Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the Coronavirus. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1)
Jesus is our healer and comforter. He is always with us, and guides us. And protects us wherever we go because He loves us more than anything else. The proof is the cross, were Jesus bled and died. There is only one reason why He died on the cross, which is us. Each of us is saved by His grace and mercy that we do not deserve, but He willingly took the cross with joy while looking forward to seeing our eternal salvation on each of us. This is the best news that we can ever have, and nobody has given this to us, because none can give us our eternal salvation that only comes from Him and faith in Him. This is the truth, and God calls us even at this moment. Whether we are weary or in joy, without this truth, we are nothing. Our toils and joys are momentary, but what is waiting for us is forever.
For our momentary, light suffering is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison because we are not looking at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
Jesus loved people, especially marginalized people at that time. Some of us know about the Samaritans, who lived in the region of Samaria, which was in between Galilee on the north of Samaria and Judea on the south. The region was forbidden for the Jews at that time because the Samaritans were unclean, and being associated with even one of the Samaritans made any Jewish people unclean. This is more like COVID-19. If we get close to a person infected by COVID-19, we are in danger of being infected by COVID-19. Thus, we should not get close to anyone who are infected by COVID-19. The Jewish traditions toward the Samarians was very close to that of the current COVID-19. Thus, no Jews wanted to even get close to Samaritans. Therefore, when Jews traveled to Galilee from Jerusalem located at the south of Samaria, they completely going around Samaria so that they could avoid any contacts with Samaritans. However, Jesus was different, he loved to travel through the region of Samaria. After all, the Jewish traditions were or men, not of God. Jesus broke the men’s traditions because Jesus equally loved the Samaritans as much as He loved the Jews.
There was a small village between Samaria and Galilee. In the village, ten lepers lived.
As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:46)
Lepers could not live together with their families. The reason was to protect their family and the Jewish community. Like COVID-19, if a person infected by COVID-19, the person should not live with his/her own family. Again, the reason is not to protect the COVID-19 patient, but to protect his/her families. At that time, thus, the lepers had to live outside of the city, and lepers got congregate into one place to live together, which was the village. Therefore, nobody wanted to come to the village where the lepers lived, and the lepers were practically abandoned from their families and communities.
In the village, there was one miracle. Both Jewish and Samaritan lepers lived together. Jewish lepers were unclean. Samaritan lepers were unclean also. Then they realized that there was no reason to not to live together. In the village, both Jews and Samaritans lived together.
Among the ten lepers in the village, nine were Jews, and one Samaritan. They eat together, and lived together. Daily they also watching their bodies deteriorating gradually and steadily. The deterioration was not so bad because they saw themselves every day, but it was different to other people, who did not see the lepers daily. They saw big differences. Like our teenagers, we, as a family member, hardly know how fast our teenagers grow, but our relatives or friends who don’t see our teenagers every day surprise as they see our teenagers grown inches (or several centimeters) whenever they see our teenagers. The ten lepers knew the fact that their leprosy were getting worse every day, and they did not want to acknowledge because it was too painful.
Then one day, they heard about Jesus, who was coming to their cursed land, where nobody wanted to come. Additionally, they hear Jesus was a miraculous healer, and Jesus actually healed a leper before. What a sweet news to them! Finally, they could see a hope that could make them out of the curse – slowly and steadily deteriorating and eventually dying alone without being surrounded by their loved family members. The only hope was to be healed to normal so that they could go home to see their families again and live together with their friends in the same community without continuing the miserable outcast lives in the leper village.
As soon as they heard the news, they looked each other, and they planned together. They could not pass the life-time opportunity to meet Jesus. They discussed how to ask Jesus so that Jesus surely would heal their leprosy. Then they rehearsed multiple times. They picked one person to take a role of Jesus, and together with the rest, they practiced. They practiced how to shout and how to get to the attention of Jesus. (We can easily imagine that for the lepers, it was much more important than having a job interview.) They rehearsed till there was absolutely no room to make any mistakes, to be right at the first try. They were under pressure. This might be here the first and the last chance to see Jesus and get His attention. That’s it. When they became fully confident from their rehearsal, they together quickly moved to where they were told that Jesus would be.
As getting close to the place, they imagined how good it would be if they were really healed by Jesus. They thought that they would be lepers forever till their death. Thus, they had never talked about being healed among themselves. Indeed, talking about hopeless fact only brought them more pains to them. For them, healing was an unattainable hope. However, it was not easy to completely abandon their hope of healing because it was only hope that they could have. How irony! Each of the lepers had to fight this fight internally every day whenever they remembered their families. They had often unbearable nights, when waking up from a dream of seeing their family with a clean body. Finally, the time had come that they could have their dreams come true.
When they actually spotted Jesus, who was walking down the road along with His disciples, a huge crowd of people were with Jesus also. All of the ten lepers wanted to run directly into Jesus, but they could not. Jesus was a Jew, and they were unclean lepers. They had to keep distance from Jesus. (Yes, we can easily imagine what the scene actually looked like because we are currently practicing social distancing due to COVID-19.) As they rehearsed, all ten lepers together lifted up their voices from a huge distance, saying
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:13b)
Their voices carried their hope in the air, which was mixed with their desperation and miseries accumulated so many years in their leprosy. Jesus stopped and looked at them. For the first time, they saw the face of Jesus, who was filled with mercy and love that could not be found from anywhere else. Jesus’ eyes were telling His unfathomable grace and peace. Jesus was, indeed, radiating His love, peace and comfort, which they had never experienced before. All of their concerns and miseries were suddenly forgotten before Jesus. They felt the time had just stopped. They did not know what to do next. They had literally forgotten all things except their desire of being in His peace, mercy and love forever.
Then Jesus said,
“Go and show yourselves to the priests.” (Luke 17:14b)
The ten lepers initially questioned to themselves whether they heard correctly or not because Jesus did not say anything about their healing that they really wanted to hear from Jesus. They looked at each other, and soon they realized that indeed Jesus did not say anything about their healing. Jesus simply told them to go and show themselves to the priests.
At that time, only were priests able to declare that one person was free of leprosy and clean. After getting the priest’s approval, a leper could go back to one’s home and live together. In fact, Jesus tested their faith whether they would go to priests without any explicit healing by Jesus on spot. Without a physical proof nor a sign of their healing, it would be not easy to go to the priests. It would be even stupid to see the priests without their clean body. They carefully looked at their bodies, but their bodies were exactly same as before they met Jesus. They struggled.
One obvious option was to try out although they would be treated as the fool who tried to see the priests even though their bodies were not healed from their leprosy. While they were struggling, Jesus started walking again and talking with others. More people flocked around Jesus, and the lepers felt that the people did not want for the lepers to get close to them.
Thus, they were almost forced to go to the priests because there was no other option. At the same time, they really wanted to believe what Jesus told -- the priests would pronounce their miraculous healing. Thus, they were walking toward the priests. Their heart was mixed with hope and doubt initially. As walking toward the priests, their hope in faith was winning. This was the reason they could continue walking toward the temple where the priests were. Even so, their struggles between hope and doubt continued. Only was the reason why they could continue walking was the hope was slightly stronger than their doubt, which was the engine for them to walk and walk. When they passed the midpoint between Jesus and the priest, they found something miracle happening in their bodies. Their skins were getting back to normal and returning to healthy skins. A miracle was happening in their bodies. Then they realized that Jesus was the true healer.
The ten lepers were so happy, and started to run to the priests to show their bodies miraculously healed from their terrible leprosy. Now they could really look forward to seeing their family and reunite with them. As soon as getting the priests’ permission, they could go back to home. The home that they had missed so long. What a joyful moment!
One of the ten lepers was a Samarian. The Samaritan leper suddenly stopped. The rest continued running toward the temple to see the priests. The Samaritan leper realized that he could not go together with the nine Jewish lepers to see the priest because he was a Samaritan. All Jews treated Samaritans poorly and they did not want any Samaritans got close the them. Now, he was no longer a leper, but he was still a Samaritan. It was certain the Jewish priests would not welcome him. Instead the priests treat him unclean anyway because he was Samaritan. Suddenly he felt loneness because he was alone. He looked back Jesus in his heart, and reckoned that Jesus would treat him warmly and equally although Jesus was a Jew. The Samaritan leper indeed had never met one single Jew like Jesus.
The Samaritan leper looked at his clean body again. Then he decided to go back to Jesus instead of going to the priests whom would not welcome him. He walked back to Jesus while the others were running to the temple. However, he was not sure whether Jesus would welcome him or not. After all, Jesus was a Jew. He speeded up his pace to catch up Jesus. Jesus was walking with His disciples and the large crowd of people were following Jesus. As getting close behind the people, the Samaritan leper started praising God with a loud voice. All looked back. They saw one of the lepers, who was completely cleansed, praising God. The Samaritan leper’s face was filled with thanksgiving and joy. Then the Samaritan leper fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. All looked at him carefully. He was a Samaritan. Then people moved away from the Samaritan leper. He was no long a leper, but he was still la Samaritan. The people avoided him, but he did not care.
Jesus and the Samaritan were at the middle, and the disciples were there too. But the rest of the people moved away from the Samaritan leper. What a sad scene! But the Samaritan was so happy to be with Jesus regardless what was happening around him. The people gathering around Jesus made a huge distance not to be defiled by the Samaritan. How awkward it was to the Samaritan leper! Even before falling down at the feet of Jesus, the Samaritan knew this would happen. He did not care of the huge crowd of the people around Jesus because he found Jesus and he believed Jesus would accept him not like the other Jews.
Jesus looked at him lovingly, and asked
“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17b-18)
Jesus knew exactly what was happening at the scene, but made a question loudly and clearly so that the people distancing from the Samaritan could hear clearly also. Yes, the healed leper was a Samaritan, but Jesus warmly welcome the Samaritan leper. The Samaritan’s small hope in faith was indeed correct. Jesus did not reject him like the other Jews. Jesus poured out His love on the Samarian, and touched him with his merciful hand, which was completely forbidden by the Jewish traditions.
Anyone touching a Samaritan becomes unclean. Then the defiled person has to go through a ritual to be cleansed again. If not, although the defiled person is a Jew, he/she cannot be in the Jewish community. All of the people around Jesus were surprised when Jesus laid His hand on the Samaritan. All wanted to criticize Jesus who was breaking the Jewish transitions, but nobody could speak up. The place was filled with God’s grace and peace, which was so strong that they could not speak against what Jesus was graciously touching the Samaritan. The Samaritan had an unique experience of directly receiving God’s grace and peace being poured out of Jesus through His hand. Finally, after many years of being leper and Samaritan, he felt he was in Heaven with Jesus.
Jesus, then, said to the Samaritan leper, who was cleansed,
“Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17: 19b)
Jesus is the source of healing, and peace and comfort. Wherever Jesus is, God’s grace, mercy and love are magnified. The Samaritan leper received all of these gifts from Jesus. Then Jesus gently and lovingly grabbed the Samaritan man’s hand and lifted him up. The Samaritan man kept carefully watching at Jesus’ eyes, the endless pool of love and mercy. As getting up, the Samaritan leper left the scene and he headed toward his home to reunite with his own family while being filled with Jesus’ grace and love. He could not forget forever what was told by Jesus, “your faith has made you well.” When he heard this, he could not understand because he did not know whether he actually had faith or not. When he was walking to his home, he realized that after meeting Jesus that he initially put all his trust on Jesus. He did not know fully about Jesus, but when he returned to Jesus, finally he fully understood Jesus by experiencing His love. The Samaritan leper also realized that his initial trust in Him was the faith. Although it was not much to show, God answered. God lifted him up and heal him although he was a Samaritan who was treated as “unclean” by the Jewish priests. Yes, his faith was so small, but it pleased God because he sincerely sought Jesus with humility and thanksgiving.
And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (Hebrew 11:6)
God does not ask a huge faith, but our authentic and earnest faith regardless its size. The true size of our faith is only known to God. Two small copper coins offered by a poor widow were received by God much more than a large sum of money offered by a rich man because God sees the hearts, not the outward appearances.
For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)
What happened to the other nine Jewish lepers? Of course, they were healed by Jesus, because Jesus was merciful. Then they hurriedly ran to the Jewish priests. The Jewish priests saw them, and announced them clean on the spot. Then the Jewish priests told them free to go home and to have fellowship with other Jews without any further restrictions. The priests indeed amazed at their healings, which, they thought, were impossible. They had never seen such a case before. The priests asked what happened, but the nine Jewish lepers rushed out from the temple and went home with a short answer: “Jesus did.” The priests puzzled over the name, Jesus, while asking “Can any human beings cure their leprosy?” They shocked their heads because it was impossible. Especially, their answer did not make sense at all. In the meantime, the nine lepers, whom were cleansed by Jesus, hurriedly left the temple.
As a result, the nine Jewish lepers and the priests even did not have a chance to know more about Jesus, let alone experiencing Jesus like the Samaritan and receiving His grace, mercy and love. Why? The Jewish lepers fixed their eyes on the world instead of Jesus. Additionally, the Jewish lepers knew they were welcome by their own Jewish priests, and they would be welcome by their own Jewish community, not like the Samaritan. What really did happen to the two groups of lepers at the end? The Samaritan leper got both physical healing and Jesus, Our Savior, while the nine Jewish lepers found their own earthly life back. That’s it. Why? Because they were already richer in the world than the Samaritan leper. The nine Jewish lepers chased down their riches and they got, but they did not get the most precious gift of all, Jesus Christ, Our Savior.
Please God! One who cares for the weak and the poor in heart. Praise His name! For the Kingdom of Heave is those who are weak and poor in heart.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)