Summary: The story of the 10 Lepers is a story that pertains to the condition of the church world today.
ONLY ONE CAME BACK
Sunday, March 13, 2005 – AM
Luke 17:11-19, "And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole."
Leprosy is disease that is feared around the world. We have tried to dress it up just a little and alleviate some of the fear by giving it a different name. We now call it “Hansen’s Disease”. From 1894 to 1999 one of the greatest treatment centers, or hospitals, in the world was located not very far from here at an abandoned and remodeled plantation at Carville, Louisiana. The hospital in Carville closed its doors in 1999 and no longer treats patients for Hansen’s Disease.
Today, we have learned a lot about leprosy and how it is treated. It is not as contagious as many once thought and there are treatments and medications to cure it. But for those who are susceptible to catching it, the disease that is spread pretty much the same way as the flu or a cold is spread – through sneezing and coughing around other people. The good thing is that the vast majority of people will never catch it because their immune systems prevent it from developing. The sad thing is that there are still a lot of people who contract leprosy every year and most of them are children.
Every hour, 65 new cases of leprosy are detected; 11 of these affect children. Leprosy is relatively rare in the United States, where 200 new cases are detected every year and 6,000 people are on record as having the disease. Leprosy flourishes in poor countries, where personal hygiene reduces the ability of the immune system of the body to fight off disease. Despite man’s best efforts it is proving to be a daunting task to eradicate leprosy around the world. Worldwide, about 700,000 new cases were detected in 1997, and three countries—India, Indonesia, and Myanmar (a small country bordering on southern India)—account for 70 percent of the new cases reported every year.
We have come a long way in the treatment of leprosy. But in the time of history when Jesus walked the earth, leprosy was the number one most feared disease known to mankind. It was a horrible disease that brought on years of suffering, and separation, and, after watching the body literally fall apart piece by piece, a welcomed death would come as the only relief.
I cannot begin to imagine how terrible it must have been to be a leper during that time. There was no treatment. Once the disease was found you were immediately declared “unclean” by the Priest and suddenly became as though you were dead to everything and everyone you loved. No one could ever have contact with you again. You just disappeared from the mainstream of life to dwell among the other lepers, all of whom were in different stages of dying.
When we think of the horror and hopelessness of leprosy, it’s not hard for us to imagine how desperate these 10 lepers were who stood afar off from the Lord and cried out for mercy. They knew that Jesus was their only possible hope for deliverance. No power on earth could help them now. Their only hope was in the mercy and power of God to perform a miracle.
These lepers were not bad people, worse than all the rest. They were actually pretty good citizens. They respected Jesus as a true man sent from God. They respected the law of the land and the judgment of the priests. They did not rebel against the Law of Moses. They were respectful, obedient and trusting, and so when Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, they just turned and went toward the temple. Only the priest had the power to pronounce them clean and cured so that they could return to a normal life again. The problem that most of them had was that they had an “unthankful spirit”.