Our Wednesday night children’s lesson, taken from Luke 17:11-19, focused on Jesus healing the ten men with leprosy. Pastor David told the Bible lesson in his casual interactive style, involving kids in acting out the story. Adult volunteers didn’t usually get a character assignment for the drama, but this time everyone joined in. Portraying the leprous men, adults and kids cried out from a distance, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Pastor, acting out the part of Jesus, answered, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And then we started walking . . .
How many times had I heard this Bible story?! Children’s lessons often focused on the one man who came back to say thank you for the miracle. Other presentations pointed out the grateful man’s nationality as Samaritan, people rejected by the Jews as outcast half-breeds. Samaritans who received healing and demonstrated faith in Jesus challenged Jewish expectations of the Messiah. Again and again, Jesus the Messiah healed, taught, and expanded people’s understanding of His power and purpose. And this Gospel account still does that today, if we open our hearts to Jesus’ teaching in His Word.
As a people freed from slavery and learning to become God’s nation, the Israelites received instructions in Leviticus for their safety, health, and relationship to God. In addition to butchers, interpreters of the law, and sacrifice intermediaries, the Levite priests became experts on infectious diseases. Detailed dermatology lessons (Leviticus 13:1-46) helped priests examine and pronounce the afflicted person as unclean (e.g. spreading rashes, raw flesh—what we call contagious) or clean (e.g. baldness, a healed rash). Leviticus chapter 13 taught priests when to isolate and re-examine, while the next chapter (Leviticus 14:1-32) described ceremonial cleansing procedures for people declared clean. As recorded thousands of years ago, God gave instructions to keep the Israelites from spreading disease, long before our science-based infection control procedures (e.g. gloves, lab tests, microscopes—even basics like soap and running water).
Ten men with infectious skin disease, translated as leprosy in most Bible versions, stood at a distance, as dictated in Leviticus. Rather than the obligatory cry of “Unclean! Unclean,” these men called out to Jesus for mercy. In compliance with the levitical code, Jesus sent them to the priests. He never pronounced them healed, but the directive to show themselves to the priests meant that their healing would be confirmed.
As we walked around the room acting out the biblical drama, this passage became an object lesson for me. Trying to insert myself into that their walk of faith, I thought of the march to the temple. How long do we have to walk? Are these lumps, ulcers, and discolorations disappearing? Does my back/foot/hand/head look better yet? My self-examination might last the entire trip!
That walk required faith from the ten leprous men—faith that Jesus healed them. Jesus supported the priest’s authority to distinguish clean from unclean and to validate the miracle. No matter what evidence of healing the men observed during their journey, they walked in obedience to Jesus’ command. By faith, the ten men believed that their presentation to the priest would result in a clean examination. And by faith, the healed Samaritan man returned to give thanks to His Savior.
Lord God, please forgive me for my arrogance in thinking I cannot learn anything new from a familiar Bible passage. Thank you for the example of the ten men with leprosy, especially their walk of faith and obedience to your command. Please help me to believe and act on the truth of God’s Word, even when the journey is long and my faith is weak. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
[Originally posted February 2022]