By Gladys McElmore
The story of the ten lepers incredibly impacts our lives today as we respond to Jesus’ invitation to be His witness. These lepers were healed as described by Luke in chapter 17. Our attention, undoubtedly, centers on the offense of ingratitude. In our behavior patterns, do we sometimes limit expressions of gratitude to God and others? We must forever remember His faithfulness to forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Our spiritual reality allows us to enjoy a newness of life that is as incredible as the miracle that touched those Samaritan lepers! God has not called us to despise others, but to pray for them to become stronger believers by following the teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In verse 11, we can sense the urgency as Jesus traveled north of Jerusalem between Samaria and Galilee. Somehow the Samaritans worshiped in a different manner from the Jews who considered themselves God’s chosen people. Jews at that time ostracized the Samaritans. Grasping the best moment, Jesus met the ten men who were lepers. They spoke first with loud voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
At the right time Jesus touched people and also encouraged them with such a miracle. Jesus made it known then, and still continues beyond that moment, to enter lives and work with those whom society ignores. These ten men without background checks, with known reputations and lifestyles were lepers. This was an extremely infectious, body deteriorating and skin damaging disease. Just the skin sores alone let everyone know that something unhealthy was doing much bodily harm. Biblical instructions in Numbers 5 had told the Israelites to “put out of the camp every leper – both male and female.” The ten lepers stood at a distance from Jesus as was customary for health reasons. Even though about fifty yards was the required distance for the isolation that lepers lived, but Jesus ministered to them anyway.
Why did the lepers in Luke 17 cry out for mercy? This debilitating disease demanded such a cry for mercy. Jesus did not ignore them. He did not condemn them as so many others did, especially the religious culture of that time. Rather He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14). This was the prescribed manner of inspecting lepers before they could reenter society. As the lepers followed Jesus’ instructions, they were cleansed. What a relief that must have been!
After such a life changing miracle, only one returned and glorified God! This leper not only thanked God, but fell down at Jesus’ feet and he was a Samaritan. Of course Jesus asked about the other nine. No, not one other gave thanks. In verses 17-19, Jesus said to the healed leper, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.” The other nine seemed to have forgotten all the words of gratitude for their healings.
Can we as today’s Christians have spiritual amnesia? Can we forget God’s miracles and unlimited blessings? In verses 15-16, we are advised to continuously offer praises to God and to give thanks to His name. When Jesus healed the lepers, just one gave thanks. This shows us today how to live beyond our greatest encounter with God. Jesus made it clear that He would work with those whom society had ostracized and had seemingly been left without hope. The future is ours to worship God in all we do, to glorify His name and to bless others with thankfulness!
Mrs. Gladys R. McElmore, a resident of Norfolk’s Middle Town Arch Community, is a New Journal and Guide Freelance Contributor on religion. She is a native of Essex County, Va.