Luke 17: 11-19
Leprosy was a horrific disease in Christ’s time. A little part of you died every day, disfiguring the body and causing severe disabilities. The disease was contagious and there was no cure. Lepers were ostracized from the community. Can you imagine how that must have felt, to be so terribly sick and slowly dying, and cast out on your own, shunned even by your loved ones? (Perhaps you have felt that isolation in your own life. But you are not alone. God is with you, even in your suffering. God is there to hear your prayer and to help you.)
Ten lepers were standing around in a village somewhere between Samaria and Galilee and Jesus walked by. The lepers stood at a distance and shouted to him, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Clearly, they had heard that Jesus could heal the sick. They had faith that Jesus could restore their health.
Jesus commanded them to “Go show yourselves to the priests.” The lepers were obedient and did as they were told and they were cleansed of their illness. Afterwards, nine of the lepers went their way, I would assume grateful for their new health. However, one leper went a step further.
One of the lepers, upon seeing that he was healed, took the time to walk back and find Jesus. He threw himself at his feet and praised God in a loud voice. He didn’t simply whisper a thank you as perhaps the others had done. This leper took the time to seek Jesus out and in a loud voice, praise God! How often do you seek out Jesus and praise God in a loud voice for your blessings? I know I am guilty of saying a quick thank you, or no thank you at all, especially after I’ve been relieved of a big suffering. I am so thrilled to be back to “normal” that I often act like the nine lepers who went on their merry way. If I do remember to say thank you, it’s not always with the sincerity and humility of the one leper who walked back to find Jesus.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” I wonder what Jesus must have felt at that moment. Was he disappointed that the others didn’t return to say thank you? I wonder if I disappoint God when I forget to say thank you? So often I assume that the successes in my life, and the overcoming of my hardships, are because of my hard work, my education, and my willpower. I take credit for so much, and yet, if I am still and quiet, and honest, I know that the glory goes to God, not to me. I don’t always return to God to say, “Thank you!” as this grateful, faithful leper did. It’s a lesson I am still learning, and practicing.
Jesus told the leper, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”
The leper was already cleansed of his disease when he went back to find Jesus, so Jesus was letting him know that he was now blessed even more, because of his faithfulness and gratitude. The phrase Jesus spoke can also be rendered as “Your faith has saved you,” so Jesus may have been indicating that the leper had received salvation on top of physical healing. (See Mt 9:22) The leper who took the time to seek God out, and to praise him, loudly, received more blessings.
Every day, God is working in our lives, giving us the abundance of his creation, giving us life. Let us remember to take the time to “walk back to God” and drop at his feet, and say, in a loud voice, thank you, and praise his name. Let us take heed of the lepers faith and gratitude, and to put it into practice in our own lives, everyday.