Summary: Historical scientific report on what happened to the nine lepers who failed to return to express gratitude.
One of the traditional passages that we look at each Thanksgiving is Luke 17:17, where Jesus says to the one former-leper who has returned in gratitude “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?”
Good questions. And I’m happy to be here to tell you tonight that we finally have answers. Through the modern wonders of DNA sampling, halo 2 technology, digital photography, and advances in historical research methodology -- we’ve been able to analyze ancient 1st century health department records and reconstruct census information – to come up with an amazingly clear picture of what happened to the other nine.
And in lieu of a sermon this evening I want to give you a brief overview of these people who were cleansed of leprosy by Jesus.
Now, I’m sure that you remember from high school health class that leprosy is a nasty disease of the skin – known to be highly contagious – and while it is easily treated with modern drugs, in the ancient world it was a hopeless condition.
Your flesh literally rotted on your body not only causing extreme pain in some cases but also disfiguration. And because no one wanted to live around people with the stench of rotting flesh and because of the contagiousness of the disease – lepers were banished to live outside the cities – where they tended to create colonies that were dependent on the charity of family and others who would leave donations at a distance and then run.
This is the background to Luke 17:11-13 (ESV) – “On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’”
And, of course, you know the rest of the story – Luke 17:14 (ESV) – “When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’”
This was in keeping with the Jewish law. If you were healed of leprosy the priests in the Temple had to give you a certificate of health. They functioned as the health department.
Then vs. 14 adds – “And as they went they were cleansed.”
And you know that one returned to give thanks and the other nine did not. That’s background.
So what exactly did happen to the nine who didn’t return?
This is where our sort’a scientific study comes in.
Subject #1 was a 37-year-old male by the name of RON – and you remember that in the ancient world Jewish people did not have last names. Romans often did – but not Jews. So we only know subject #1 as RON (very Jewish name).
And we’ve determined that Ron’s family and friends heard about the miracle and rushed to the Temple, arriving just as he was walking out with his certificate of health. And after a major group hug they told him that in celebration of the restoration of his legs they were all going skiing at Bear. They even had his old board with them. And so they all jumped directly in the Suburban and headed to the snow.
Now, it’s not that Ron was ungrateful for what Jesus had done – that’s not it at all! It’s just that family and friends were top priority – which when you think about it is pretty noble. If you’re going to shaft God of the worship and thanksgiving which is due him – what more wholesome way to do it than with family and friends.
The second subject identified in our research was a 29-year-old Leper named CLINT.
Clint was an anomaly in the first century world – he was a non- practicing Jew – and he made no bones about it. Now, there were Jews who were not as religious as other Jews but they at least pretended to be as religious as they could.
Not Clint. All indicators are that he had a bit of a rebellious streak his entire life. His kindergarten teacher left a “doesn’t play well with others” comment on his permanent record. And that became a bit of an understatement as he got older.
He was his own person – an independent thinker – someone who didn’t mind challenging everything and everyone. So when Jesus told him to go to the priests – he took offense.
Shouldn’t people be free to choose their own religions? Why did he need to go see the Temple priests when he knew that they were all a bunch of phonies anyway. They just pretended to be better than everyone else. And he prided himself on the fact that he hadn’t set foot in the Temple in over 20 years.
No way was he going to start just because some wandering miracle worker told him to go – even if he did heal him.