Few things in life are more tragic than to have experienced leprosy in first century.
Leprosy was both a physical disease and a social ill. Leprosy was contagious and persons inflicted with leprosy were banned from contact with others.
Leprosy was believed to be a punishment for sin. Therefore, lepers were viewed was second-rate humans.
God’s agenda for his Son was outlined in words from the prophet Isaiah.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
“He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4.18-19; Isaiah 61.1-2)
Lepers definitely fit the category of “the poor, captives, and oppressed.”
When Jesus healed lepers and gave sight to the blind, he brought good news to the marginal people of society.
A Good News Story
As the word about Jesus circulated throughout the region, hope filled the hearts of the sick, demonized, and distraught in the area.
Ten lepers were determined to meet Jesus and ask for mercy.
— Luke 17.11-14 – On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee.
As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,
They called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.
A careful reading of these verses reveals some thoughts worth noting.
(1) The lepers observed the requirements for lepers and kept their distance from Jesus and the band of people who followed him to Jerusalem.
(2) The lepers identified Jesus as “Master.” Distinct from the religious authorities who opposed Jesus, they identified him as the Master.
Their declaration of Jesus as “Master,” follows the Parable of the Master and Servant earlier in Luke 17. They observed the proper relationship with Jesus.
(3) They asked for mercy. Mercy involves the granting of forgiveness and the benefits that only a Superior can bestow.
Effective prayer identifies Jesus as our Master and asks for his mercy.
(4) Only a priest could declare a person clean from leprosy.
Rudy Ross points out in today’s YouTube video that a priest from Jerusalem would have to travel to their location in order to pronounce them clean.
Their cleansing involved a significant effort, both on their part and that of a priest.
God’s work does not eliminate our role in the process. We are not passive, but have a part in responding to God’s grace.
The Rejects’ Reject Responds
Samaritans lived in the northern portion of the Holy Land. They were of mixed race, after the Babylonian exile.
Not only were they of mixed race, but they also had mixed-up religious beliefs.
Samaria was such a problematic place that persons making pilgrimage to Jerusalem would go out of their way to avoid traveling through that region.
Among the lepers was a Samaritan. The story continues with his response to Jesus.
— Luke 17.15-19 – Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.
He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?
“Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
When the Samaritan realized that he was healed, he returned to Jesus with an act of profound gratitude.
— He fell to the ground in grateful adoration of the One who healed him.
— He thanked Jesus and praised God.
— His response to Jesus was one of faith that touched his entire being with God’s well-being.
As a leper, the Samaritan was a reject. As a Samaritan he was a reject among rejects.
His response of faith raised him to a place of sonship and friendship with God.
What happened to the lepers and to this Samaritan in particular is testimony to the abundant love and grace of God.
Truly, God is worthy of all thanks and praise.
Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. Rudy understands the world of Judaism in the first century and contributes his wisdom in the video.
The video is on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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