The Worshipping Leper.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, Our Lord, Our King, Our Strength and Our Redeemer!
Today I'm building my message on the Gospel reading,from LUKE 17: 11-19. (paraphrase) While travelling between Samaria and Galilee Jesus encountered 10 lepers who, standing at a distance shouted: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus saw them and responded by telling them to go and show themselves to the Priest. In faith they set off and on the way were healed, and one returned to give thanks to Jesus,who enquired of the other nine and said to the one who returned your faith has made you well.
My friends, this in a nutshell,is a story we no doubt are very FAMILIAR with. HOWEVER, today I would like us to consider this BIBLE story in more detail,and perhaps note some UNFAMILIAR lessons there:
1. Certainly we learn we must be THANKFUL
but what about.. THANKFUL, EVEN IN DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES!
The physical ramifications of Leprosy are horrendous. It attacks the body leaving sores ,missing fingers and toes,and damaged limbs.
The initial pain of Leprosy,gives way to something more terrible. A loss of sensation in nerve endings,causing damage to more body parts,which eventually drop off and overwhelms anyone's sense of smell by the rotting decaying flesh.
The emotional pain of the leper is even worse than the physical pain. There can be no contact whatsoever with his/her family or community. To beg for food,to yell from a distance and shout- Unclean! unclean!
It must have been horrible.( Lev 13)
And yet in the account,ten men encounter Jesus and hear him say the most unusual thing. They are really screaming “we want to be well” and the Great Teacher responds: ”Go,and show yourselves to the Priest”.
That was part of the Jewish Law of the day: if a leper was cured they had to go to the Priest,and get a Certificate stating that they were now clean,and only when they had that certificate would they be allowed to go back home.
BUT let's not overlook that phrase:JESUS SAW THEM-Many people look at others in need and simply look away, or turn and stare before turning away in horror or disgust. But Jesus saw them which is to say,he looked below the exterior ,below the disfigurement
and saw the beautiful person beneath. My brothers and sisters,he does the same for us sinners today! And therein lies lesson-
2. BE THANKFUL IN THE WORK Of GOD'S GOODNESS.
It's interesting that these lepers had respect and awe for Jesus and called him “Master”, and, Jesus' response was,“Go and show yourselves to the Priest”.
Is that how we see Jesus; Lord & Master? Do we show due respect to one another and edify those in authority in Church,or rather seek any and every opportunity to denegrade them in speech or action. Lesson No.
3.TO ALWAYS SHOW RESPECT FOR GOD AND OTHERS.(Be humble)
Again,these lepers we see had faith in Jesus, because they set off to see the priests immediately, without first seeing any change in their skin condition! The scriptures tell us that On the way they were healed!
4.EXERCISE FAITH & BE OBEDIENT TO JESUS' INSTRUCTION PROMPTLY.
One of the lepers on seeing that he was healed turned back and praised God and he fell on his face before Jesus thanking him profusely.
We see here that only one of the ten lepers made an open unashamed display of his thankfulness for God and His Son, Jesus.
5.We privately and PUBLICLY SHOULD OFFER THANKS AND PRAISE TO GOD! My brothers and sisters this is worship-this is showing gratitude for God's love & salvation. And yet it goes further,we do not worship others but should also express gratitude to others when they assist,or help us in any way- however small.
Again, What of the other nine?
Many say,Nine of the ten lepers took it for granted. I'm sure they were pleased but did it impact them at the heart level?
We must not be like these men. We should as they did have a reverence and awe and a 'fear of the Lord' which is the beginning of wisdom. How apt then lesson number
6.We must have a thankful and praising spirit. As the BIBLE states “God inhabits the praise of His saints. “ ….that's US !
Now on having the man approach Him and also seeing his attitude Jesus answered and said...
“Were not ten lepers cleansed? Where are the other nine?
Many people when they comment on this scripture,say that the other nine cleansed lepers were ungrateful. (However,we need to be careful not to read into the passage something that is not there.)
7.DO NOT ADD OR TAKE AWAY ANYTHING FROM GOD's WORD OR STAND IN JUDGEMENT OVER OTHERS.
The truth is that instead of harbouring a thought in our hearts that they were ungrateful,and judging them adversely,perhaps we need to show them GRACE and rejoice with them of their healing,because they would have been grateful to have transformed lives! Likewise today rather than inferring an ungrateful spirit to someone healed,rejoice with them of their transformed life of “healing”/salvation..Lets be more charitable!
You see, my brothers and sisters,if we begin from this charitable perspective the way we do MISSION and EVANGELISM changes.
Lesson 8-BE AN GOOD EVANGELIST
We begin from a position of respect,as we encourage others who are not in a relationship with Christ,to come to love Him.
When Paul was in Athens,he modelled that for us in his sermon:
“I see that in every way you Athenians are very religious...that which you worship then,even though you do not know it,is what I now proclaim to you.”
This is perhaps a good and respectful approach to Evangelism.
people seeking spirituality- a transcendent experience... like Paul we can say to them:
What you are striving for is good,but let us introduce you to the God behind all this...
We do not know where the 9 lepers went as we do not in truth know where many people in this community stand with God..But Jesus knows where they are and simply urges us to be evangelists and spread the gospel,and don't be judgemental because the one who turns to Christ could be the least we expect.
Was no-one found to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
It's interesting to note that the people of 'exceptional faith' commented on by Jesus in the scriptures are all “non-Israelite”. The Syrophonecian woman, The Centurion and this Samaritan! All foreigners to Israel and it's covenant with God but all examples to us of the Grace of God and the right response of a faithful believer.
Jesus then says something truly intriguing. He says to the leper, “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you 'whole'.”
It's most interesting that some translations bring out the point that Jesus sent this thankful leper away with a greater healing than the others. That he was made whole.
The implication of being made “whole” is that not only is the disease healed but all that he had lost because of the disease was restored.
We see that thankfulness for what God has done for us so touches the heart of God that it brings it's own reward.
Lastly,a word for the young ones of our congregation-
Young ones, You,too, can be assured that Our Heavenly Father sees your heartfelt actions to please Him and your elders. Be also assured that God will bless and reward all your efforts to do good. He loves you as no-one else can and is the rewarder of all who seek Him.
So in conclusion,we see two roles for us as true Christians. One,to continue to read our Manual,the Bible,pray without ceasing having an ongoing thankful attitude for everything God does for us,and to be Christlike in taking the gospel of Healing ,Peace, and Salvation to the world,as we rejoice in His grace...