Summary: ...as sin affects the people around the sinner, so much more do the blessings of God affect the lives around the one blessed.
Does anyone know what Hansen’s disease is? Anyone ever hear of it?
How about if I use the other name it’s known by, Leprosy?
Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, has been around for a while and it is still ‘a thing’ in many countries, including here in the U.S. We can read accounts of it in scripture and in other texts, but did you know that there are about 200 new cases reported every year in the United States?
Leprosy is still around.
And although it’s curable today with a regimen of several drugs administered over a period of about six months, it’s no small feat to get rid of it.
Did you know that a person infected with leprosy typically won’t have symptoms for a very long time?
Some sources state it can lie dormant without symptoms for between 5 and 20 years. When it does manifest, the symptoms exhibit themselves in several notable ways – general weakness, nerve damage and it can even affect the eyes. The nerve damage often results in loss of feeling in extremities which can cause minor cuts and abrasions to become infected because they will often go unnoticed.
In many cases, the disease causes disfigurement – notably of the hands, face and feet, but discolored blotches of skin will appear on arms and legs and the torso. Tellingly, the disease is named from the Greek word for scale. Those suffering the long term effects of the disease have very visible disfigurement, and were shunned from open society – forced into leper colonies and separated from everyone else.
In 2016 there were about 216,000 new cases reported worldwide – most coming from just 14 countries, with India accounting for more than half. In the last 20 years, 16 million people have been cured of leprosy.
Leprosy brings with it not only the physical suffering but also the old social stigmas that remain even today, and like many other diseases, the stigma is one of the main barriers to self-reporting and early treatment.
While things have changed a great deal in our ability to identify and tackle diseases, Leprosy remains a factor even today and, if we want to observe something revealing of human nature, it makes for a great study in scriptural truth.
One such study can be found in the Gospel according to Luke – where we find Jesus on his way to Jerusalem passing along through Samaria and Galilee in chapter 17, verses 11 through 19.
Let’s read about this encounter: [Read LUKE 17, 11-19]
Notice how they were keeping a distance, and the lovely scriptural way of saying they shouted, ‘lifting up their voices.’ They kept a distance because the law required those with leprosy to keep their distance.
So here’s 10 lepers calling out, ‘Jesus, Master have mercy on us.’
So what did Jesus do? Did He turn his back on them, tell them to stay away? Go get a job and a haircut?
No, we see Jesus making this interesting command, “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.”
Why to the priests?
Well, if you have read the Old Testament book of Leviticus in chapters 13 and 14, it was the priests who were charged with declaring people clean or unclean. God had given the law to Moses, and the law not only set out what the priests were to look for, but prescribed the precise methods around dealing with and isolating those with or those suspected with cases of the disease.
There is even prescribed dealings with the leprosy found in the walls of homes and in clothing.
So Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests – and not just priest, but the plural form, priests, because being cured of Leprosy was a big, big deal. These people’s lives were ruined – condemned to be shunned, separate and live in isolation – by law.
In those days, a cure was pretty much unheard of and certainly due to the seriousness of the consequences of the disease, letting these 10 guys loose into the general population would cause quite the commotion and disruption – so Jesus told them go show themselves to the priests.
Go get examined – the purpose clearly here, was to be declared clean. This was a life-altering, life-changing moment for these 10 men, because as we read, they were cleansed as they went.
Imagine having this horrible, horrible disease back then.
Nobody wants to be near you, nobody can be near you except other lepers. The law mandates that you live away from the general population – separated, removed from any social gatherings, you can’t even touch your own children. Life was pretty harsh as it was, but to be a leper in those days made it even worse.
Then along comes Jesus; you cry out to Him, begging Him to have mercy on you.