Reading: Luke 17:11-19
Leprosy is the common word used when talking about this reading, but I believe that in the original Greek, “skin disease” is actually mentioned. Leprosy has now changed its name to Hanson’s Disease to avoid some of the stigmas. In the days of Jesus, if you had a skin disease, it was considered contagious, so you were either hounded out of the village or you went voluntarily amongst a community of other skin disease sufferers. Unable to work, sufferers had to beg, and commentaries tell us that if they did enter the village, they had to give a warning that they were coming so that people could get out of their way. It is to this community that Jesus performs a miracle.
The ten men with a skin disease called to Jesus in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” Jesus’ reputation was obvious as he was mentioned by name. When they shouted to him at a distance, Jesus had compassion and healed them. Leviticus 14 covers a situation where somebody was ill with a skin disease and was cured. They had to get a certificate from a priest to confirm that the cure was genuine. So Jesus complied with the Jewish law, telling them to ask a priest to confirm they were cured. Then the ten go in faith, believing that they were healed, but it was only one who came back, praising God and then thanking Jesus. The order is quite important. We praise God for God’s greatness and then say thank you. We must acknowledge God’s part in the process of healing. To illustrate this point, the one person who came back is a Samaritan, a race of people hated by the Jews.
The life lessons, or what I call the GHIJ lessons, in this passage are as follows.
G is for gratitude. We must always have a life of praise and an attitude of gratitude. For this dispels negativity and focuses on the positive. Once we start looking for things for which we a grateful, we find more and more. The more things we find, the more it increases our praise. The more we praise, the more we are thankful. The more we are thankful, the more we praise. This virtuous cycle condemns the negative and isolates it so that you can concentrate on the positives of life and in so doing become healthier and feel the benefits.
H is for healing, not just the power of Christ to heal, but also the wonder of our body, which can heal itself. Whilst cuts and bruises may leave a scar, over time, they are healed. In this busy world, spiritual healing can take place if you find spaces of peace, a place where you can still your mind, rest and relax. It is the healing power of Christ and the healing power of our bodies made by God on which we have to focus. Find a place where you can be at rest, still and calm.
I is for inclusivity. In this story, Jesus focused on the Samaritan. The Jews hated Samaritans to get the plaudits, but Jesus’ love is unconditional. We have no idea if the ten men with skin disease deserved to be made better. Jesus does not weigh up if you deserve to be better, Jesus just makes people better without judgement. In a society that tends to make tribes and highlight tensions between groups of people, we must see people as Jesus sees. That is as precious children of God.
J, of course, is for Jesus. Our life lesson here is to try and model Jesus: radical, fearless, loving and compassionate. From this simple story, take away the life lessons of having an attitude of gratitude and of finding places of healing, both physical, mental and spiritual. Always be inclusive. Listen to voices you would not usually listen to, and do not prejudge. Focus on Jesus and his lifestyle, his values and beliefs.
This sermon was first preached by Reverend Martin Wheadon at Wanstead United Reformed Church on 9th October 2022
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon