Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three-in-one
What is your idea of a real lousy day? Is it those days that never seem to go right? Is it when a high expectation is crushed? Is it when you receive bad news? How about when you weren’t able to sleep all night and now you have to face the day? I would tend to count all of these.
A man was sitting in a bar staring into his drink and he stayed like that for quite some time. Eventually a big trouble-making truck driver stepped up next to him, grabbed his drink and gulped it down in one swallow. At that, the man burst into tears. The truck driver said, ‘Come on man, I was just joking. Here, I’ll buy you another drink. I just can’t stand to see a grown man cry.” “No, it’s not that,” the man said chocking down his tears, “it’s just that this has been the worst day of my life. First I overslept and missed a very important meeting, my boss was very upset and he fired me. When I left the office, I discovered that someone had stolen my car and the police said there was nothing they could do. I took a cab home and after he dropped me off and drove away I realized I had left my wallet in the back seat of his taxi. I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but when I walked into my house I saw my wife in the arms of another man – and she told me to leave. So I stopped at the drug store, and then came here. I’ve been sitting here all day thinking of taking my life….and then you come in and drink all my poison.” I’d say it was a bad day for both of them.
Ten lepers approach Jesus looking for him to have pity on them. They must have heard of how Jesus had healed others and probably thought that this was their only chance at having a normal life by escaping from the awful consequences of their disease. If this didn’t work, the only thing that was sure in their lives is that it would end in a miserable slow death. They wanted nothing more then to end their string of bad days.
They ask Jesus to have mercy on them but he does not touch them tenderly. He did not wash them clean, in fact, he didn’t even pray for them. He simply gave them instructions, “Go to show yourself to the priests.” They obeyed and they were all cured of their disease along the way. Because they would now be free from their disease, they needed to visit the priests to be declared clean.
Leprosy is a terrible disease that leaves large skin lesions all over the body. Left untreated, it can be very aggressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes and in most cases in Jesus day, death. Every day for them was a bad day. Every day they would wake up with the same disease only to find that it had gotten little worse. They had only bad days to look forward to.
Lepers were called the walking dead because at this time, there was absolutely no treatment or relief that could be given them and they were doomed with a slow and very painful death.
I think that lepers can be a good example for us in our spiritual lives. We are all born with this fatal disease called sin and because of it we too can be properly called walking dead. We have inherited this disease from our forefathers and our children have inherited it from us and so it has been from the beginning.
Isaiah 1:4-6 says, “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down?
Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil.”
It was true then and it is still true today. We have been utterly corrupted by sin and God has no choice but to hold us accountable because of it. Each day the sickness that we have become addicted to shows itself in the lesions of our own making. Without Christ, each day becomes a little worse. We are sick with sin and we look for mercy.
But people don’t seek out Christ because they don’t understand the symptoms of their disease.
Luther said, “A doctor must first diagnose the sickness for his patient; otherwise he will give him poison instead of medicine. First he must say: this is your sickness; secondly: this medicine serves to fight it. If he does not know what is amiss, he will give a bad remedy. So a preacher must preach (the law) so that men can acknowledge their sins, eagerly hear the message of grace and so believe.”
People don’t seek out Christ because they don’t see sin for what it is. The symptoms aren’t as noticeable as they are with leprosy but they are much more deadly…. eternally deadly.
There are too many people living today in denial because everyone suffers from the same disease. They don’t want to admit their need for Christ so they ignore the sickness. They want to deny Christ so they declare that all is well. They rationalize by saying, “well, I’m not as bad as that guy, I never robbed a bank or killed someone. I don’t deal drugs or molest children. I’m ok.”
Before Jesus can help us, we have to understand our need for Him. We have to stop fooling ourselves into believing that we have done enough, and we must continually cry out for mercy from the only one who can offer it.
All the twelve step programs in the world cannot not save us from our addiction to sin, but they do have one thing right. They understand that to save yourself, you have to first admit that you need the help.
Just saying, “I’m addicted to drugs or I’m addicted to pornography or I’m addicted to alcohol” is not enough. You have to agree to seek help.
And to seek the only help available for sin we must step out in faith. You might remember that Jesus is now on His way to Jerusalem to provide the cure for what ails all of us. He has set His face like flint toward the goal he has had from the beginning to pay the price we could never pay on our own.
Upon hearing the command of Jesus, all 10 lepers stepped out in faith and as they headed for the priests they were healed. There is a powerful lesson to be learned here. It wasn’t until they stepped out in faith and obeyed Jesus that they experienced the healing that they so desperately yearned for. Jesus gave them the Word, they stepped out in faith and then it happened. They didn’t look for positive results first, they simply obeyed and Jesus provided.
That’s what faith is. It is the trusting and obeying of God even if we don’t yet see the visible signs of our relief. It is trusting in the Word of God. True faith obeys when it does not yet see the evidence. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Someone once said, “Faith is coming to the edge of all you can see and feel and taking one more step into the darkness – trusting that God will either catch you or teach you to fly.”
As the ten lepers made their way towards the priests, they were cleaned of their leprosy. “Hey look, my hands are healing up!” “Mine too” another would say, and then another and then another. Can you imagine the happiness they felt at that time? Can you just see them jumping up and down with joy in celebration?”
At this point, we don’t really know what happened to the other 9. Perhaps they ran throughout the town showing those who knew them the miracle they had been given, maybe they ran to their families to share the news, we don’t know. But we do know what one of them did. He came back to thank the one who had saved him. He fell at the feet of the Savior in praise and adoration.
And here’s the lesson, ten men were exposed to the infinite power of God but only one sought to have a relationship with Him. Nine of the ten were content with what they had been given but only one had the faith to want more. Ten received a great blessing but only one returned to give praise to the one from whom the blessings came.
Notice also that Jesus wanted to see all ten return, He said, “Were there not ten who were cleansed? Where are the other nine?” God’s desire is that you continually come back to Him. He seeks to have a relationship with us all to share, not only in our bad days, but to rejoice with us in our good days.
Let’s hear again the final words in verse 19, “And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” I want you to pay close attention to that last word, it the Greek word sozo which means saved. To be made well is to be saved. It’s the same word the Philippian jailer used in Acts 16 when he said, “What must I do to be saved?” The word means to be made complete or whole.
Jesus didn’t come to earth to heal people from diseases of the body, He came to make people whole, He came to complete the picture.
The result of the miracle was that 10 lepers were cured, but only one was made whole. All of them received a miracle but this was only a small portion of what Christ was offering them and only one received the full reward.
Jesus wants to do more than give us a momentary miracle. He wants to give us life, He wants to make us whole, he wants to make this church whole, he wants to complete what He has begun in us and in this place.
Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Jesus is not done with us yet, there is much more to do, but it is a process full of highs and lows. Some days will be bad but our Lord asks us to continue to step out in faith just as the lepers did.
Do we follow Christ simply because we need someone to come to when times are tough? Are we looking for little more than insurance?
Or are we continually at His feet daily in faith and trust so that he can make us whole again. I don’t know why you came to church today, but I know why Jesus did, because He longs to be first in our lives even when times look bleak. He wants to guide you by His Holy Spirit to trust in His promise of salvation.
Ten were cured but only one came back. Ten celebrated a moment and one came to celebrate eternity with Christ. How many of us are like the nine and become satisfied with the little we have done, but miss out on the much because we failed to return to the true high priest which is Jesus Christ? Let us all prepare our hearts to be purified and our lives to be made whole once again. He died so that we could have that hope. Amen