16, All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
- Another symptom; a bright spot on the skin.What an appropriate description of sin’s seemingly simplistic beginning.
- It begins as something pleasurable, something to look forward to, a bright spot in life, but little by little it grows and takes over more and more of the life until it becomes the master and you the slave.
Illus – In the book and movie Lord of the Rings, Gollum found the one ring that controlled all other rings, but it became his master, “My Precious!” he said as he crooned and petted it. He became lost in his desire for the ring. It became his master and destroyed him.
B. Leprosy and sin spread rapidly
- 13:10 -11 describes the condition of chronic leprosy.The disease was capable of spreading rapidly throughout the body.
- What’s interesting is that the incubation period of leprosy is actually quite long, anywhere from 2 to 10 years.In other words, the victim had leprosy long before they started seeing the signs and symptoms.
- Spiritually, we understand that sin actually incubates in a person from birth.You see signs of this early on as all babies are born self-centered and self-focused.
- As leprosy becomes advanced, it attacks the nervous system and the person with leprosy looses feeling.
Illus – Physicians observed victims who have had their fingers or toes eaten off by rats because of their lack of feeling.It can cause blindness because the leper cannot feel sand or grit in their eyes.
- The bible warns that sin has the same effect…
Hebrews 3:13, Encourage one another, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Ephesians 4:17-19 Do not walk as the gentiles also walk… because of the hardness of heart, they, having become calloused, have given themselves over to sensuality and every kind of impurity and greed.
- It’s always shocking when you see someone who has become so calloused and hardened that no amount of sin bothers them. It did at the first, but over time, “No problem, we do this all the time.”
- If we could see what sin looks like from God’s perspective it would make all the difference. God hides the depths of the darkness of sin from all eyes but His own. If we could see sin for what it truly is, if we could see it as God sees it, we could not bear it.
C. Leprosy and sin devastate completely
- One of the great tragedies of leprosy is how insidiously it devastates.
- Leprosy will eventually cause a person to lose their eyes. Their nose shrinks into their face and their hands shrivel and twist until there is nothing left of the man except death.
- Sin brings spiritual death, it also kills your joy, your happiness, and devastates relationships.
Proverbs 14:12 – there is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
- Leprosy is also contagious; it spreads from person to person. To contain the spread of the disease, the leper had to live outside the camp; by himself or with other lepers. When he walked in public he covered his face from his mustache down and cried out, “Unclean, unclean.”
- If he touched a wall, the wall was unclean. If he sat on a stool, the stool was unclean. If laid on a bed, the bed was unclean.
- Sin is also contagious. You can influence others or others can influence you. Therefore, choose carefully who you choose as friends.
Illus – If you choose to hang out with computer geeks, you will start to become one, if you hang out with golfers, you could easily become one, if you hang out with those who party all the time, you will become that yourself.
1 Corinthians 15:33, Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
II. Jesus Heals the Incurable
- This was the law of the leper. On the day he is healed… bring him to the priest for the ceremony of cleansing.
- But there’s just this one thing; the disease was incurable, and every part of ceremony of the priests were symbols of Jesus.
- The deeds of the priest were put there as an Old Testament sermon, pointing to the cross for those who had eyes to see.
A. Jesus is willing; are you?
- As Jesus was beginning His ministry, He finished the famous Sermon on the Mount on the northern slopes of the Sea of Galilee. As He was coming down the mountain…
Matthew 8:2-3, A leper came to Him and bowed down before Him and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
- “I am willing,” Jesus said; be cleansed,” and he reached out His hand and touched him. There was immediately a transfer. Instead of Jesus becoming unclean the man became healed.
Matthew 8:4, And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
- So they brought two live birds, a vessel of fresh water, cedar wood, scarlet string and hyssop.
- This chapter stood unused for 1,500 years. They studied it, but never applied it. There was never a Hebrew leper who was healed. It was incurable.
- Then God sent His Son, His only begotten Son, and one day a leper came into the temple asking for a priest, “I need the ceremony of cleansing for a leper.” “What is this?” the priest would have said. “Who did this, how did this happen to you?” His name is Jesus, He touched me and I was healed.
- Then, not long after, not one, but ten lepers came to the temple asking for a priest. “You’ve all been healed?” “Yes, His name is Jesus.”
- He sent the lepers, Jesus said, as a testimony to them. When the Messiah comes the blind will see, the lame will walk, demons will be cast out, lepers will be healed.
- It would be a testimony to them or a testimony against them.
B. Jesus makes you “free as a bird”
- The picture of Jesus in this chapter is beautiful in every way.
Isaiah 53:5, He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
- Take two live birds, a vessel of fresh, living water, cedar wood, scarlet string, and hyssop.
- Slay a bird in an earthenware vessel over the fresh, running water.
- Tie the live bird to the cedar wood and hyssop with the scarlet string and dip the live bird into the living water with the blood of the bird that was slain.
Psalm 51:7, Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
- Sprinkle the man seven times.
- Let the live bird, now stained by that blood, go free in the open field.
Illus – “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins and sinners plunged beneath that flood loose all their guilty stains.”
Zechariah 13:1, “In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.”
C. You are free to be what you could not be
- The bird is set free in the open field, free to fly as God intended him to fly, but now forever stained by the blood in which he was baptized.
- The live bird is free as the leper is now free, but free to be what? Free to be what he could not be until he was healed.
- Before, when he was a leper, he was unclean and remained outside the camp, outside of fellowship with anything having to do with God and the people of God.
- But now he is healed of that which is incurable and is restored to fellowship with the people of God and with God Himself. He is free to have relationship.
Illus – In Matthew 26, just before He was arrested, Jesus came into the home of Simon the leper and had a meal. Wait. What? Simon was no longer a leper, Jesus healed him, and now they sat together for a meal. The leper was healed of that which was incurable and now He has a meal with the Lord. That’s the point. He can now be what he could never be until he was healed.
- While they were reclining at the table, a woman entered the home and took a vial of expensive perfume and anointed the head of Jesus with the perfume. Many presume this to be Mary, sister of Martha who learned to sit at His feet and listen to His words.
- Jesus had again told them that the Son of Man must be delivered up for crucifixion.
- The disciples did not want to hear this, and it seems evident that they didn't fully grasp what He was saying.
- But Mary had learned to sit at His feet and listen to His words. But more than that, I'm convinced that she heard His heart. “If You are to be crucified, then I will anoint you now for Your burial." It was an act of extravagant love.
- Why did she love extravagantly? “We are attached at the heart,” she could have said, “What you have done for me has no words. You have loved me extravagantly, and you have made me free to love you extravagantly in return.”
Leviticus 14:1-7 NASB
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper, 4 then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed. 5 The priest shall also give orders to slay the one bird in an earthenware vessel over running water. 6 As for the live bird, he shall take it together with the cedar wood and the scarlet string and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was slain over the running water. 7 He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the live bird go free over the open field.