The maths seems simple. Ten lepers cry for mercy and are cured but only one returns to praise God and thank Jesus. The maths seems simple as so it can be when we see and make an opinion of people based on what they do and have done before us in our societies. It can seem very straightforward and uncomplicated, but it almost never is.
In my previous job in a bank we were undertaking a training session about the importance of “checks and balances” within the workplace to reduce the risk of embezzlement and the instructor said that on the law of averages if you have ten people, no matter what the situation one will always be honest, one will always be dishonest and for the other eight it will depend on their situations. Eight out of the ten that want to do the right thing but given the wrong situation, be it to feed an addiction, make the payments on a house they can’t afford or to just put food on the table are susceptible to fall into doing something they otherwise would not. It seems a damning statistic until I see Abraham and Isaac on a mountain top or God the Father giving His Son Jesus Christ to be nailed to a cross on a lonely hill in Jerusalem and realise that given the wrong situation or one of such gravity I am one of those eight, or in today’s Gospel-one of the nine.
Ten lepers. Nine Jewish and considered the people of God and one a Samaritan despised by the people of God. Two types from either side of the tracks normally separated by racial and religious differences but here united as outcasts by their societies because off their carrying a highly contagious and incurable disease that most certainly would result in premature death.
The diseased, dis-enfranchised and rejected hidden from society and living in those parts where only the odd passer-by may unwillingly stumble upon and hear their warning cries of “unclean” before taking a wide birth around them. All except Jesus who as we’ve heard heals all ten and in the commentaries I’ve read many summarise that nine of the ten in not returning took their physical healing for granted and as such did not accept His spiritual healing as evidenced in the returning and grateful Samaritan. They may be right and certainly Jesus commends the returning Samaritan but before we get on board with such judgements let’s have a closer look at these ten people and especially the nine.
Firstly, not just these lepers but with all lepers is it not a mark of high character that living under the bondage of a disease that they did not earn or deserve that they actually warned away those not inflicted from themselves. Then with these lepers, nine Jewish and one Samaritan “enemy” could they not have simply turned away from the one and had a tidy Jewish leper colony of their own. Then when Jesus approaches, as one they cry out to Him for mercy only to hear a most puzzling response “to go and show yourselves to the priests” and remarkably without hesitation or reasoned follow up questions, they do just that and in discovering on the way that they have been cured, only one returns to thank Jesus while the nine continue on their way. Which I might add is what Jesus actually asked of them never mind the thought of being able to hug loved ones for the first time in years and most importantly, to be able to once again worship in the temple to which due to their unclean illness were not able. An outcome that cannot be understated as even to this day, that the temple has been destroyed in war and cannot be rebuilt and worshipped in due to the Muslim dome on the rock being built in its place is considered by the Jewish a tragedy much greater than that of the World War II holocaust. So how could we place any judgement what so ever on these nine who for all we know gave a great witness to what Jesus did for them. Yet Jesus without condemning them, does make a favourable statement towards the Samaritan who did return and I wonder if he knew more of what was taking place than seems to be placed before us in this short piece of scripture. I’m sure he did but what He was placed before us clearly shows that at the heart of our lives should be Christ, but it still leaves me wondering of the nine what if this? And what if that?
We are left wondering and maybe that’s a good thing because that’s God’s business. Yet paradoxically, in knowing that it’s God’s business we aren’t left wondering because we know that if in fact they still haven’t fully grasped the situation we know he won’t give up on them. We know it because we’ve been there in the wilderness separated from the kingdom of God by the stain of our own illness called sin. Sin, that like leprosy for those in this scripture had no human remedy and no matter how much we could try and scrub ourselves clean with good works and pious living still could not be cleansed.
To ten lepers 2,000 years ago Christ came and gave them the simplest of instructions, to “go and show your selves to the priest”. No question and answers just seven simple words that followed in faith cured their disease. To you, me and all those in the world today Christ comes with a message akin to that of the ten. No questions, no catches. Just believe in me and you shall be saved.
So I ask you, do you believe that Jesus Christ the Son of God died on the cross for your sins. If you have answered yes-then like to a Samaritan leper He now says to you “Your faith has made you well, so rise and go your way” and tell of me to the other nine that like you, they may be cleansed of sin and stand alongside yourselves before God, clean and pure through my blood.
Through the blood of Jesus Christ who gave himself on the cross you have been given eternal life and life in this world. So fall at His feet giving Him thanks and praising God with a loud voice-that those still lost, will follow His voice and receive His peace. Amen.