PASTOR'S PEN: Leprosy, thankfulness and wholeness
As they were making their way toward the village, they noticed it. Strength and vitality were coming back into their ravaged bodies. The arm that had been useless only moments before is in full operation. The leg that had been dragging is now kicking. The fingers that had been missing are restored. These 10 men weren’t surprised but at the same time they were completely amazed. They couldn’t help themselves. Yes, it’s really true! We are truly healed from this dreaded disease! We can return to our wives and children, to the normal life of society now!
This incident is referring to the famous passage from the gospel of Luke, chapter 17, where Jesus tells the 10 lepers to go and show themselves to the priests.
The lepers must have been a pitiful lot. This disease was not just terminal, it was also contagious. When a person was diagnosed with leprosy, he or she was forced to leave the town or village and to remain isolated from all their loved ones and everyone they knew. The law required lepers in Jesus’ day to remain 100 paces (200 or 300 feet) from others. The lepers carried a bell with them to warn people not to come near. When they saw others, lepers were required to yell “unclean” as a warning.
The lepers, bonded by their particular fate, would often stay together in caves or remote places of refuge known as leper colonies. They depended upon friends and loved ones to come and leave food where it could be retrieved. These men shared their food as well as their disease and their misery.
One such leper colony existed in an unnamed village situated near the border between the regions of Galilee and Samaria. There were at least 10 lepers in this one colony, some no doubt in worse condition and closer to death than the others. The lepers of this colony had heard about this man named Jesus, the Prophet from Nazareth in Galilee, who had instantly healed others of this same dreaded disease.
And they also heard that Jesus and His companions were traveling on a road that would bring Him into their vicinity. And so these 10 men made their way toward the road and waited. They stayed in a clearing and remained the required distance away, but they vowed they were going to do everything in their power to get the attention of this Man of miracles.
And when the fateful time came, the men shouted and rang their bells and made as much commotion as possible. Jesus heard and He stopped.
“Jesus,” they shouted, “have mercy on us!”
And Jesus did. He told them to go and present themselves to the priest in the village. The lepers knew exactly what that meant. In the law it was required for a person healed from leprosy to be evaluated thoroughly by the priest first before the leper could return to normal society. The lepers heeded Jesus and began to make their way toward the village to see the priest.
And as they went, they felt strength and vitality returning to their bodies.
Indeed, they were gloriously and completely healed!
One of the 10, who happened to be a Samaritan (meaning he was non-Jewish and normally an avowed enemy of the Jews), stopped in his tracks. His heart was so overflowing with gratitude toward Jesus that he had to run back to where Jesus was and express his feelings.
And we know the rest of the story. Jesus was greatly pleased with the man who came back to give praise to God. And Jesus commended the man for exhibiting a spirit of thanksgiving, even though this man was a “foreigner.”
And Jesus said something to this man that He did not say to the other nine: “Your faith has made you whole.”
Ten men were cleansed from leprosy by the command of Jesus the Son of God that day. Only one was made whole, however; the one who was thankful enough to return and give praise to God.