WHICH LEPER ARE YOU?
Today, Hansen's Disease or leprosy still affects people around the world. It is caused by a bacterium related to tuberculosis...slow-growing and insidious. Since the discovery of antibiotics, leprosy is treatable using a combination of drugs over a six-month to one-year period. Until medicine became available in our modern day, leprosy was incurable. The Old Testament prescribed what a person with suspected leprosy had to do to be diagnosed, and, if he or she was declared a leper, what precautions they had to take so it wouldn't spread.
Going to Jerusalem one day, Jesus passed between Samaria and Galilee. In a village along the way, He was met by ten men with leprosy. From a distance they shouted, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
Evidently, the men recognized Jesus and knew of His healing ministry, so they cried out to Him in desperation. Leprosy was a scourge that was incurable and disfiguring. It was also considered so contagious that lepers had to leave their families and communities to remain socially isolated for the rest of their lives. Imagine never hugging your family again! Not eating together! Awful!
Leprosy damaged nerves that caused numbness. Often lepers injured themselves without knowing it because they had no feeling wherever the leprous sores were found on their body. In time, many lost fingers, toes, their noses and other body parts due to the disease progression. Lepers became disfigured, more and more crippled and helpless, and carried a repugnant odor from their open sores. Leprosy was the curse of their day!
Lepers practiced social isolation to prevent the spread of the disease. They bore the responsibility of crying out "Unclean, unclean!" whenever they saw other people approaching them. The Bible doesn't say they warned Jesus as He came closer. Instead, they immediately cried out to Him for mercy! He was the only One who could help them.
Luke 17:11-19 says that rather than avoiding the men as most people would have done, Jesus spoke with them. "Go and show yourselves to the priests," He said. He could have healed them on the spot and declared them whole again. But He remained true to the custom and practice of the day. Each man had a reputation of being a leper, and God had given the Jews specific instructions about lepers and their reentry into society.
In Leviticus 13 God said when a person had a sore that was suspect for leprosy, the priests had to look at it and then isolate the individual for a week. If the sore faded, the person could be declared clean. If the sore had spread or grown worse, the priest would declare him unclean, a leper. The only way a leper could live like a normal human being again was to be reexamined by the priest and declared clean again. But with true leprosy, that never happened!
So, the ten lepers obeyed Jesus' instruction and started for the synagogue to see the priests. Suddenly, as they walked, the men realized they were healed! Their sores were gone! Any lost body parts were restored. Feeling returned where once they were numb. They were whole again! They had to get to the priest to be declared clean again, so they could go home!
What's wrong with that picture? Why weren't they smitten with the miraculous healing given to them by Jesus? No one in the history of the Israelites had ever been able to cure leprosy before! Why weren't they overcome with awe and thanksgiving?
One of them was! He was also a foreigner, a Samaritan not wedded to tradition and his own desire to see his family and friends as a whole man again! He turned around to see where Jesus walked behind their group. The other nine probably tried to pull him back, arguing that they had to follow Jewish custom and see the priest first. It was God's order for leprosy. Yet, Jesus said in another place that He doesn't put new wine in old wineskins. He was the beginning of the future! the New Covenant!
The Samaritan broke rank, shouting with joy at his healing, and probably ran to where Jesus walked with His disciples. Throwing himself at Jesus' feet, he thanked Him over and over profusely! Little did he realize he was at the feet of his Great High Priest, as well. He was being declared clean by the Priest of a new order. Hear what Jesus said in return:
"Weren't there ten lepers who were healed? Where are the other nine?" The High Priest Jesus ascribed all the glory for their healing to God, His Father, and then declared to the Samaritan, "Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you!" The Samaritan received healing not just in his body; more importantly, he received healing in his spirit and soul---he received salvation! He was CLEAN!
Jesus knew the man at His feet had declared his thankfulness to his companions. They had watched when he left their company to retrace his steps back to where Jesus stood. They, too, could have followed him, but chose not to. They would not and did not break out of their religious mold to thank their Healer. They followed the Law while failing to recognize and worship the One who fulfilled it!
A related passage in Deuteronomy 6 says, "...when the LORD your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name."
Then, as well as now, it was easy to fall into the trap of becoming so enamored with the blessings of God on their lives that they forgot HIM! The nine lepers who headed for the priest and his blessing on them failed to express thanksgiving to the One, the only One, who could have healed them! Without His word, they had been helplessly doomed. They obeyed the letter of the Law, but failed to exercise believing faith in the One who transcends the Law and tradition!
Thankfulness is dreadfully lacking in the Church of America today. God has blessed her with many, many good things, the greatest being salvation from sin. Yet, instead of letting our lives express thankfulness to God, we run after getting more things, more stuff, more fame, more education, promotions on the job and on and on it goes! We leave God in the dust! We utterly ignore Him, forgetting that He is the One from whom comes all the goodness in our lives!
He warned Israel and He warns us today: Do not forget the LORD who brought you out of slavery! The lepers were slaves to an uncurable disease. What a picture that is of our slavery to sin! No matter what we try to do humanly, we cannot save or cure ourselves. God says all of us have sinned and come short of His glory. The only way we can be healed and cleansed from sin is by coming to Jesus and humbling ourselves at His feet like the Samaritan did! Break free of religiosity, formality and wrong priorities. Express your thankfulness to God for His salvation. Never forget the pit from which He dug you!
One out of ten isn't very many that were thankful! Jesus said the way to heaven is narrow and few there are who find it. Take the way of remembrance and thankfulness. Respect and Honor God for what He has done for you. Worship the Giver, not His gifts! Remember God and save your soul!