Sunday, March 04, 2007



We are moving through the Gospel of Luke and we have come to the place where Jesus heals 10 lepers. This is not a parable; this is a real life story. In this case, you might call it an enacted parable.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Jesus and His disciples are slowly making their way toward Jerusalem. This particular story occurs on the border between Samaria and Galilee among a racially-mixed group of lepers. Leprosy is no respecter of persons.

Leprosy back then was a skin disease that slowly rotted away the skin, destroying the nerves as it moved through a person’s body. It was considered incurable and very contagious. Therefore lepers were banned from normal society and lived together as a group, whenever possible. According to Leviticus a person with any kind of infectious disease was to wear torn clothes, unkempt hair, covering the lower part of his face and was to cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever he came near others. They were not only socially unclean, but they were viewed as ritually unclean as well.

They were allowed to attend synagogue but must be huddled in a separate area by themselves. They were the first to arrive and the last to leave the service, so not to contaminate anyone else. Leprosy was a dreaded disease and was viewed as a death sentence. Only two people by name in the Bible were cured of leprosy—Miriam and Naaman. Up to this time it had been over 700 years since anyone was cured of leprosy. This is why it was said that “When the Messiah comes, He will be able to heal a person of leprosy.” This was to be one of three miracles that “only the Messiah could do” and therefore became a clear sign of discovering the genuine Messiah.

NOTE Jesus encountered these ten lepers outside the village. They stood at the proper distance away from Him and called out loudly, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” It’s not clear that they were asking for healing, but for some act of compassion on them in their isolated poverty. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, because only the priest was able to declare a person healed of leprosy.

The text then says, “In the act of going, they were cleansed.” This is striking to me. As they simply obeyed Jesus, they found the greatest gift they could ever have imagined—full cleansing. Their faith was simple enough and had genuine action to it. I mean, what did they have to lose?

So as they were walking together toward the priest, they noticed that they were cleansed. It must have been an amazing experience—a dramatic feeling of shock and freedom.

Only one leper, when discovering his healing, returned to thank Jesus for what He did for him. In the same loud voice that he asked for pity from Jesus, now returns and gives him thanks loudly. Jesus takes care to point out once again that the only one who came back to give thanks for his healing was not a Jew, but a Samaritan.

Four observations come to mind here for me. FIRST—Jesus’ healing and cleansing power—His salvation—is for everyone, no matter what the religious and cultural background.

SECOND—When Jesus says to do something, it pays to do it—even if it is such a simple step. The end result may be more than we asked or could have imagined. These lepers only asked for pity—a little help, but He fully cleansed them of their leprosy.

THIRD—Jesus expects gratitude from us as well as our requests for help and healing. Remember, God is always looking at the heart.

FOURTH—Jesus rewards gratitude toward Him. NOTE that He said, “Your faith has made you well.” The others were now cleansed, too, so Jesus seems to be blessing this grateful leper with an even deeper healing—the healing of the soul.

You know what strikes me most in my life right now? Everyday is a day for gratitude and thanksgiving to God for His blessing. Don’t be one of the nine who were so excited about their healing that they forgot the healer.

This is the most critical and pivotal point of all. We tend to drift away from acknowledging the blessing of God in our lives. We neglect giving thanks. This is precisely what Paul references in Romans 1 when he says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” This is always the beginning of the end—to neglect giving thanks to God for what He has done and what He is doing in your life.