Isolated. Contagious. Alone. Outcast. Sadness. Hurt. Watching your body disappear. These are a few of the definitions for Leprosy. Imagine how emotionally painful this disease must be. Being kicked out of your village because you are endangering the health of those around you. It’s like being a walking or crawling corpse ready to fall apart. Losing almost all sense of feeling. Except for the feeling of sadness.
Nowadays, we have cures to stop Leprosy. But back in Jesus’ time, they didn’t. The Lepers were banished to the outskirts of town out of the way of people. They spent their days begging from across the road for some compassionate person to toss them a piece of bread. Shouting to be heard. But what was really sad about it was that they were separated from their families. They weren’t allowed to hug their mother, comfort their daughter, or even approach them for fear of infecting them. Think of how emotionally draining this would be for them.
Wouldn’t you do anything to get rid of this disease?
The passage in Luke 17 on how Jesus healed, not one, but ten lepers, stuck out to me. Here are the verses:
Luke 17:11-1911 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[b] 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.”
Now let’s analyze the story. Jesus is traveling through a village when ten lepers, standing at a distance, meet him. They call out imploringly, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Jesus turns to them with a compassionate heart and says, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” Now, Jesus wouldn’t have said that and the Lepers wouldn’t have obeyed if they hadn’t been cleaned at that moment. They stand there for a minute overwhelmed with joy at being healed, then rejoicing loudly they race down the street to the temple.
Now if you were healed from a disease that you had separated you from your town and family, you probably wouldn’t have any room to think of what had happened. You probably would have a loss of words and the only thing on your mind would be to go show everyone that you were cured. And that’s exactly what the ten of them did. However, after the first feeling of joyfulness, comes the gratitude and awe of the person who healed you. The Samaritan leper realized this earlier than the rest and came running back to thank Jesus.
This man who felt the isolation even deeper because he was a foreigner. He probably had a harder time earning sympathy, because of the Jews’ dislike of Samaritans. He, of all them, was the most overjoyed, yet he realized sooner than the others who he owed his joy to. So he threw himself at Jesus’ feet in awe and gratitude. Jesus, seeing that only one man returned, remarks, “Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” As if he meant, The Samaritan, the outsider, the race the Jews hate, was the first person, out of all the Jewish lepers, to decently thank me.
Afterward, Jesus looks down at the man with love in his eyes and says to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Imagine the pure joy the leper would be feeling by now. He’s professed his thanks, he’s talking to The Messiah, and he’s been completely healed from a disease that would’ve bounded him to a lifetime of isolation. It’s Amazing!
Have you ever felt this joy the Leper is feeling? The joy that takes away all feelings of isolation. Do you want to? I long for the Samaritan Leper’s joy, but what I want most is the immediate realization after it pointing me to whom my joy comes from. I want to feel truly grateful and not obligated, knowing who’s at the root of my joy.
I would love to hear your insight, comments, or questions 🙂