Summary: Don’t forget to attain wholeness by giving thanks to God.
Please read the scripture first: Luke 17:11-19
A wealthy businessman lay on his deathbed. His preacher came to visit and talked about God’s healing power and prayed for his parishioner. When the preacher was done, the businessman said, “Preacher, if God heals me, I’ll give the church a million dollars.” Miraculously, the businessman got better and within a few short weeks was out of the hospital.
Several months later, the preacher bumped into this businessman on the sidewalk and said, “You know, when you were in the hospital dying, you promised to give the church a million dollars if you got well. We haven’t received it as of yet.” The businessman replied, “Did I say that? I guess that goes to show how sick I really was!”
The scripture lesson today tells a story of Jesus healing ten lepers and only one came back to thank him. The unique part of this healing story is that there was no physical contact in the process. There was no rubbing of spit or touching of Jesus garment. All Jesus did was asking them to go and show themselves to the priest. In those days, only the priests have the authority to declare someone clean. The Bible says, “... as they went, they were made clean.” That means they were healed by their faith in the word of Jesus Christ.
I would like to highlight three important action steps that God is calling us to take based on this passage.
The first action step is...
1 – Be Alert to God’s Presence
One thing that amazes me from this passage is in verses 11-13, “As Jesus entered the village, these lepers approached him, keeping their distance, and called out to him, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’” First, how did they know that Jesus was someone who has the power to heal them? Second, how did they know that Jesus was passing by? Third, why did they call him “Master,” which is the term used mostly by his disciples?
In those days lepers are regarded as unclean by the Jewish ritual laws, and they were relegated to the outskirt of the towns. Out of sight, out of mind! The Levitical law mandated that they announced their uncleanness to the world. Leviticus 13:45 says, “The person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.”” One of the ways the world has always managed to keep marginalized people in their place is to have them acknowledge their own condition.
Maybe it’s somewhat like the way we want to treat the undocumented immigrants, forcing them to acknowledge themselves as illegal and always stay under the shadow of the society, earning under-minimum wages. I don’t have the answer; I am one of those that want our borders secured and our citizens safe. However, this passage is calling us to think whether we want to keep them outside of our borders is so that we don’t have to face the poverty abroad that we are partially responsible for creating; another out of sight, out to mind attempt?
Within our own communities in the nearby deteriorating cities like Paterson, Newark, and Jersey City, we build affordable housing and as the poor people moved in the rich moved out leaving the formerly thriving areas to become ghettos.
How about our own lives? Have you ever encountered in your life that you have been put down by the society and labeled as “unclean,” just because you have done certain things in the past, behave certain ways, or talk in certain accent? In our lives we are often defined by people. Has anyone defined you because you are divorced, or poor, or in some kind of condition that is beyond your control that the society finds it unacceptable and keeps you in the outskirt of their lives?
These ten lepers are no different from what you would see outside of the gates and walls of most towns and cities in those days. What’s admirable about these ten lepers is that they never succumb to their condition. They kept their ears and eyes open about the world around them with hope, and they were aware of the coming of the savior to their village. They must be reading the newspapers regularly and found out about this man name Jesus! It seems that they already wanted to follow him when he heard him in the news and maybe that’s why they called him intimately, “Master,” even though they just saw him for the first time.
They are somewhat like the shepherds in the field that heard the announcement of the arrival of the savoir, while the rest of the world including the royal family were oblivious to what was happening in the manger, except those wise men from the east. The lesson for us is that no matter what condition we are in, we must not let our condition blind us or deafen us from being aware of God’s presence among us.