After my series on the parables, I found I was drawn to look into the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. I have never studies the mighty works of Jesus as a focused effort before and am looking forward to finding nuggets of truth that we can be encouraged by.
I have provided a general introduction, with an opportunity to download two files for your reference in my initial post Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction. I found that the format I used for the parable posts were useful to keep me on track, and will continue to use them for this series, with some minor tweaks. With that said, let’s take a look at
Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers
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.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
Ten lepers, standing at a distance. Of course they had to for leprosy required a distance from others, a space that was demanded by the law to protect the non-leper. Leprosy is a horrible disease that brings about the deadening of the nerves, and therefore the inability to feel pain. The progression of this disease results in tissue degeneration, extremities (fingers, toes, noses etc) eroding, and unintentional damage to the body due to the warning system of pain not functioning. Have you ever thought of pain as a gift? A leper may hold a coal of fire in his hand without experiencing pain, further damaging his hand, further crippling him in the process.
This disease was a much feared condition in the ancient world, and the Jewish religion provided many safeguards for the nation to restrict its spread among the population. One of these restrictions was a required space to be maintained when the leper was in the company of the non-leper. The leper also had to declare openly amongst the community his condition, by crying out “Unclean, unclean” (Leviticus 13:45).
The law did provide a process of being declared clean, and this included the leper going to the priest and requesting an examination. This process must have been one of the priests least favored responsibilities, since it may include the examination of a person who still had leprosy, making it possible for the priest to contract the disease himself.
Of course this process of examination by a priest within the nation of Israel is never recorded, and only one person in the Old Testament is ever spoken of as experiencing healing of his condition. Naaman (an enemy and foreigner to Israel) followed Elisha’s counsel and experienced a healing. As for Miriam, Moses sister, as she was dealt a judgement of leprosy for her rebellion against Moses, there is no record of her healing.
So for centuries, to be a leper was to be condemned to a life of isolation, rejection, self deterioration and poverty. Until an itinerant preacher showed up and began to heal lepers. And the blind. Raising even the dead!
So far, Jesus has brought healing to a single leper by approaching him, and actually touching the leper (See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus #7 – Jesus Cleanses a Man With Leprosy) Everything about that miracle was unconventional, yet Jesus goes further with this mighty work!
Questions to Consider
Who were the audience?
The ten lepers, the twelve disciples and possibly some villagers. Yet even as I say that, for the lepers to be in the area would mean the villagers would not be. It is likely that the lepers were all alone with the Master and His disciples.
When did the Lord perform this mighty work?
Where did the Lord perform this mighty work?
See Signs and Mighty Works of Jesus – Introduction for downloadable reference file.
Why did the Lord perform this mighty work?
The lepers requested mercy, and Jesus is a merciful God. Later on in the apostle Paul’s writings, He is described as rich in mercy. And we know our God is One who is good to all, and that His mercy is over all that He has made (Psalm 145:9)
How often has Jesus expressed mercy to those who deserve judgement? I think of the woman caught in adultery, and the Lord not condemning her, though He was the only One who had the right. I think of the times I have missed the mark, and yet the Lord is constantly overseeing my life, guiding, comforting, challenging and directing. He is a merciful God and the lepers were in good standing at this point of the text. They identified Jesus correctly as One who was merciful and able to heal. Astute lepers!
What was the message for the original audience?
The lepers, by heading to the priest, exhibited obedience to Jesus call, received healing. The text does not teach us that upon healing, they began to venture to the priest. No, the text describes the healing to be in response to thier obedience to the command of Jesus.
Ten clean lepers. Ten lepers who had heard the voice of Jesus, acted upon the voice of Jesus, and received a physical healing of leprosy. Ten lepers who were in the process of obeying Jesus, yet one leper “disobeyed” and returned to the Master, expressing thankfulness, praising God with a loud voice, and worshipped the Rabbi.
Imagine the other nine, for they must surely have heard the one who turned to Jesus. Did they intentionally ignore the one who turned to Jesus instead of a priest? Did the group dynamic keep them in lock step to the priest’s home in order to get on with life? Did they consider the one leper to be over zealous, extreme, unbalanced, even radical?
What is the message for us today?
Do you remember when you first met Jesus? Did you experience a sigh of relief, how you escaped the flames of hell, how you found relief from judgement. Did the experience center on you or Him? Did you head to the priest (become religious) or did you turn to Jesus and give thanks.
How about today? Is there a heart of thankfulness for the person of Christ? For His ever present mercy, for the very character of Christ? Have you maintained a thankful spirit throughout your sojourn with Him? Or did a rule keep you from seeing the person of Christ?
A preacher once challenged his congregation to consider God to be the antithesis of Jesus. Non merciful, non gracious, non truthful… It is a frightful thought!
Keep your eye on the One who showed mercy to those in need. Mercy is His first desire. He loves to show mercy.
We often take for granted the nature and character of the One we follow. Let us not be like the nine who obeyed to receive, but like the one who returned to Jesus, the one who praised Him and thanked Him for His mercy, the one who left the nine to be with the One.
Give thanks to God for His abundant mercy, for His holy character, for His truthful nature and continual love towards His creation, for His guidance and direction, for His unending care, for His justice and grace, for being God!
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