Like A Leper

Resurrection Tapestry, Vatican Museum, taken by Martha Wiggins 2012

Resurrection Tapestry, Vatican Museum, taken by Martha Wiggins 2012

“They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”  Luke 17:13

     Do you hang back?  Are you afraid to approach Jesus because you feel unworthy to do so?

In Luke 17:11-19 we hear about a group of ten men who have a skin disease, leprosy.  To be a leper in Biblical times was to be chastized as unclean, to be an outcast.  No one would come near a leper.  No one would touch a leper.  No one would even help to care for their wounds.  Lepers were on their own, totally cut off from everyone and everything they knew and loved.  Their only solace came from banding together and forming colonies with others suffering in the same way.  Thus, is the existence of these ten men when they hear about Jesus.  They hear how He has been healing the sick, the blind, and the lame.  And, He is coming!  He will be passing their way, but they can’t help wondering if He will help them, unclean as they are.

Refusing to give in to despair, they decide go to the small town nearby and seek Him out.  Not wanting to get close to Him, they call out from afar, begging Him to take pity on them.  Jesus hears them and tells them to go show themselves to their priest.  In Luke’s Gospel we read, “And as they went, they were cleansed.”  (Luke 17:14)   You can just imagine their bewildered questioning as they walked off.  “Why are we going to the priest?  What is the priest going to do for us?”  And then someone says, “I don’t know, but Jesus said to go, and based on all I have heard about Him, I am going!  He must have a reason!”  The others must have looked at each other and then agreeing all set off for the priest.  Imagine the group, having been paused and arguing, taking that next step in unison.  In that next step, one of trust and belief in Jesus, they are all healed.  They begin jumping with joy, and run excitedly off to show their priest, all but one that is.

In his joy, the one realizes the source of his healing.  He returns first to Jesus in order to thank Him.  Jesus asks about the others, wanting to know where they are, for weren’t they all healed?  He already knows that the others are running wildly around, rushing to show their loved ones and friends they have been healed.  I like to think they just got overly excited, and will later remember to go find and thank Jesus.  To the one Jesus says, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19)  This leper was cleansed both on the outside and the inside.  He was well, whole once more, and he knew who was responsible.  He went on as Jesus told him to do, but with a heart overflowing with love, joy, and the peace that surpasses all understanding.

Let us be like the one leper.  If we truly feel unworthy to approach Jesus, let us call out to Him from right where we are, from a distance.  Let us ask Him to have pity on us, to have mercy on us.  And when He does, because He will, let us then not be afraid to take that first step, and let us then approach Him in thanksgiving.  He will draw us near to Him, and we will never want to be apart from Him again, for with Him we are made well.  We are whole again.

“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  Deuteronomy 31:8

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