Summary: A new look at the story of 10 lepers
GRATITUDE IN THE SHADE OF THE CROSS!
Few years ago, we had Carl Mitchell of Harding University come to Albania and do series of lectures on family life and issues. Other then the lectures he gave we asked him to preach for us on Sunday. I vividly remember that as he was talking about gratitude or thankfulness he shared an experience from his ministry as an elder. He related one occasion when he and his fellow-elders had asked that all the worship service be centered on gratitude. By that he meant that songs chosen, the partaking of the bread, the giving, the sermon and prayers be centered on gratitude. On prayers he said that we had specifically asked that no requests be made, only thankfulness for what He has done, is doing and will continue to do. Then his comment was: "That Sunday, the prayers were unusually short!"
JESUS MOVING TOWARD JERUSALEM -- (vs. 11a)
In the banquet at the home of Zacchaeus (Luke 19), Jesus revealed in a statement he made in what I understand to be a key verse in the gospel of Luke, both His identity and His mission when he said: "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (19:10). His identity here is related to the divinity as a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel (Dan 7:13) and His mission is clear to seek and to save. His saving work took Him to Jerusalem where He faced the cross. Jesus did know this full well and was prepared to face it. Many times He had to retreat to lonely places in order that He might regain focus of His mission.
With this thought in mind we come to this statement on verse 11, "Now on His way to Jerusalem..." The statement is a reminder for us and its repetition points out that Luke is intentional in its use. It is found three times in Luke (9:51; 13:22 and 17:11). Particularly in Luke 9:51 it reads as follows: "As the time approached for Him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." Prior to the glory of heaven, Jesus had to face the cross of death. Knowing what was ahead of Him, knowing the shame and the agony of the cross, He was still willing to go through it for you and me.
I bring this up because it sets the tone for all that we do. You and I draw get our identity on what Jesus did on Calvary. Moreover, what Jesus did on Calvary should be the motivator, the engine, the fuel (and you can add whatever else comes to your mind) for all that we are and all that we do. I believe that gratitude is properly demanded on children of God because of what God has already done for us.
JESUS AND THE LEPERS (vs. 11b-19)
The dreadful malady of leprosy was a terrible scourge of Mid-East cities in the times of Christ; and, for that matter, still is. The disease itself was considered a type of sin, not necessarily related to specific sins of the victims. Their standing afar off was required by the Old Testament law (Lev 13:45ff). However, think what their affliction had done for them! (a) It brought them to a common level, causing them to forget racial hatred. (b) It made them unclean, (c) isolated them, and (d) made them hopeless.
Jesus commanded to go show themselves to the priests (a necessary requirement of the Law, before they could be pronounced cured and reenter society); and they were healed en route! Only one of them came to Jesus and on a loud voice praised God. Dr Luke is careful to point this out for us, because "An almost total failure of the voice is one of the symptoms of leprosy."
Please note the way he expressed his gratitude: a) came back (the other 9 didn’t), b) praised God in a loud voice (in the same manner they shouted for mercy, vs. 13), and c) threw himself at Jesus’ feet (total respect and humility, in contrast to our politically-correct-emotion-not-showing practice of nowdays).
Jesus’ questions are breath-taking, "Were not all the ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" They asked mercy from Jesus and he showed mercy by healing them, and of them only an allogenes (a compound Greek word which literally is "other-gene/race") alluding that the others where covenanted people of God. The late James Burton Coffman suggests what the other nine thought when Jesus healed them. Please, pay attention to Coffman’s suggestions, because sometimes, as covenanted people, we rationalize in the same way and don’t come back to God to thank Him: