What is the "heart" behind Lev 5:3? Did Jesus sin when he touched a leper?
What is the "heart" behind Leviticus 5:3? The reason I asked is because according to this verse, in the Old Testament anyone who touches anything that could make him unclean, even unwittingly, makes him guilty. Now, Jesus intentionally touched a leper (Matthew 8:1-4), yet remained guiltless (Hebrews 4:15). I assume the reason for this is because he, while doing so, remained faithful to the very heart of Leviticus 5:3, whatever that may be. Would you please shed light on this?
One thing which is a big part of the Mosaic Law which is hard for most of us to grasp is that the Jews were required to offer sacrifices for unintentional sins. The Sin Offering and the Guilt Offering were for sins committed without intent. They were never intended to remove guilt for willful, rebellious sinful acts. It is hard for us to understand being guilty of a sin for doing something accidentally, but that is an important idea in the Law of Moses. In fact, you might be surprised to know that the solution to sins committed intentionally is not made clear in the Old Testament.
Therefore, you should not be surprised at the injunction in Leviticus that one is guilty even if one touches a leper or other unclean person unintentionally. Let me share how I view this. I belive that every teaching in the Old Testament, especially in Leviticus is there in order to teach us who are under the New Covenant a spiritual principle. Hebrews 10:26 tells us that those who willfully continue in sin after receiving salvation are in danger of being cut off from the Holy Spirit and losing our salvation. My interpretation of Leviticus 5:3 and other passages for us is that we ought to be extremely careful against willfully and intentionally sinning against God. All of us will sin. All of us will have lust or deceitfulness or ungodly anger and so forth are guilty of the NT equivalent of "unintentional sin", but woe to us if we choose willfully to engage in practices we know are sinful. As in the Law of Moses, God has provided for "unintentional sins", but in the end there may well be no forgiveness of sins for such intentional sins.
Be aware that this is my own personal view on these things. You may want to think carefully for yourself what I am saying and whether it makes sense.
Then there is the question of Jesus. Clearly he touched lepers. According to a strict interpretation of Mosaic law, this is a violation which would have made Jesus ceremonially unclean. I believe it was merely a matter of ceremonial uncleanness, not a sin to touch a leper. Jesus never sinned, but he was willing to do things which would make him ceremonially unclean. Perhaps you ought to do a study on the implications in the Old Testament of ceremonial uncleanness. This concept is there to teach us about sin. Touching a leper has symbolic signifigance which is relevant to the Christian. This is pretty deep stuff.
John Oakes, PhD