Summary: We’ve convinced ourselves that “God helps those who help themselves.” Many people believe that’s even in the Bible. It’s not. In fact, I can’t think of anything more unbiblical.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)
What an awesome healing story in today’s Gospel! I’m not referring to the cure; I’m referring to the healing. In a cure, what troubles us is fixed. In healing, what troubles God is fixed.
Healing makes us spiritually whole. Sometimes that includes a cure; but often God cleans our souls while our particular infirmity remains. In our Gospel passage from Luke today, Jesus heals the 10 lepers, but they become cured later on.
The passage is so short we’re tempted to rush through it to get to the action, but Luke often includes a major theological point in just one sentence, moving on to the next point right after it.
Luke says the 10 lepers called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
There’s a simple word that we use today to describe that particular act. Anyone care to guess what it is? (Pause for response)
They were praying to Jesus. We often don’t realize that because the Gospel says Jesus was with them, and the lepers approached him.
But isn’t it the same for us now? After all, in Matthew 18:20 (CEV), Jesus tells us,
“Whenever two or three of you come together in my name, I am there with you.”
And just in case we don’t think he meant us, he tells us again in Matthew 28:18-20, also known as the Great Commission (NLT),
“…, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’”
So they prayed to Jesus, and then what? Jesus responded!
What a concept! We pray to God and he responds!
But he responded differently from how they or we might have expected, didn’t he? Jesus did not say, “Be healed,” or “Your disease is now gone.”
Instead he had them step out in faith. He told them to go show themselves to the priests. Besides being lepers, as if that wasn’t bad enough, we see that one of these guys was a Samaritan. Jews in Samaria had intermarried with the local women, and were shunned by the rest of the Jews.
Samaritans weren’t even allowed to help rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem, and any good Jew traveling between Galilee and Judea would go miles out of his way to cross the Jordan River, walk through what are now Syria and Jordan, and then cross back over the Jordan River into Israel, just to avoid entering Samaria.
As lepers, they had to live outside the village, and shout “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever anyone approached them. Imagine what that will do to your ego after just a short time.
Yet Jesus tells them to go see the priest. He had a reason for that. Under Mosaic Law, the law that God gave to Moses for Israel to obey, the priests determined the severity of any skin disease, and the appropriate remedy including banishment from the city or village.
Any major skin disease was considered leprosy, and was a sign of being cursed. When Aaron and Miriam criticized Moses for his choice of wife, God’s response was direct and included a physical indication of his displeasure with their actions.
In Numbers 12:10-11, we read,
“As the cloud moved from above the Tabernacle, there stood Miriam, her skin as white as snow from leprosy. When Aaron saw what had happened to her, he cried out to Moses, “Oh, my master! Please don’t punish us for this sin we have so foolishly committed.”
Moses prayed for her, but she still had to leave the camp for seven days as the law required. Miriam suffered with the skin disease for a week, and then she was able to return to the camp.
The Book of Leviticus describes the guidelines the priest must follow. Chapter 13:3 says,
“The priest will examine the affected area of the skin. If the hair in the affected area has turned white and the problem appears to be more than skin-deep, it is a serious skin disease, and the priest who examines it must pronounce the person ceremonially unclean.”
Chapter 10:10 says,
“(8) Then the Lord said to Aaron… (10) You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common, between what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean.”
Jesus tells them to go into the village from which they are banished and show them selves to the priests, while they are still lepers!