Sunday service
Date: 17/08/2014
Luke 17:11-19, Lessons from the ten lepers
By Pastor V.J. Sigudla
As Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers came to him for healing. Presumably they had heard tales of miraculous healing. Presumably word had reached their leper colony of the incredible acts of this traveling holy man. Why wouldn’t they want to go and see him for themselves?
But that wouldn’t have been as easy to achieve as we might think. Lepers were segregated into colonies: ostracized from the mainstream of society, punished for their sins, so it was believed, by God striking them down with this deadly disease And there were strict rules and regulations about where they could stand and how they could present themselves in public. For example, in Leviticus 13 it says:
1.1. “A person who has a dreaded skin disease must wear torn clothes,
1.2. leave his hair uncombed,
1.3. cover the lower part of his face,
1.4. and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ (Quite frankly, that sounds like a lot of teenagers I know…)
1.5. But in Numbers 5 it says that, “Everyone with a dreaded skin disease…must be sent out, so they will not defile the camp, where God lives amongst his people.” In specifics, it is thought that lepers had to stand at least 50 yards downwind when they were coming anywhere near the clean people of society.
So here we pick up Luke’s story again that “Keeping their distance, [the lepers] called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” And then we get that beautiful biblical phrase that we have thought about before through our sermons together. It says, “Jesus saw them…”
I love that phrase so much…
2. Jesus saw them…
2.1. So many people would have looked at them and never see them as Jesus saw them.
2.2. So many people would have judged their appearance.
2.3. So many people would have stared and turned away in disgust at what they had seen.
2.4. But Jesus saw them which is to say, he looked below their exterior, he looked below their disfigurements and he saw the beautiful person beneath.
2.5. Jesus saw them…just as he sees you and he sees me and he said to them “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
2.6. That was part of the Jewish law of the day: if a leper was cured, they had to go to the priest and get a certificate stating officially that they were now clean. Only when they had a certificate would they be allowed to go back home.
2.7. So the ten lepers set out to see the priest and, to be fair to all ten, there is an act of faith here because, as of yet, none of them had been healed and yet they obeyed Jesus’ words to head off to the priests as if they had been healed. And because of their faith, we are told that, “as they went, they were made clean.”
2.8. Well, we cannot imagine the celebrations that must have ensued.
2.8.1. They were clean again.
2.8.2. The disease was gone.
2.8.3. Their separation, their isolation from society was at an end.
2.8.4. They could go home and return to their husbands, wives, parents and children.
2.8.5. The nightmare was over!
2.9. And of course, as a result, that which bonded them together as a unit was now gone and they were free to go their own ways.
2.10. Perhaps a little bit like army buddies who may have spent months, even years, living together, working together, sleeping together but when they are discharged they go their own ways and resume their separate lives.
2.11. As united as they had been as lepers, they were probably quite glad to go their separate ways and begin rebuilding their shattered lives.
2.12. And so the company of ex-lepers split up and we are left with two questions:
2.12.1. First, what happened to the other nine?
2.12.2. Second, why did the tenth leper go back and say ‘Thank you’?
2.13. Let’s think about these two questions:
First of all, what happened to the other nine?
2.13.1. We need to be careful not to read something into this passage that simply isn’t there…
2.13.2. There is no reason to believe that the nine lepers who didn’t go back to Jesus were just rude and ungrateful.
2.13.3. It doesn’t say that and, actually, it would be silly to infer that. Of course they would have been grateful! Of course they would have felt indebted to Jesus!
2.13.4. He had transformed their lives and restored them to wholeness! And after all, they were following his order to go to the priests…
3.1. It is not right not to thank God for what he is doing for us.
3.2. It is a right thing just to go and say thank you to your parents, friends, pastors, whoever did a good thing to you.
3.3. It is also good to say thank you to someone who did badly to you by so doing you might win the person to Christ.


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