A Lesson from the Lepers
The biggest disease of today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted… Mother Teresa
Reading from –The Ten Lepers-Luke 17: 11-19
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
“Running out to the store” changed a lot during the pandemic. Many of the faces were masked. As a nurse, I am used to wearing a mask when necessary. It can however, make those that you are caring for feel very venerable. It is such a natural tendency to search another’s facial expressions for reassurance especially when procedures may be uncomfortable, fearing a bad diagnosis or outcome. It makes it all the more necessary for compassion to shine in your eyes and most of all that you talk with patients, explaining things to them and conveying reassuring and comforting words.
However it is a new arena out there in the general public. This morning at the store I noticed fear in the eyes of some masked faces, especially if they felt someone was not far away enough from them or may be headed in their direction. As I drove home, I could not help but think of the story of the lepers.
You can hardly think of leprosy without thinking of Jesus helping those with the disease and, in later times, Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa dedicated her life to help alleviate the stigma of leprosy as well as housing those with the disease. She developed a colony named Place of Peace caring for those with leprosy and raising funds for the cure. She and those who aided her were doing the unthinkable because they went into the very “gutters” of pain, stench and rejection. Her work, not only in India, but also throughout the world, changed so many people’s lives. Prestigious Humanitarian Awards were given to her and a monument of her likeness was made in her remembrance. Later after her death when her letters were released; the darkness she felt from the suffering she so closely dwelled in, made her light shine even more brightly to the world.
Yet, it is her words of wisdom that most of us remember her by and her quotes are just as inspiring today as the moments she spoke them. She was very known to say she simply showed love to others because she loved Jesus. For it was this One who went before her that she wanted to show others to follow.
And of the One who went before her…
There is a cure for leprosy today; however in Jesus time there was no cure or vaccine (there still is no vaccine.) Though not as highly contagious as it was thought to be it is still diagnosed in many parts of the world today, including the United States. It is considered rare though it can still be contagious to others if someone is not treated. Until recent years it was highly feared (and rightfully so) because it causes open sores that can disfigure the face as well as the limbs of the body. It is highly neurologically painful as well and can later cause no feeling to the arms and legs. Leprosy can also affect the eyes. Those with leprosy were sent out away from their families and cities. In Biblical times God gave Moses the laws of the Levites with instructions to make atonement for the unclean. It allowed them to go to the priest if they were cured from skin disease. Skin ailments during that time were sometimes called leprosy. The ceremonial cleansing provided reinstatement in the community after completing a lengthy ritual of cleansing and sacrificing. (Leviticus 14:10-32.)
Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and was passing through Samaria and Galilee. (To the Jews it was unthinkable to even pass through Samaria.) In reaching a village, there were ten leprous men in the distance, or as the King James Version says they stood afar off. (Does a group of ten and standing at a distance remind you of social restrictions at this time of COVID- 19?)
By the law Lepers could not come near others and had to announce themselves if they had to pass through or come up in the village for any reason. In royal announcements you would have your name announced for all to admire you as you made your entrance. For them they had to yell UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN; then see the fear in others who cleared the way for them.
The ten men cried out for Jesus to have mercy on them. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest. Which they did as they were going along they were healed (cleansed.) WOW!
One of them turned back to thank Jesus when he saw he was healed; with a Loud voice Glorifying God!! (We know Jesus healed through God’s authority and power.) He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet. .. And the part I love most; He was a Samaritan!!
Samaritans were the half breed Jews. They were considered the tainted Jews and there was law after law about how they were not to be associated with. So here was this Samaritan leper, an outcast of the outcast. Talking to a Jew out in public!
Jesus asked, "Were there not ten cleansed where are the other nine?" (For sake of those around to point out that only this foreigner or stranger turned back to thank him.) Most theologians think the other nine were Jews.
Then he spoke such beautiful words to him and said “Stand up and go: your faith has made you well…
There it was that beautiful moment when he bowed down at the feet of the One who would soon go to the cross. According to Isaiah 52:14 Jesus would be marred beyond recognition. ..Just as many were astonished at you. So his appearance was marred more than any man and his form more than the sons of man. Yet by his wounds we are healed. Our King was not acknowledged by a royal announcement, but mocked in the streets on the way to the cross as he carried the weight of our sinful uncleanliness. I have often wondered if the other nine would soon know of this and even think about their lack of gratefulness. Yet God showed them so much grace when they asked for mercy.
We Need to Remember: “The thing I love most about the story of Joshua is that he was always setting up stones in remembrance of what the Lord had done…” Melody Jones Ballard to the Sunday school children. (Joshua 4:3-9 & Joshua 24:26)
Are we all not asking for mercy and healing of our Nations at this time of Pandemic? Will we thank God or forget Him as soon as things seem to be getting better on the horizon?
In a time of uncertainty, such as these last few weeks and what the next weeks will bring, I ask myself many times if I am setting up reminders to help me look back and see the Great things God has done even through this. What are the ways we can do this?
With pop up memories on our phones, calendars, Facebook walls, etc. we can be reminded of what we are doing now, this time next year. We can keep record of so many wonderful things that have happened in this and see how much more God has made good from bad even a year or more from now.
Journaling on the good things and reminding ourselves there are so many more of them than the bad is a great reminder. We can write down all our prayer needs and looking back to see how God has answered them and thanking Him through it all. We can make a ”memorial “in our garden, etc.
We have so many people to thank at times like this. Are we letting them know in some way how grateful we are? It takes so little in this day and age to text, instant message or call to let them know. For it is so many times what we do not say that we later regret. How many times have we mourned over a missed opportunity to let someone know we love and care about them? Have we thanked God for bringing them in to our lives? (Philippians 1:3) I thank my God every time I remember you.
How much I hope that I will not forget to thank God and Jesus for all they have done and will do for me in my life, but I am sure there are so many times I have just gone on my way. I also know there are so many times I have complained when I should be bowing before the feet of Jesus and giving praise to God for His wonderful mercy.
Thank you God that even in the midst of this, you have given us so many ways to grow in this season of our journeys.
~ Donna Smith
In this story Jesus sent the ten to see the priest even though they still had their affliction. They showed obedience and went on their way.
Has there been a time you have called on Jesus for mercy and prayed in his name and found it hard to just get going while you are waiting for an answer?
Did you feel like God was waiting to see if you would obey and go on with what He has told you to do before He would act on your need? (An act of Faith)
The Samaritan in this story according to the Jews (but not God) would be the one they would considered as less entitled to God’s mercy.
Do you think that the Samaritan came back because he had a humble heart rather than a prideful entitled one?
Do you think that is why he bowed before Jesus as he thanked God? (James 4:10- Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.)
James 4:6, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." The best way to stay humble is not to grumble, but give thanks. God led the Israelites through the desert for 40 years before a generation could enter the Promised Land because they were contemptuous and complaining, yet He was so gracious to His people. Have you often found yourself complaining in this time of COVID-19? Have you tried to be a good example for the generations that are watching you?
What are some things in the last few months you have taken for granted, and maybe even complained about, that you now see were things to be so thankful for?
THE SAMARITAN WAS SHOUTING GLORY TO GOD ON THE STREETS! (THE SAME ONE WHO WAS SHOUTING UNCLEAN JUST A SHORT TIME BEFORE)
Have you told others about the great things God has done for you and the difference meeting Jesus has made in our life recently?