Let us join together in opening the Word of God to Luke 17:11-21. I will read.
While He [Jesus] was on His way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, 'Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!' When He saw them, He said to them, 'Go and show yourselves to the priests.' And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine--where are they? Was there no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?' And He said to him, 'Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.'
So why would ten lepers approach Jesus? Why would they ask mercy unless they believed He might act on their behalf? There is already an expectation here; already a reputation. So what is going on?
They believe that Jesus has the power to heal. You don't have someone work on your car unless you think he can fix it. You don't let someone claiming to be a dentist into your mouth with a drill unless you think he's capable in dental work. These lepers understood that Jesus had power to heal.
Equally important, they believed Jesus might take an interest in them and their request. They had heard of Jesus, and they were led to believe He might act in mercy toward them. They felt it was worth doing to go to the trouble to approach Him.
Consider also that they requested mercy of Jesus. They did not approach Him as oppressed persons, or as deserving His benevolence; they came simply as seekers of His mercy. No claims, no promises and no self-trust, only, "Jesus. Master, have mercy on us."
Ours is an age with an attitude. People feel as though they deserve this, deserve that; that they've been deprived of opportunities and are entitled. But we're all unprofitable servants. All we bring to Him is need. We bring no good deeds and no righteous acts of our own.
Here is where normally pride is revealed. Some are too proud to ask for help; they want to work their way to the kingdom. At least some small part must be theirs. But this isn't God's way; all are bankrupt before Him. Rich or poor, high or low, educated or not, none approach God with personal merit. Nothing in us recommends us to Him. Our pride bows before His glory. We approach His way, not our way.
Jesus hears the lepers' humble request. Christ's response is not to shoot bolts of power from His hands with thundercrack, sparks and earthquake. He hears. In quietness His answer comes simply: "Go and show yourselves to the priests."
God never forces the conversion of anyone. He provides evidence. The priesthood in Jerusalem had been largely corrupted. God had instituted a system and Jesus sent the lepers who were about to be healed to the priests to be inspected (Leviticus 13:1-46). He would provide miraculous healing.
Now here comes an interesting part in the story. This is not the main point--we'll talk about that--but still, here is an insight; so notice this:
They sought the mercy of God. They came to Jesus. Then Jesus gave them a directive? What? He told them to go, show themselves to the priests. They knew they had leprosy. What use in showing themselves to the priests? Unless Jesus called to His Father and His Father gave healing, there would be nothing to show.
Jesus called them to act in faith, to go to the priests. He dared them to act out their faith by fulfilling the conditions He set.
And what did they do? How did they respond? They laid hold in faith. They acted on their faith. They moved toward the priests. And the Scripture says, "As they were going, they were cleansed."
As they acted out their faith, God answered in mercy. He gave gifts. He gave healing. But they were not healed before they met the condition Jesus set out. They were healed as they fulfilled the condition He set out.
It is commonly thought that being a Christian means accepting a kind of no-strings-attached attitude. Say yes to God once, you're in; do whatever you want. His kingdom is a big mall; everyone shops for free; there are no substantial moral imperatives. Such an approach fits in well with a narcissistic, self-centered, information-lite culture. The Bible tells a different story. Jesus was unsparing in calling people to treat others as they would prefer to be treated (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31), to forgive and then be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25-26), to evaluate things according to a fair measure and not just to go by what superficially passes as truth (John 7:24). Being Jesus cost Him something and being a Christian, an actual flesh-and-blood human example who is a follower of Jesus, will cost us something.
We all make choices. But the Christian, voluntarily, because he accepts that the Bible tells him what is right, that this is good and that that is evil, makes decisions on a different basis. His choices arise not from what he feels or what he wants or the opinion he has; but he chooses to be a follower of Jesus and submits his ideas to the ideas in the Bible. He believes that the Bible contains God's ideas, divine communications to us. He believes that those communications matter and that Jesus paid a incalculable price to buy him back. He believes that the only fitting response to God's goodness is actually to be a Christian.
We miss God's word to ourselves if we doubt that Jesus' kingdom is a moral kingdom and we are to learn what rightdoing is and be invested in rightdoing. We are to manifest His kingdom on earth by rightdoing. The ten lepers on their way to be inspected for leprosy by the priests were obeying the directive Jesus had set forth. They were engaged in rightdoing.
How thankful were they? If Jesus sent you on the way to the doctor and you were healed while on the way, you would want to fully carry out His command; it would be paramount to your rejoicing mind. Something is different between the nine and the one. There is more than the letter of obedience.
Healed leper number 10 felt in himself that he was healed. His heart was filled with enormous gratitude. Not for a moment did he plan to disregard Jesus' command. He was definitely going to show himself to the priests and get his God-glorifying "leprosy-free" certification. But first he had to give thanks to Jesus. He immediately turned back and fell at Jesus' feet shouting his praise to God for His healing. His gratitude he could not suppress! He gave glory to God.
The main point, the turn, the shocking reveal or the twist in the story, is that the one who turned back to give glory to God was a Samaritan. Samaritans were looked at as outsiders, foreigners, not spiritually right, as ragged people. They were viewed as being unrighteous and even wicked. Certainly the Samaritans were not God's people. But this one gave glory to God.
Jesus surprises His hearers, even shocks them. Its not a Jew who turns back. Jesus wants us to be careful of being smug or self-righteous, of being quick to judge others.
We infer from Jesus' words that the other nine lepers were Jews. They obeyed the command so far as we know; they did what Jesus said. They went to show themselves to the priests. But while Jesus had changed their lives completely, they did not return. Leprosy was a social death sentence. Were they glad Jesus had healed them? God lavishes us with His help and gifts. Why are we criminally private about it? Its OK to be overcome with joy because of God. Good on leper number 10!
In the last part of our interaction, Jesus says to leper number 10, "Stand up and go, your faith has made you well." He was still to go to the priests; he was still commanded to have His healing "certified." "The gifts which the gospel offers are not to be secured by stealth or enjoyed in secret" (The Desire of Ages, p. 347).
The leper had believed enough to approach Jesus and had been willing enough to do so. He had publicly asked for mercy. Jesus gave him a directive and immediately he followed it. He was willing to taste and see whether God was good. Heaven gave him opportunity and he took it. His faith had opened the way for God to make him whole. God's power healed but this man's cooperation made him receptive to that healing. Receiving no merit toward his salvation, he exercised his God-given faith in a God-given opportunity. The result was that he was made whole.
Consider, finally, this paragraph from The Desire of Ages, p. 348:
It is for our own benefit to keep every gift of God fresh in our memory. Thus faith is strengthened to claim and to receive more and more. There is greater encouragement for us in the least blessing we ourselves receive from God than in all the accounts we can read of the faith and experience of others. The soul that responds to the grace of God shall be like a watered garden. His health shall spring forth speedily; his light shall rise in obscurity, and the glory of the Lord shall be seen upon him. Let us remember the loving-kindness of the Lord, and the multitude of His tender mercies. Like the people of Israel, let us set up our stones of witness, and inscribe upon them the precious story of what God has wrought for us. And as we review His dealings with us in our pilgrimage, let us, out of hearts melted with gratitude, declare, 'What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people' (Psalm 116:12-14).
Think of divine interventions in your life, of blessing received from God. Are you thankful? Did you ever tell somebody? Are you thankful enough to tell Then come to Jesus and tell Him so and receive His continued healing as His child.
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