Sunday, 23 June 2013

The leper who said thank you...

Luke 17:12-19

If you read the passage above you will read of a lovely occasion when a leper (one of ten in the colony) returned to give thanks to the Lord Jesus as he healed them. In many ways this account is a lovely picture of the sinner being saved and born again, and responding with thanks and praise as they walk in newness of life. As an interesting side-note I believe this is the only example in scripture of an individual actually saying thank you directly to the Lord Jesus following a miracle! I find lots of other interesting points to note from this account:

  • Notice that the lepers "stood afar off" forming their own colony on the outskirts of this community. Of course this was scriptural, as in Leviticus 13:46 we read; "all the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be." Leprosy meant uncleanness, corruption, defilement, and meant separation for that person. Surely a perfect picture of the sinner, as we read in Ephesians 2:13 "ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ"

  • On top of all this man's problems, scripture records that "he was a Samaritan" and in these times the Samaritans were looked down on by the Jew "the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritan". What a sorry condition for this man! Diseased and decaying, untouched by medicine, unclean by the law, put out from society and shunned by the Jew! But on this day he was to meet one who would deal with the Samaritan, and who was willing and able to cleanse the leper and turn this man's life around.

  • I think on the subject of medicine, Luke the physician would have been particularly impressed by these events as they were relayed to him! Leprosy was not a condition that was treatable in those days, in fact leprosy has only been treated successfully in the 20th century. Lepers would almost certainly face a miserable existence where their condition would deteriorate as the decay would further disfigure and debilitate the poor person. Remember that leprosy was a matter for the priest not a doctor, as lepers were pronounced so by the priest (Lev 13) so it was unlikely that a leper had ever seen the inside of a doctors treatment room! Medicine had no answer for the condition, but the Son of God has all the answers, and he loves to show compassion and mercy just as he does when he saves the sinner!

I love to think about the reaction of the priests when this man (and presumably the others) arrived to be examined and pronounced clean. Would a priest ever have been faced with a cured leper? I doubt it! Just think of what the scriptures say about those who were lepers: 

  • Gehazi (2 Kings 5) he was told that the leprosy would cleave unto him, there would be no respite or abatement!

  • Jereboam (2 Kings 15) he was a leper until the day of his death

  • Remember the words of the Lord concerning lepers - "many lepers were in Israel... none of them were cleansed... save Naaman the Syrian". On the subject of Naaman the Syrian, he would not have presented himself to the priest, this man was a Syrian and had no regard for Jewish law!

So perhaps we now find ourselves asking the question, why would the Word of God give us Leviticus chapter 14 then? Here it clearly talks about "the day of his cleansing"  and what the priestly procedure should be. Well my thought is simple - I believe that God in his infinite wisdom, his grace and mercy made provision for the leper knowing that there would come a day when a Samaritan man would come before a priest and say "I've been made clean, and it was Jesus of Nazareth who healed me!" You see the day was coming when God's Son would walk this earth and even the leper in his hopeless condition would be cleansed, such was the power and compassion of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cold-hearted Jew would need clear instruction from the law of Moses to know what to do and to re-integrate these individuals into society. Remember the Lord Jesus told them that some of the law was written for "the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept". 

Is there any wonder then that this man turns to give thanks and worship the one who had transformed his existence? Before he met Christ he had no life, no hope, no prospects, no joy! He now begins his life anew, one with happiness and a whole new outlook, because of the Saviour. Surely this should speak to our hearts as we apply this to ourselves, as sinners saved by grace we should turn and give thanks to the Lord for his goodness and mercy in saving us!

Yours in Christ, Mark

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