Today we read some of the rules to determine “uncleanliness”. This is tough reading, describing in detail how to determine when a woman can reenter the community after childbirth and when a leper has to be exiled from the camp. Today, these rules seem harsh and unnecessary to us.
However, think about it in context. The rules for cleanliness after child birth actually had an important practical effect. Giving birth in our modern times is tough on a woman. Imagine back then, with no anesthesia or modern medicine of any kind. The rules give the mother plenty of time to rest and recover. Furthermore, we know now that in the first few weeks the child’s immune system kicks into high gear. The unclean period gives the child time to strengthen itself. Why a longer time for girls? Probably because in general girls are smaller as babies. The extra time allows the time for her to catch up.
And what of the lepers? It seems cruel to kick them out of camp. However, this is the world’s first effective quarantine. It is from here that we first got the rudimentary understanding that people infected with contagions should be kept separate to prevent the spread of infection.
The Apostles are becoming bolder and have come out of hiding. They travel to the temple to preach. There Peter heals a man who has been lame for life. The crowd is enthralled. They recognize that this is a great miracle. The gather together and Peter preaches to them. He says some important things.
…and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Notice, Peter calls Jesus, “the Author of life”. This is one of the clearest statements that Jesus is God.
Second, notice that Peter says that faith, particularly faith in Jesus has cured this man. As discussed previously, when we reviewed Peter’s first sermon faith is always presumed to be the pre-requisite. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that faith brings about a call to action. As Peter said in his first sermon, when asked ‘what must we do to be saved’, he responded “repent and be baptized”, Peter delivers the same message now:
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out…