Lent: The Third Week – Tuesday

To Seek and To Save

On the way to Jerusalem, he was passing along between Samar′ia and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Luke 17:11-19

For today’s Lent reflection on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to die, Dr Ferguson invites us to see and hear a leper, who was “praising God with a loud voice, giving thanks” to Jesus. Why was this man rejoicing so? Because Jesus healed him!

When the Bible speaks about leprosy it can refer to many things, ranging from mould in a house to infections of the skin to the life-threatening disease we call leprosy today. In Jesus’ day, the Law of Moses laid out all the regulations for living with leprosy but the most noteworthy of these was the fact that anyone thought to have the disease was isolated from normal life. Lepers became outcasts from their families and communities. And they remained outcasts until the disease went into remission. This explains why the lepers that Jesus met on His journey to Jerusalem shouted to Him from a distance, rather than coming to see Him face to face.

Mercy is a theme of Luke’s Gospel. We find the word five times in the first chapter alone. Just as God had been merciful to His people throughout the Old Testament, so Jesus was merciful to those people He met, who were in need. And word of Jesus’ mercy spread. But Jesus’ acts of mercy were more than just meeting people in their need. They pointed to the fact that He was the King, and that His Kingdom was coming. Through these many acts of mercy, Jesus was reversing the effects of sin in people’s lives. Jesus showed mercy to these lepers. He cured them of their disease and made them ritually clean, so that, when they went to see the priest, he would declare that it was safe for them to join society once more – to be part of their families and communities. And to enjoy all that that meant!

Just as Jesus healed these ten men of the ravages of a disease that made them outcasts from their communities, so also He has cured us of the ravages of sin, which separates us from God. As the Epistle to the Hebrews put it, Jesus has come to be a “merciful… high priest… to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

As amazing as this act of mercy was, it’s not the main point of the story. You see, Luke tells us that ten lepers cried out to Jesus but only one returned to give Him thanks. And the one who returned was a Samaritan. The other nine – all members of the house of Israel, like Jesus – failed to give thanks.

Before we express our shock, even outrage, at this, we should ask ourselves a simple question: when were we last thankful to Jesus, and for what? Are we like the Samaritan? Or are we more like the other nine?

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