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The parable of the ten lepers

Good Morning everyone.

Im ahead of the game this morning – wedding preparations done for this afternoon, and nearly all services ready to go for tomorrow. Might therefore just have a nice luxuriate in the bath – did quite a lot of planting yesterdayso extra achy this morning in the old bones.

Here is an offering for the gospel reading tomorrow – the parable of the 10 lepers.

Jesus heals 10  Lepers

Gospel Reading  Luke 17: 11-19

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

 

Today Leprosy is a mildly contagious disease which is called Hansen’s disease which thankfully can be treated with drugs.

In Jesus’ time Leprosy was a term for a whole range of skin diseases which were assumed to be contagious. If the person did not have leprosy but perhaps a really bad case of acne, then it would get better on its own. In that case the person could go to the priest and show them that they were better.
To be considered as having Leprosy was terrible, not only did it mean that you had an obvious physical ailment, but you were also regarded as spiritually unclean. Such people were unworthy to be allowed to participate in prayers or make sacrifices in the temple. People in Palestine were afraid of lepers because they could infect healthy people with their physical disease, they also despised the lepers as people who must have committed terrible secret sins and were being punished by God. I wonder where we have heard that attitude before? It was not beyond more conservative Christians to see the HIV/Aids outbreak as Gods judgement on gay people – a claim I found utterly offensive.

Since skin diseases cannot be hidden from others from the community, those affected were shunned and forced to live apart. Other people were afraid they could catch their disease from them. Though leprosy is not fatal, it can affect the voice and vision, as well as the skin, nose, toes, and fingers, and the leper’s physical condition continued to deteriorate during his or her lifetime. If you were considered ‘unclean’ you were isolated from friends and family and the rest of the community. It was a wretched existence in which you were cast out to fend for yourself.

The ten lepers keep their distance in accordance with the Law (Lev 13:45-46), but they did call out for help. Interestingly Jesus also kept his distance, responding not with touch as before, but with the instruction to go to the priests. The priest’s role is to inspect the symptoms and if all is well declare the person fit to re-enter social life (Lev 14:2-4). Associated with the declaration was an offering.

How many times do we have to tell our children that they must say ‘Thank you!’.  How many times to we take good fortune for granted or someone elses kindness and forget to include a prayer of thanksgiving to God

However only one returns to do this, the Samaritan. This was worth pointing out because of course the Samaritans were foreigners, not liked by the Jews.

Just as in the parable of the Good Samaritan Luke shows how our own racism can blind us to the good in others and lead us to group together people whom we dislike or are frightened of.

Prejudice can easily blind us to the good in others. So the Samaritan came back to say ‘Thank you,’ he also came to give glory to God. He recognised that Jesus was God in action. This is the poignant nature of the story -lepers were not respectable and Samaritans were despised by many, yet it is one of them who becomes our example. It is yet another disturbing story which challenges us to question ourselves about our attitudes to others and God.

The nine who were healed were content to go off and perhaps looked forward to becoming a part of normal life.

They had been sick for so long  there was much to look forward to and much to distract them from Jesus.  But the Samaritan is concerned firstly about one thing, he wants to thank Jesus, to thank God. The curious thing about this healing is that whilst all were healed of their obvious ailment, only one appears to properly receive God’s gift of true healing.

The Samaritan is cleansed of the obvious skin problems, but that is not of primary importance, the most important thing is to be healed inside and this Jesus does. He tells the man who has fallen at his feet to ‘rise, you faith has made you well.’ The word which Jesus uses, means more than just being physically well, it speaks of wholeness and restoration of body and soul.

The Greek that is translated “ has made you well” ( sesoken from the verb sozo) has to do with salvation. It can be translated “ has saved you”.

Real healing is far more than can be achieved by  medical intervention. Real healing takes place inside us, it is not skin deep. We all need this healing because the worst ailments are not those on the surface of our bodies, instead they lie deep inside our souls and sometimes become so much a part of us that only the power of God can expose our need of healing to us. 

So this parable challenges us to look at our prejudices and how we react to people that are different to us. It invites us to think about the difference between physical well being and our spiritual well-being. The two are interlinked but the deepest healing the parable seems to tell us, is healing spiritually – being in a right relationship with God, with our neighbour and with ourselves. Ultimately that is always more important than perfect physical health.

The parable finally reminds us of the important act of thanksgiving in our lives for all that God gives us – emphasised at this harvest time but an attitude Jesus commends throughout our lives come rain or shine.

October 9, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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