The Faith of Lepers

The Faith of Lepers

Luke 17:11-19

v11 Jesus is in the last year of His life on earth. Have you ever known someone with a terminal illness, who knows that they will be passing on soon? Jesus knew that very soon He would have to endure betrayel and a terrible death on the cross. This was His last journey here on earth.

v12-13 These lepers possesed hope & faith. They were considered “Unclean” and outcasts. They were not allowed to be a part of normal society. They were not allowed to freely mingle with ‘normal’ people. From the time they had leprosy they had been told by society that they were worthless, unable to draw near to God, a burden to the people around them, that they were a disgrace, sub-human.

And yet these ten lepers had heard about Jesus. And Jesus Himself was here NOW. They stood! And although society preferred that they keep themselves silent and unseen yet they cried out to Jesus!

For perhaps the first time in many many years they actually felt hope stirring. Not only that but they had FAITH that Jesus could heal them! They believed He could change their miserable lives – and indeed He could!

v14 Now Jesus didn’t immediately heal them. In fact Luke doesn’t record Him ever mentioning healing. Yet there could be only one reason that He told them to go and see the priests. And so by their faith in Jesus they went on their way to the priests and they were healed!

We can learn alot from the faith of these lepers. What kind of faith was it? It was the kind of faith that does not require all of the details first. It didn’t demand to understand. It didn’t even care very much about ‘how’ it would all happen.

v15-18 They had faith & were healed on their way to the priests. But why is it that only one returned to show his gratitude to Jesus? And a foreigner at that? There are two explanations that come to mind:

1. When the priests examined them and delcared them clean they at the same time earnestly tried to convince them that it was somehow a result of works and obedience and not really because of Jesus. The burden of works can be heavy indeed, let us not fall under this!

2. During my time in India I spent about 2 or 3 months working in a few Leprosy colonies. The lepers were all required to live segregated from the ‘normal’ community. I was part of a team doing ‘mercy missions’ among them and I can still remember our first day.

There was an elderly woman whose eyes could no longer see She complained that she had trouble sleeping at night because her foot itched and kept her up. So we gently took off her cheap rubber show and saw that her big toe on her right foot was missing.

Instead there was a hole about the size of a cherry extending back into her foot. Closer inspection revealed that this cavity in her foot was filled with maggots. No wonder she was kept up at night with itching!

In the end over 70 maggots were removed by tweezers, one by one. Over the next couple of months I met many lepers and cleansed their wounds. They were so starved for attention, to be seen as an equal human being! I became friends with several of them.

One day as we were stuck in traffic on our way somewhere there happend to be a leper dragging himself along the road begging. He pleaded with a miserable expression on his face and pleading in his eyes. And then he recognized us – I had just seen him and cleaned him up yesterday. I had cleansed his wounds, applied ointment, and bandaged him to prevent further damage. And yet now I saw him dirty, with sore open wounds. As he recognized us his face lit up with a wonderful smile and a glint entered his eyes!

Somehow his countenance changed as he recognized us as friends. I wondered what had happened to his bandages that we had spent so much time applying just the day before and asked him as much.

He replied that he was very grateful for all we did for him but that he was unable to earn much money begging when he looked cared for. And so it was that I learned something new.

For the leper, he or she has the identity of a beggar. It’s the ‘trade’ or ‘skill’ that they know. When you take that away then there comes an identity crisis! If I’m not a beggar then who am I? How shall I survive? How will I eat? What will I do now?

So with this experience and insight I can well imagine that only one leper returned to thank Jesus. All ten had faith in Him and received their healing as a result. But perhaps after the excitement died down there was a realization that their lives were changed.

And suddenly they didn’t know how to go on. And the priests talked about all the new duties that would be expected of them as they were now part of society again. And so it happened that only one retained his sense of gratitude for the Lord!

You may also have a sense of being diseased, if not physically then mentally or emotionally You may also have been told for most of your life that you are a second class human. You might even believe that you are unable to draw near to God in the same way as others because of your disease.

Today if you will have faith in Jesus in the same way as these ten lepers then cry out to Him in faith and He will answer you! Do not settle any longer for lies – lies that you are an outcast of society, that you are an outcast from the community and presence of God.

Instead let faith rise up, the same faith as these lepers had – faith that did not require all the details or understanding of ‘how’. Be men and women of faith that will stand up and cry out to the Lord KNOWING that He can make a change in your life!