By: Howard Cole
What if Jesus could change that one unchangeable thing in your life? Yes, the very one you’ve just about given up on. The way you answer the following question provides the key to healthy change: “Do you owe God or does God owe you?”
Luke, an early story-teller about Jesus, told a true tale about ten men. These men were powerless to change their unchangeable leprosy. Leprosy was like cancer back then, but even worse. It was like contagious cancer. And even worse than that it was like socially contagious cancer. You can read all about it in Leviticus, which contains the laws of leprosy.
The story of God told in Scripture devotes a great deal of attention to leprosy. Why? Because leprosy, more than any other form of human wreckage symbolizes the sad and serious human condition under sin. Michael Harper writes:
Sin separates us from God and from one another. So does leprosy. Sin slowly rots away human life. So does leprosy. Sin is at first not easy to diagnose: It works silently and secretly. So does leprosy. Sin disfigures and distorts. So does leprosy. Sin paralyzes and removes feeling and sensitivity. So does leprosy. Sin ultimately caused death. So does leprosy.
The Jewish historian Josephus tells us that Lepers were treated, as if they were, in effect, dead persons.
The ten lepers stood together that day socially separated from all the other men, women and children of the village. William Barclay explains that back in those days a leper had to keep six feet away from others at all times. If the wind was blowing, they had to increase the distance to 150 feet away.
While Luke does not tell if the wind was blowing that day, he does tell us that suddenly, everything changed for the lepers’ unchangeable condition.
As the story goes, the men catch sight of Jesus and yell in unison “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!!”
Jesus’s eyes lock onto these lepers and twinkle with an intermixture of authority and compassion. He doesn’t take out a magic wand and wave it in the air. He doesn’t chant a hocus-pocus spell. What does he do to cure these incurables?
He speaks two quick commands that bridge the unbridgeable distance between him and these outcasts: “Go and show.” Go and show what to whom? “Go and show yourselves to the priests”. The leper laws mandated that a leper claiming that he was cured must get checked out by the priests. If he passed the public health tests, a certificate was given to him so that he could show it to everyone. That certificate cured the social distance by curing the fear others had toward a leper. When Jesus speaks he does more than cure their skin condition. He cures their social condition.
And then something unexpected happened. As all ten began walking toward the temple they were immediately cleansed.
But then something even more unexpected happened. Only one of the ten returned to give thanks to Jesus. A Samaritan (an outsider to the Jewish faith) noticing his soft, healthy skin, shouts praise to God, falls on his face at the feet of Jesus and does something the other nine refused to do.
He thanks Jesus for the merciful healing. Jesus admits his surprise with a question “weren’t ten made clean, where are the nine?” Let that question hang in the air so that you have the time to reach out and grab it. Better yet, let it grab you and begin to change you: “Where are the nine?”
The story ends with a surprise twist when Jesus says “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.” The word Jesus uses for wellness is a form of the word salvation. This is shockingly different than what the other nine experienced, which was only an outward cleansing.
What is the 100 percent cure for ingratitude? Admitting that you don’t deserve mercy but that you must come to and depend on Jesus for salvation. And the salvation Jesus gives to a thankful sinner goes beyond skin deep change.
Because you are joined to Jesus by undeserved grace, through saving faith, the deepest unchangeable thing about you (your sinful condition and deserved separation from God) is changed forever. Won’t you return thanks to God right now for his gifts but especially the free gift of His son?