Summary: "And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan" Luke 17:15-16.
Only the stranger gives praise
Leprosy has always been and still is a dreaded disease. We here at Covenant Presbyterian Church, located not far from the Weija Leprosarium, have been informed of some of the problems lepers face. These problems, apart from their isolation and deformities, include lack of adequate accommodation, water, food, clothing and electricity. In spite of these problems cured lepers remain at the Leprosarium because of rejection by their families. In the face of such suffering our Church decided to help. We then got to know that the Weija Leprosarium was far better off than those located in the deprived areas of the north. This prompted the Church to make their contributions to a Leprosarium in the north instead and the need is such that our contributions should be an ongoing one. Leprosy is a disease that presents us with a picture of sin and its consequences. Sin defiles us and separates us from God. It forces us to live a wretched and miserable life of poverty. It leads to an exchange of our God given garments of righteousness for torn and worn out rags. Like the sinner the leper was a poor and wretched person, dreaded and avoided, and forced to live a miserable life as an outcast without access to work or pay or food. He or she was shabbily dressed with old worn out and torn clothes and depended on charity to meet his or her needs. But God is a good God and He could not see the highlight of His creation in such a condition and do nothing about it. He therefore went to great lengths to save us from sin and its effects. This is the reason why Jesus Christ had to leave His heavenly glory and come into this sinful world. He came to reveal God’s holiness and thereby our sinfulness and our need for cleansing. The story about the ten lepers is a story about us. It is a story about sin and its consequences and our cleansing by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is also a story of the goodness and mercy of God and our response to His gift of healing and salvation. Are we thankful for what the Lord has done for us? In the case of the ten lepers who were healed only one returned to thank Christ. All of them had reason to be thankful but it was only the stranger who gave praise.
God deserves praise and we all have reason to praise Him. If we cannot remember any reason at all the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 100 with the words “Be thankful and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations”. God is good and hears the cry of the sinner. Our condition before salvation was similar to that of the ten lepers before their healing. Just as they realised that their only hope was in Christ and called out to Him saying, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us,” so we also need to realise that our only hope as sinners was in Christ. We need to cry out to Him to forgive and save us. As Christ responded to the lepers cry for help so He responds to our cry for forgiveness. The ten lepers did not doubt Christ’s words of healing in any way and by faith obeyed His command without question. They believed they were healed even though their bodies did not yet show the evidence of their healing. In the same way when Christ saves us our response should be that of faith, believing what Christ has said even before we have the evidence.
Leprosy was the most dreaded disease in Israel and the rest of the ancient world. This terrible condition slowly consumed the flesh of its victims. Eventually the fingers, toes and other extremities would die, rot, and fall off. Compounding the agony of the disfiguring disease were the social stigmas attached to it. The most terrible thing about it was the isolation it brought with its psychological consequences. To prevent others from coming too close, the leper was required to cry ‘Unclean, unclean’ wherever he went. He was banished from the society and exiled from his home and denied access to the place of worship. Leprosy as a picture or type of sin portrays the consuming, horrible effect of sin on a person’s life. Leprosy, like sin, will steal our life, destroy us and eventually kill us. Like the leper we can also come to Christ for cleansing from sin. Like the nine healed lepers many of us also do not see the need to be grateful or the need to say thank you. The lepers literally were given back their lives so why then could they not express their gratitude? The only one who returned to say thank you was the Samaritan. Could it be that the Jewish lepers felt they deserved to be healed because of something they had done or because they were children of Abraham? Have we said thank you to Christ for our salvation or do we take it for granted believing that we deserve it and thereby behave like the nine rather than the Samaritan. Let us all give thanks “For by grace we have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” Eph. 2:8-9. Christ meets our need no matter how wretched our condition, no matter how unclean or unworthy we are, and no matter how hopeless our situation may seem. The least we can do is to say thank you. Have you thanked Him for forgiving and saving you? Have you thanked him for His goodness and mercy?