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The Road to Passover - Part 2

Luke 17

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

The path towards Jerusalem and the events of the Passover continued for Jesus.

Walking down from the north through the villages towards Jericho and then on to the capital of Jerusalem, Jesus mingled with scores of thousands of pilgrims bustling through settlements large and small as they made their way to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. Always, Jesus’ fame and reputation went before Him and those afflicted with the diseases and maladies of all kinds followed and cried out for healing.

We live in an age where much of the world can head towards the local doctor or hospital for treatments of all kinds. I live in a large capital city of over 2 million people, with many doctor’s practices nearby and hospitals within a relatively short drive by car or access via public transport. They generally do well at treating illness, but it can still be an onerous task. Our country provides taxpayer-funded health care for most situations. Yet there are thousands and thousands within my city who still have festering diseases and problems.

There are many diseases, illnesses, injuries for which there is simply no cure, no remedy, no relief. My daughter, afflicted with cerebral palsy, is such a case. It doesn’t matter how many doctors, specialists, therapists, programs or technologies we have continued to engage in for over almost 17 years as I write; there is simply no cure, no way to change her condition. Our whole family lives with the disability every day.

These men who suffered from leprosy, probably significantly disfigured, cried for what? Certainty? A demonstration of Jesus’ power? 10 theological proofs of His divinity or messiah-ship?

No. They simply called on Him for pity. They had heard. They knew He could heal. They were desperate for Him to heal them.

Perhaps you’ve felt that kind of desperation. You would give anything and everything for healing. Anything and everything for the removal of the desolate situation you find yourself in. It could be drugs, family strife, the consequences of your own foolishness or even crimes, or just the crippling disease that brings you low every single day of your life. Like these ten men.

“They Stood At A Distance”

Leprosy untreated creates hideous disfigurements. They stood at a distance, obviously infected. The contagion spreads through close sustained contact - usually over months - with someone infected with leprosy who coughs or sneezes. They knew in that day that it spread through prolonged contact, so lepers were shunned and isolated. Kept at a distance. It’s a long-term kind of disease that was frightening to others then and frightening to others today. It is only through 6-12 months’ worth of multi-drug therapies that it can be cured in an individual today.

So when the ten were begging for healing, they were begging not only for relief but for restoration of their lives. They were asking for pity to save them in their daily life. And their expectation was that it would be instant. A miracle that modern science can never replicate.

Jesus, hearing them, told them: “Go see the priests.” He heard them. He didn’t turn aside. He didn’t busy Himself or even look on from afar and think, “those poor people.” No, he had both compassion and the power to do something. So He did.

“Go see the priests”, because it was right that they could and should go to the religious authorities and show that He had healed them along the way, so that that they could not just be physically healed but be readmitted to the congregation of Israel. Allowed to rejoin the people, to offer sacrifice and to thank God at The Temple, no longer at a distance. To be fully approved and restored in their obedience to God.

Because they followed the instructions of Jesus, and because of God’s gracious healing power granted through the Word of Christ, the ten men were healed. Cleansed. Completely. A miracle not only of healing, but of restoration.

But Only One Returned To Give Thanks

Notice what Jesus says, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?!”

Jesus is genuinely surprised. Wouldn’t you be? Ten lepers that you had healed from this horrible disease and restored to the community. Yet only ONE returned to say thanks.

The one who returned was a Samaritan! He was one of those of the despised race. The Jews looked down on the Samaritans as less than dogs. Yet this is the man, having seen the priests, who goes out to find Jesus on the road so that he can thank Him - praising God loudly and throwing Himself at Jesus’ feet as the humblest, adoring servant.

“Do not think to say we have Abraham as our father”, said John the Baptist (see Matt.3:5-12). Those with the higher pedigrees think they have an automatic right.

Let’s understand fully Jesus’ point of view here. If you are healed, if you receive benefit, if you receive blessing, you SHOULD thank the one who gave it. To be ungrateful is to be wretched and still apart from God. Those who were raised part of Israel, with the daily declaration of the Shema - “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is One” (Deut.6:4) - who were raised with the Psalms of Praise and Thanksgiving, who had the benefit of the priests, the Scriptures, the Temple, the history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of Moses, David, Elijah; They should have been the ones driven to come back and praise God and give thanks to the one by whom God healed. But they didn’t.

It was this lowly, despised Samaritan who was truly thankful for the healing he had received. He did not feel entitled. Instead, he felt redeemed by the work of Christ.

This shocking display would only be built upon the closer and closer Jesus got to Jerusalem. Ironically, the closer He was to the seat of those who were trained to give praise and thanks to God for His teachings, His example of compassion, and His great

miracles, the greater the condemnation and rejection He faced.

It’s a question for us, isn’t it? Which side do we fall down on? There are many who receive the blessings of God and of Jesus Christ in this lifetime. Those with great education, enviable lifestyles, material prosperity and wealth, who toss aside Jesus’ example and instruction and have no time for Him. “I have to get my kids to soccer practice. There’s no time for church. I’m just private in my faith.” From that through to outright rebellion because they feel they have been healed by Christ and have no further need to display anything towards Him and God. They take everything for granted and in the process take nothing back to God.

The other nine had nothing further to do with the Christ.

The Samaritan, however, Jesus blessed.

“Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Made him well and made him whole. Unlike the other nine, he didn’t simply have new health. He had something much greater - reconciliation with the Son of God.

It was his faith that had made him whole. Faith that sought God, obeyed God and returned to seek His face and fall down at his feet as an offering of his life.

Where do we fall down?

The ten lepers knew that Jesus could heal; cried out to Him to take pity on them. That’s the way we must turn if we want healing. But if we wish to be made truly whole we need to turn back to, praise and throw our lives down at the feet of Jesus Christ. Then He can know us and truly bless us by saying, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

For Jesus, the road lay yet ahead. He looked down its path to see the many lepers lining the way to Passover - those whose own hearts had been infected, mutilated and scarred over so that they would not open, would not hear and obey in faith so that they might be healed - and knew that they would turn their backs on Him even after He had healed them.

Just a few would return to Him. Only a few.

And so Jesus resumed His walk to Jerusalem.

(c) 2023

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