The third point of application in this story is a great encouragement for hurting people, especially those who know themselves to be unclean. You know I talk to a lot of people in the course of a year, and people are not always forthright about the things that are rankling deep in their heart. But if you have opportunity to talk to them and pursue it long enough, many people have experiences in their past of which they are so ashamed that they almost cry out thinking themselves to be unclean in different ways.
It may be a sexual sin of one form or another. Or you may look to something in your past and say, “I just behaved in such an abominable, horrible, filthy way back there, I can hardly believe it.” Maybe you’ve had an abortion. Women who have done that say they feel guilty afterward and think their decision has contaminated them for the rest of their lives. Maybe it’s not something you have done, but something in your mind or heart that makes you feel unclean. And don’t think that just because people are in the church or even pursue a religious vocation that they’re untouched by it. Some years ago Leadership magazine ran an article by a clergyman who confessed to lust and the places he had visited all over the country. It was just a horrible thing to read.
Maybe your situation fits one of those areas, or perhaps it’s something else. You look in your past and you say, “I’ve done things that have made me unclean, and every time I think about it, which is often because I can’t get it out of my mind, I realize how dirty I am, how badly I have behaved, and how terribly I’ve failed.” If you’re like that, here is a great encouragement to you, because Jesus Christ is the one who reaches out to the unclean. He’s the one who touches the lepers. He’s the one who fellowships with the publicans and the sinners. He’s the one who seeks out the Canaanites and who calls them to himself in faith and answers their prayer and cleanses them.
You remember how Jesus dealt with that woman who was taken in adultery. He said he didn’t condemn her; he was there to save her. But having spared her and drawn her to himself he said, “Now go and sin no more.” That’s what Jesus wants to do with you. And the wonderful thing is that he’ll take you right where you are. You don’t have to cleanse yourself first. If you had to do that, you couldn’t come because you can’t do it. That’s the problem. But he takes you right as you are, dirty as you are, sinful as are, and right there he offers cleansing through his blood.
The fourth way in which this needs to be applied is by the encouragement it gives to you and to me to come to him. Here was this woman who did not at first receive from Jesus the answer she was hoping for. She came to him and first of all he said nothing. Then when she finally, as it would seem, got him to speak, he said, “I didn’t come for you. I came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” And when the conversation went on a bit further he even called her a dog; yet she kept coming, and he heard her and he answered her prayer.
I say that should be an encouragement to you, whoever you may be, because although that was true in her case that is most certainly not true of you. Jesus is not silent where you are concerned, and he has not turned a deaf ear to your cry. On the contrary, it’s you who have turned a deaf ear to him. The Lord Jesus is the one who reaches out to you with nail-pierced hands which demonstrate his love for you. And he says, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden.” Yes, you who are unclean as well, you who feel unworthy to come, you who deserve nothing and who, if you receive anything have it only on the basis of his mercy. Jesus says to you, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.” What a great encouragement. That’s the Jesus we have. If you need cleansing from whatever it may be, come and you will find it through the blood of Jesus, who is able to wash even the foulest sinner white as snow.