The Ten Lepers.
This evening I want to read a story from Luke 17 (page ). It is not just a story though; it is an actual event in the life of Jesus. It happened fairly near the end of His life here on earth, He was on His way to Jerusalem where He would be put to death. [Luke 17:11-19 As Jesus made His way to Jerusalem, He went along the border between Samaria and Galilee. (Jesus was heading from His home in the north to the Capital in the south. He had to pass through the region of Samaria, a different people who had some mixed-up religious ideas.) As He was going into a village He was met by ten men suffering from a dreaded skin disease. (Your Bible may say “leprosy” – but it was a dreaded skin disease, it was contagious and associated with a real social stigma. A bit like AIDS was – if you had it you were a social outcast, you were not allowed contact with other people because it was contagious – you had to live apart from everyone else, and if they came near you had to call out “unclean”. These 10 lepers went around together because they were cast out from society – they kept together for mutual support and companionship. It was “as Jesus entered the village” – they were outside it. Close but not part of it – they probably had to live off the scraps that were discarded from the town. You were considered unclean, defiled, you could not come to the temple, you were not allowed near other people, let alone God! So, leprosy became a picture of sin – it left you dirty, cut off from God, separated from those you love – sin does that. Imagine what it would be like! Cut off from everybody, excluded, alone; unable to get a job, unable just to get on with your life. You can probably picture it better than I can – here you are cut off from society because of the deeds you have done) They stood at a distance (they were not allowed near other people) and shouted, “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us!” (They shouted because they couldn’t come near but they wanted to attract Jesus’ attention. They were cut off from society but they had heard about Jesus. They knew His Name and they addressed Him respectfully as “Master”. Jesus had healed other lepers, perhaps word had come to them – maybe He would do something for them in their miserable situation. They appealed for “pity”, they asked for mercy. They didn’t deserve anything but they were in a desperate situation and they appealed to Jesus compassion, for Him to have mercy) Jesus saw them and said to them, “Go and let the priests examine you.” (He didn’t pronounce them healed, lay hands on them or anything He just gave them a command to go to the priests. Lepers were not permitted back into society until the priest had pronounced them clean, so that is why they were sent. But they were not healed yet, it says:) On the way they were made clean. (it was only as they obeyed that they were healed. Faith acts, it obeys. They believed Jesus could heal them, that is why they shouted out to Him in the first place, that is why they went to the priest even although they could not see any sign of healing. They had faith in Jesus.) When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself to the ground at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. (you know, one of those godless heathen foreigners – the Jews despised them) Jesus said, “There were ten men who were healed; where are the other nine? Why is this foreigner the only one who came back to give thanks to God?” And Jesus said to him, “Get up and go; your faith has made you well.”] These 10 men were stigmatised as “unclean” – the unclean could not have contact with the clean because they would contaminate them. You keep away from someone with an infectious disease lest you catch it. You cannot allow the healthy to be exposed. That which is evil has to be kept apart from that which is righteous and holy. The Bible tells us that we “all have sinned” and that our “sins have made a separation between us and our God”. We cannot draw near to Him – apart from Jesus. Jesus is the only hope for the unclean. He was the only hope for these lepers and that is why they cried out to Him. The prophet Joel wrote that: “Whoever calls upon the Name of the LORD will be saved!” You may be in a situation tonight that is too big for you to handle, there is no way out. You are living with the consequences of not going God’s way – if you call upon the Name of Jesus there is deliverance – just as there was for these 10 lepers. All of them were cleansed. The Bible says in [1 John 1:7 But if we live in the light—just as He is in the light—then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies(cleanses) us from every sin.] Praise God that He is merciful and hears our cry for mercy. Jesus saw their predicament – and He knew how to respond appropriately to their need. Bless His Name! God's Word says that His blood "is cleansing" us as we walk in the Light we must believe that He will do as He says – just like the lepers. As we go we are cleansed – but we still see sin there – do we try and rub off the leprous spots? Think it hasn't worked? No, we trust that He will do as He said and as we go we are cleansed. You may be dirty, done stuff that leaves you unclean – Jesus alone can make you clean again. That is a wonderful thing – to be clean, to have your sin removed as far as the east is from the west! For your guilt to be gone! These lepers could rejoin society – they must have been over the moon to find themselves healed. But only one returned to give thanks to Jesus. The leprosy was gone! Hallelujah! And he was overjoyed! He was grateful! He was overflowing with exuberant uncontainable praise for God! He didn't care who heard or what they thought. God had done great things and he declared His greatness – he was "glorifying God with a loud voice". He was not shy or reticent – he wanted everyone to know! He appreciated what Jesus had done – and gave glory where it was due. How controlled and sensible and orderly we are – very correct – but God has done great things for us! Hallelujah! BLESS HIS NAME! We should be exuberant! Loud in our praises! Grateful! Overflowing with thanksgiving and appreciation. Jesus was delighted with his response. It was genuine, sincere, from the heart, real. All were healed, but only "one" returned to give thanks. We are very quick to ask God, but very slow to return to give thanks, and even less ready to give praise and worship – to glorify God. Yet that is the very reason we were created. What about the other 9? They were healed. They had got what they wanted – their leprosy was gone, they were cleansed, all they needed was the official nod from the priests and they were back to life as normal, back into society once more. Is God just a means to get what you want?! That is often how we regard God – a supernatural genie we can summon to put things right for us, call to our aid, fix up our life for us. The Samaritan had a better concept of who God is. He recognized Jesus as God and worshiped: "he fell on his face at His feet". A Samaritan knew God better than His own people. How familiarity can breed contempt – we can get very pally and familiar with God. We go to Him and give Him orders, He graciously meets our need and we just carry on our own way. A supernatural miracle has happened! It is the hand of God at work in our lives! That is what salvation, new-birth is! We have been cleansed and it is the hand of God Himself at work in us! We should return with thanksgiving and praise. We should fall on our faces before Him in worship. What surprised Jesus was that he was the only one. “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they?” The answer is that they were taken up with their own lives. They had been cut off from society, missed out for a long time; they had some making up to do! Now they could return to society, to their families, to their business. In short, they were taken up with themselves. They appreciated that they were cleansed, but they had no appreciation of the One who did it. Jesus merely existed to make things go well for them, to put things right. This is the attitude of a huge number within the church. They come to Jesus because of their need, they look to Him to help them in their situation, to put things right. They come to Him as a supernatural source to enable them to get on with their own lives. The motivation is SELFISH! They do not come to Jesus for Himself – because of who He is. They do not appreciate Him, except as a means to their own end. They went on their way as if this was their right, their due. No appreciation. Taking God for granted! We do it all the time! Every breath is from Him! The sun rises each day only because He causes it to. Absolutely everything we have is from Him! We are totally dependent upon His goodness and grace. But we take the rain, the sunrise, our food, our health, all for granted. We even construct an explanation whereby God is totally left out of the picture – these things just happen, just natural processes. We exclude God. We take all that He gives us for granted! We just carry on with our lives without stopping, without pausing for just a moment to acknowledge Him. The Samaritan was on his face before Jesus! This miraculous healing had made him realise just who Jesus is! He is God! Jesus said to him: "Stand up. Go. Your faith has made you well" What kind of blessing is this? After all, all 10 lepers were "cleansed"; they all had faith – believed that Jesus would heal them. But this Samaritan showed another level of faith – not just believing that Jesus could heal, he believed that Jesus was God! He saw beyond the sign to where the sign pointed. He saw the implication of the miracle: that Jesus is God! The others had faith for healing, but they just carried on with their lives – they did not encounter God. They did not meet God through what happened; they were taken up with themselves. Were they healed, cleansed? Yes. So what was this blessing upon the Samaritan beyond what they received? Jesus said his faith had made him well but the word actually is “saved”. The 9 were healed but he was "SAVED". This was saving faith; the others only had healing faith. This man had faith in God, he had met with God! He worshipped! The Samaritan’s nine friends were declared clean by the priest, but he was declared saved by the Son of God! While it is wonderful to experience the miracle of physical healing, it is even more wonderful to experience the miracle of eternal salvation. We don’t deserve it – it is grace. “By grace you are saved through faith”. Do you come along to this meeting because it is to your advantage – it looks good before the parole board? Do you come because you have some need that you want met? Do you come to God for selfish reasons, for what He can do for you; or do you believe that He is God and come to Him simply because He is worthy?