So far, we've traced the scarlet thread through two women's stories - one pretending to be a prostitute and one an actual prostitute, which seems like a weird thread to be woven through the Bible on its way to Jesus. But that's actually not the weirdest thing to happen to the scarlet thread.
For that, we have to turn back a few pages to Leviticus 14.
"Clean" and "Unclean" are difficult concepts for modern Christians; we just don't understand how essential this was to Jewish covenantal life (although, as I have said in other places, I wish sometimes that we did). Still, the Old Testament gives us a bit of a glimpse. It's full of lists of clean and unclean things, rules for cleanliness and uncleanliness, procedures for making the unclean clean again, etc. And it is in this latter group, these procedures, that we see the scarlet thread.
The process for making a person clean after he/she has had a skin disease meeting the criteria for uncleanliness and for making a house clean after it has had an unclean infestation of mold requires a scarlet thread.
...and two birds.
...and a clay bowl.
...and some cedar wood.
....and a hyssop sprig.
...and a little bit of water.
Here's the procedure: the priest puts some water in the clay bowl. He then kills one of the birds over the bowl, spilling its blood in to mix with the water. Taking the cedar wood, hyssop sprig, scarlet thread, and live bird in his hands, he dips them into the blood and water, then sprinkles the mixture over the infected individual or house.
This makes it "clean."
It doesn't really sound clean. Not to most of us. It sounds more like, well...like a mess. But life is messy; there's no way around it. Life is messy. Sanctification is messy. Purification is messy. There's nothing "clean" about any of this.
And if you need proof of that, look no further than the Cross.
On the Cross, we have the scarlet thread - it's the same scarlet thread we've been tracing through the firstborn Son, second Adam, kinsman-redeemer motifs of the Bible. But it's not just that.
...it's a bird (the poor man's sacrifice, stretched out by His wings, heart ripped open).
...and a clay bowl (an earthen vessel, a body formed from dirt in the potter's hands).
...and some wood (the Cross itself).
...and a sprig (tied into a crown of thorns).
...and a little bit of Living Water.
From His side, blood and water flowed, and by the Cross, His blood was shed and sprinkled on an unclean creation that somehow, someway...becomes clean.
It doesn't really sound clean. Not to most of us. It sounds more like, well...like a mess. But love is messy.
Thank God He's not afraid to get a little dirty.