In Luke 17 Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem… He was actually on the road to the cross. It’s not too radical of a leap of faith to assume that He knew His earthy ministry was coming to a close. Even though Jesus was fully God, did the humanity in Him feel a sense of urgency to meet the needs of the desperate? Did He hold a mental to-do list of the things He still needed to teach His disciples? Did He actually know the date of His “D-Day” where Satan’s stronghold would be plundered and the keys of death reclaimed? We can only speculate.
As He reached a village on the Galilean and Samarian border, ten men with leprosy stood off to the side of the road. Luke records that they “stood at a distance” (vs. 11). For months, perhaps even for years, they had “stood at a distance”. Stood at a distance from their families… Stood at a distance from their careers… Stood at a distance from acceptance… Stood at a distance from being valued… Stood at a distance from all of Humanity.
“UNCLEAN!” They shouted as they walked the streets of the healthy — people scattering before them like sheep would from wolves. Their very souls continually dehumanized by the looks of revulsion on the faces of people who still could eat meals with their family… people who could still go to the market or worship at the synagogue… people who still had the hope of a future.
But even though they stood at a distance they weren’t doing that standing passively… Luke informs us they were shouting, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (vs. 13) The voices that for so long had proclaimed their disease to all within earshot, now cried out to the One who they believed could bring complete healing.
Jesus’ reaction is so compelling… rather than instantly proclaiming them healed, He told them to, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. (vs. 14) You see, there was an element of faith being required by the Master… and as they acted in faith… He brought restoration.
I believe this story is such a beautiful picture of how the Gospel works in our lives. As we place our faith in the Risen Savior who died on the cross as a sacrifice who bore our sins, He brings a spiritual restoration to our heart. Once we were unclean… but faith in Jesus cleanses us from the disease of sin that was eating away at our souls, because “our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean…” (Hebrews 10:22)
In my mind’s eye, I try to picture their reactions as they realize they have been healed while searching for that priest. The joy… the tears… the new hope that had come to their lives. Yet, I find it astounding that nine of those men continued to look for a priest. You see, in the eyes of their people a priest could declare them clean… a priest could restore their lives… while in reality it was the Master who had made them clean… He was the One who had restored their lives.
However, one man realized this truth. Luke writes, One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. (vs. 15-16) One out of ten got it right.
Listen… “if your guilty conscience has been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make you clean…” live your life in such a way that you are continuously “thanking him for what he has done”. May we be people who daily fall to the ground at His feet and cry out, “PRAISE GOD!” Once we were dead in our sins… but now, PRAISE GOD, we are alive in Christ Jesus!