11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
14 So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.
15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
17 So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?
We ten; all of us reading this, and all who will not read – all of mankind are among the ten lepers – maybe not skin-leprosy but sin-leprosy. We are covered with the rotting, decaying body of sin and death.
Those lepers were told to go and show. And on their way to obey – they were cleansed.
We too, afar off and long ago were given a trail to travel; a road filled with religious rules and regulations – the law of sin and death. The commandments of dos and don'ts revealed the journey was too long and too hard for a leper such as I.
As one of the lepers that day, I can tell you, the path to the priest was painful, too painful. The heat baked my bleeding flesh. The rocks cut infected feet. Breathless, I had to find my ragged voice and cry; "Unclean, unclean" to warn anyone near to clear the way for a wretch such as I. Step aside or risk being contaminated with the stench and filth I carry. "Unclean, unclean" I cry… as I cry.
At last, almost there; the steep hill to the city of the priest. Will they allow entrance to a dog like me? My throat is dry – as dry as the dusty road. But I must go on. I must obey. Keep walking. One step – one word, "Unclean." Another step – another word, "Unclean."
I must repeat those wretched words… "Unclean, unclean"…the law dictates I am less than man. I didn't ask for this. But here I am. And my words declare I am but scum, "Unclean, unclean." But my parched throat stalls. I start to speak, but the words falter and come out wrong… (cough) "…Clean… (gasp)Clean." Those who always look away – now look my way. I look down at dusty street and the bloody stubs I call feet.
I hear the words the others repeat – "Clean, clean." Mocking me, I think. Louder they laugh "CLEAN! CLEAN!" They won't stop! I cover my ears…
All went white.
That's when I realized. I had ears, not deteriorated flaps of flesh. And I had hands, with fingers – all my fingers. CLEAN! CLEAN! WE WERE CLEAN! I jumped on feet that were stubs moments ago and ran on legs that were legs – real legs, not hunks of flesh swinging from a bloody torso.
I ran and ran and ran feeling the fresh rush of air in lungs and throat where moments ago each breath was the pull of rusty chain through a rocky crag. I felt words crisp and clean exit smiling and laughing lips "CLEAN! CLEAN!" I ran like the wind. Like a school boy at play – until I collapsed... at His feet. To give thanks to The One Who Made Me Clean, The One who made me complete, The One who made me whole.
Do you know the story is about me? Really, it is… and you? On our way to obey He got in the way. On our way to be religious, to do the right thing, to see the priest, to go to church, to obey the rules, to be a good person, a good mom, a good dad on our way to Notville; do not murder, do not steel, do not covet, do not lie, do not, do not, not, not …He meets us. Only one returns.
He – The Healer of skin and sin intervenes. He knows the path to the priest is hard – too hard and far – too far. He knows that even if we make it – it won't do any good. Unless He gets in the way; and so – He becomes The Way. On the way, He makes a way. He helps us cross by using The Cross. He breathes fresh breath into infected lungs, restores flesh where decaying meat clung. He gives life in place of death.
Only one. One out of ten return to give thanks. They all were cleansed. He made a way for all. For you. For me. For all. Only one put on the attitude of gratitude and gave God thanks. It bothered Him, too. He even asked. "Where's the other nine?"
The trip for the lepers is the journey of life for us. We walk our own trail of trials. The leprosy of life slips in and spreads like cancer; the car won't start and the head-ache won't stop; relationships fall and bills rise; we cry as we cry "Unfair, unfair, I didn't ask for this life." We feel unclean, undone, like we're falling apart, like a leper. The heart grows numb from the pain that won't end… And along the way He walks in – because He has gone before.
He knows this road. He's climbed this hill. His flesh hung in ribbons between heaven and earth on an old rugged cross bearing the scars of my sin, and yours. He paid the price for our cleansing.
Whether we want to be or not, we're in the story, we have no choice. However, we can choose who we'll be: The one who realized the path-to-the-priest was back to The Priest – and returned to give thanks? Or one of the nine, who grabbed life without considering The
Source Of Life – without returning to offer thanks?
As for me and my house, we collapse at the feet of Jesus – The Sin Cleanser, who makes life complete. With a grateful heart rejoice knowing the High Priest has passed this way to cleanse a leper such as me and will soon return to meet us face to face.
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.