I believe it was in Jim McGuiggan’s book The God of The Towel that I came across the following point. Under the old covenant, there were things that made people unclean: touching a corpse, touching a woman on her period, contacting people with skin diseases, and various sins but Christ reversed that process. David P. Wrights’ article on “Unclean and Clean” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary defines “unclean” as “that which is a threat to or opposes holiness, and hence must be kept separate from that sphere.” He notes there were two classes of uncleanness: those that were natural and necessary (touching a corpse, non-sinning sexual, and diseases) which were permitted and those which were not permitted that dealt more with sin, including sexual transgression.
As people encounter Jesus Christ in the gospels, it is interesting to see him cross the clean/unclean barrier. Jesus is not transformed from clean to unclean by these encounters, as was customary. On the contrary, he is the one who transforms them. He restores the woman who had bled for 12 years (Luke 8:43), he removes the lepers spots (Matthew 8:1-4), and even raised the dead (John 11). In Mark 7:17-23 Jesus reverses the clean/unclean process and centers it on what God intended in the first place (See also Acts 10).
What is more amazing is his power and willingness to forgive sins (Mark 2:9-11). We marvel over lame people walking and blind seeing. We gasp as lepers’ skin becomes whole and the dead are raised to life. But sometimes we forget just how transforming it really is when Jesus forgives sins. He restores us back into the community, back into the presence of the holy. He makes us who he intended us to be. That is transformation. If we were holy, if we had the power to forgive sins, we would probably withhold it from certain people. Not Jesus. Even to those who crucify him, he offers words of forgiveness, “Father forgive them…”
There are many lessons we can take away from Jesus’ power and willingness to forgive. I will just mention two. The first is that he has done the same for us as Christians as we read about in the gospels. The second is that it doesn’t stop there, we have an obligation to pass on that same attitude to others who have treated us unkindly. We forgive them and make our relationships with others whole again. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”- Eph 4:32