Luke 17:11-19 (NIV) 11 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 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 Jesusí feet and thanked himóand he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."
This is a familiar story. Jesus rids ten men of their leprosy. Leprosy was a very deadly disease. Those who had it were basically exiled to live outside of the population centers and considered to be already dead. Leprosy was to those people what AIDS is to us today. When someone got it, it was always fatal. The diagnosis was a death sentence.
Normally, when comment is made on this story, the focus is on how ten lepers were rid of their leprosy, while only one of them comes back to thank Jesus. And normally, the comparison ends up being made with how we are often not so thankful when we should be. But I would like to go a different route, one that relates to the new path of ministry that I have chosen to follow as I announced this morning, that being a hospital chaplain over at Carle.
You may want to actually have your Bibles open to Luke 17:11-18, page ___ in the Pew Bibles. One of the three Greek words is actually "katharizo", which is where we get the English word "Catheter". You know what a catheter does, donít you? It removes things from the body; When we go through a "catharsis", it is getting rid of the bad. Thatís what Jesus did for the Lepers. There was a "catharsis" or cleansing of the disease from the lepers, and they no longer had leprosy. We could also say they were cured of their leprosy. The next word that is important to note appears in verse 15, "One of them, when he saw he was healed..." I think there is an intentional distinction made between ridding the lepers of their disease and claiming that they were healed. The Greek word translated here as "healing" means not only to be free of disease, but also implies being at peace with yourself. This points out something important. It is possible to be cured (rid of the disease) without being healed. Ten lepers were cured. Only one was healed. The healed leper was the one who came to give thanks to God, because he had come to a point of recognizing the true value of the miracle.
The third word in this story relating to what happens to the lepers is found at the very end, verse 19: 19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." Thatís the NIV. Literally, the word is "saved". One translation says, "your faith has saved you." Another says "your faith has made you whole." This puts the purpose of Jesusí miracles into perspective. Was the leper glad to be cured? Yes. But what happened to him went far beyond cure. It went being healed, being made whole, being saved. Miracles were certainly Godís way of doing good. But they had a far grander purpose. Thatís why the Bible actually calls them miraculous signs, which mean that they point to something greater. In this case, they are pointing to Christ and His work, that Jesus is the long-promised Messiah Who has come from God to bear the worldís sin and take that sin away.
The bottom line to this is, being "saved" or being "whole" or being "healed" is not the same as being cured. Being cured is to be rid of a disease. Being made whole or healed, yes, being saved involved more than just curing the body of an ailment. It means that a person is trusting confidently in Godís care, and that can happen regardless the personís health. Thatís what pastoral care departments in hospitals are all about. We are not there to cure a personís diseases. We are there to bring wholeness. There are a lot of people who walk out of the hospital cured but they are not whole. Conversely, there are a lot of people who walk out of the hospital healed or whole who have terrible diseases that will never be cured.
Often, I run into people who can talk about their situation as being "bad". These are people with cancer or a loved one with cancer. These are people who have all kinds of health problems. They are people who have family troubles. They are people who have lost their jobs. They are people who have any number of reasons to be disappointed in life. I will meet with them and we will talk some about their situation and then they will say, "But I am very thankful." Now, how could that be? How could someone with terminal cancer be thankful? How could Pastor Martin Rinckert in Germany write the Thanksgiving hymn, "Now Thank We All Our God"? Between the Thirty-Years War and the Black Death in the 1600's, he was conducting over 30 funerals a day. The story goes that he wrote the hymn about being thankful after he buried his own wife one day as one of the Thirty funerals.
St. Paul says in Romans 8: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, Some manuscripts And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God who Or works together with those who love him to bring about what is goodówith those who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us allóhow will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who diedómore than that, who was raised to lifeóis at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." Psalm 44:22 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, Or nor heavenly rulers neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The returning Leper gave thanks because he had faith. We can conquer all things because of the One Who came to conquer sin for us. We can defeat all things because of the One Who defeated sin for us. Jesus has won the victory. That victory is ours as we trust in Him. We can be thankful no matter what we experience in this life because of the wonderful love that is a free gift from Jesus Christ. No matter what sorts of diseases come; no matter what sort of bad things happen to us, God is with us! God is with us; He will take care of us. We are His people. Amen.
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