Christianity 201

November 25, 2014

The Ten Lepers

Sarnia pastor Kevin Rogers’ material at The Orphan Age has been featured here since Christianity 201’s inception. Today, we’re ‘borrowing’ from three different blog posts on the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers.  To read the original posts, click here, here and here.

Luke 17:11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

 

Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy) is a long-lasting infection caused by bacteria. The disease was once feared as a highly contagious and devastating disease. Now, however, the disease is very rare and easily treated. Early diagnosis and treatment usually prevent disability related to the disease. [i]

Today the world is dealing with the crisis of the Ebola disease. This is likely the largest outbreak in history for this particular disease. If an epidemic affects a whole country or spreads over the world, it is called a pandemic. Ebola is not yet a pandemic, but the potential does exist.

While it is necessary to take wise precautions in areas affected and those who deal with patients, we need to understand a historical perspective on diseases.

  • 541-542 AD – 100,000,000 died from Plague of Justinian
  • 1346-1350 AD – 50,000,000 died from Black Plague
  • 1969 to present – 39,000,000 died from AIDS/HIV
  • 1918-1920 – 20,000,000 died from Influenza
  • 1894-1903 – 10,000,000 Modern Plague
  • 1957-1958 – 2,000,000 Asian Flu
  • 1968-1969 – 1,000,000 Hong Kong Flu
  • 2009 – 284,000 Swine Flu
  • 2002-2003 – 774 SARS[ii]

While this is just a small list of killer diseases in history, we can see that human history has been unable to eradicate sicknesses that kill. Every generation has had its theories and science to try and prevent the spread. In many cases, we are able to protect and prevent. But, new ones appear in time.

The history of civilization is also a history of disease. Every generation lives with the fear of death from unseen biological enemies. We are able to eliminate some diseases, but we are not able to eliminate the fear of death.

There have always been diseases and conditions that become the defining feature of a person’s existence. No longer a man or woman, you have become something else—a leper.

What other ways have we taken symptoms and characteristics and used them to define people as something less than what we are?

Jesus often travels along borders of human division. If you want to see where Jesus is at work, look for human borders that separate people from one another. The separation between Samaria and Galilee was marked by a huge gulf in understanding and respect.

The ten men on the outskirts of town were all given the same name—Leper. Any other defining characteristic was lost or losing ground. It may be that 9 of them were Jewish and 1 was Samaritan. The religious distinctions were buried by the disease identity. Their names, family connections and occupations were quickly becoming memories.

In suffering, they become each others companions. Former distinctions were less important to them now that they were truly alone. There are some labels that supersede everything else that you are or were. Is it any wonder that they cry to Jesus for mercy? Who else was there to listen to them? The gatekeepers of society ensured that they were kept away in the name of public safety.

In the absence of a healthy community connection, the exiles formed community among the sick. Sometimes the sick take care of the sick, better than the healthy do. Other times, they lack the strength and resource to make any difference for their companions and misery is met with misery.


 

[i] http://www.cdc.gov/leprosy/
[ii] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141025-ebola-epidemic-perspective-history-pandemic/

 

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