Thursday, April 07, 2011

The 10th Leper

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers...

Wonder why they were hanging out together. Wonder why they came to meet Jesus.

As to the first, my hunch is that shared misery & despair is somehow slightly less miserable. Which, of course, is still true for us today.

As to the second, as lepers, it's quite likely that nobody ever was willing to be "met by 10 lepers." These people were expected to stay away from "regular" "healthy" people. In fact, they were expected to announce their presence from a distance with loud cries & bells & such. "Unclean!" At which point, the other people would steer clear.

...who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

Put yourself in their shoes. Do you hear the anguish in their cry? In their "standing at a distance"? Can you imagine?

When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed.

A rather odd directive, huh? Show yourself to the priests? But what about the illness?? Turns out their biggest need was not to become disease-free after all. (Please re-read that sentence slowly.) Their. biggest. need. was. not. to. become. disease-free. after. all.

Neither was that my biggest need in 2005 (initial cancer diagnosis) & in 2008 (stage IV metastatic melanoma). To be sure, the need for physical healing was all up in my grill then. As it is now, as I face yet another cancer surgery in May. But it was NOT my biggest need, and is not now.

Inner-city Dallas-area pastor Tony Evans once said (paraphrased) "If a man's poor, that's bad. If a man's an addict, that's bad. If a man's hungry, that's bad...But if a man dies without Christ, you just hit him with a blow that he'll never recover from for all of eternity."

This is NOT to minimize the overpowering terrible darkness that is leprosy. (A set of skin diseases that, in that day, were deemed highly contagious & incurable.) There are still leper colonies today, including one over in LA. Of course, stage IV metastatic melanoma is also a dreadful, deadly skin disease that is pretty much considered incurable. One which brings a considerable amount of totally-understandable "Eww, gross!" reactions from folks. Which is why this morning's reading in Luke (note: originally written several weeks back) went straight to my heart... (Important clarification if anyone wonders: I was a believer in the saving grace of Jesus Christ long before I began walking the cancer road. Just so you know.)

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

Note that Luke's account picks up with the lepers enroute to attend to their religious duties. Note also that attending to their religious duties was surely a command that seemed very bizarre & misplaced to them. But they were obedient anyway. (Pause to let this sink in & be applied...They. Were. Obedient. Anyway.) Are we, or does our obedience depend upon the "reasonableness" or "propriety" of the request? Yeah, I didn't like my answer either.

"One of them"...One. Out of ten. What did he do? Turned back to express his thanks. While praising God. (Pause again to let this one sink in & be applied too...)

One more thing: the one was a Samaritan. Which means he was not to be part of "polite society." He was to be considered an outcast. Basically, racism & cultural bias were deeply against him. And yet, (a) he did what was commanded, and (b) he alone was thankful.

Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Wonder where the rest—the "proper" people who were religiously observant & accepted by society—were...


And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Bold & italic stuff throughout this post is taken from Luke 17:11-19)

Note that the outcast was commended for his faith. Note that he was told to rise & go his way. Note that all 10 were healed, but only one was commended for his faith. Note further that the 10 were healed before there was any evidence of #10's faith. (Well, except for their initial cries for mercy).

Am I the 10th leper?

Am I the one who turns back to say "Thank you, Jesus, for my healing!"? The one who is commended for great faith? The one who marvels for the rest of his days at his healing?

Or am I one of the 9? The regular, entitled, ungrateful crowd? Am I like so many who, upon receiving miraculous healing, react with something like "Finally! About dadburn time!" Who feel entitled to good health 24/7/365. (entitled based on what, I haven't a clue...) Who never really acknowledge Jehovah Shammah—The Lord Who Heals. Who never say 'Thanks."

Much to ponder in Luke 17.

Join me in pondering, won't you?

And please pray for this blogging leper to be the 10th one & not one of the 9.



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