In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
In Israel long ago most skin disease were all called “leprosy”. And a disease of the skin can be ugly, disfiguring, painful, and contagious through touch. And the Old Testament law gives lots of instruction about how to deal with such outbreaks. (e.g., Lev. 13:1-14:32) Including how while it persists you are unclean. (Lev. 13:3) Which means you are unable to go into the Temple, might make others unclean, and therefore need to be isolated, cut off from community, in order to not infect others. And so, in those days and in most cultures before a cure for leprosy was discovered you were sent to live in isolation, far from people. Cut off from family and friends. Made to call out from afar to any who saw you, “Leper. Leper.”
This was a horrible way of life. Sad. Lonely. Desperate. The OT did stipulated ways to deal with such diseases and be cleansed. (Lev. 13:4-17) And most importantly it stipulated that when healing occurred you must go and show yourself to priests in order that you might be declared clean and restored to your loved ones. (Lev. 14:1-32)
And so 10 lepers heard that Jesus—the sin cleansing (Isa. 53:4-5, 10), serpent crushing (Gen. 3:15), miracle working Messiah (Isa. 42: 7; 61:1-2; 35:5-6, etc.)—was coming. They go out to Him. They see him from afar. (Luke 17:12) In desperate faith they demand of Him, “Have mercy on us.” (Luke 17:!3) And He says, “Go and show yourselves to the priests, so that the priests might declare you clean and restore you to your loved ones.” (Luke 17:14)
At His word they go and are cleansed.
And 1 seeing that he is cleansed physically—a foreigner, a Samaritan (Luke 17:16), one whose ethnicity cuts Him off from Jews, cuts him off from even his fellow lepers, identifies him as one unclean to Jews by His very birth—turns around and goes back to Jesus (Luke 17:15), whose word cleansed him so that he might be restored to his loved ones. But as a foreigner and Samaritan its worth asking if he had any loved ones at all?
Isolated by his disease, isolated by his birth, isolated and cut off from all, he goes to Jesus, for He is the true priest of His soul. He goes to Jesus and thanks Him. And Jesus declares him not only cleansed on the outside, not only healed physically, but Jesus declares him saved, saying, “Your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17) This is not “faith healing” like it’s preached today. This is not this foreigner and leper mustering up in himself enough faith-power to grasp hold of Jesus and squeeze from Him healing. God is not such a miser, holding out on you. No. God grants you this faith in His Son. Stirring it up you by the word about Jesus. For faith comes by hearing about Jesus. (Rom. 10:17) Faith is trust that clings to Jesus. (Rom. 10:11-13) That falls down before Him in thanksgiving. (Luke 17:15) So, Christian faith is not only IN Jesus, but you might say Christian faith IS Jesus. So when Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well,” it’s as though He has said, Your Jesus has made you well.” Healed him not only on the outside and restored him to his loved ones on earth, but healed him on the inside and restored to His God and Father in heaven. For Jesus accepted him, made him whole, and granted him life eternal.
Then Jesus says to him, “Rise”—which is resurrection language—“and go.” (Luke 17:19) As in, His earlier command, “Go and show yourself to the priests.” (Luke 17:14) For having been cleansed inside and out their declaration will restore you to your loved ones.
In our modern day a cure for leprosy has been researched and found. But no cure has yet been invented by us for the desires our flesh which make us impure and cut us off from our loved ones. (Gal. 5:17) For they are evident within us. And they wage war against the desires of the Spirit. Making us unclean by our sexually immoral thoughts, impure desires, sensual and licentious longings; by our envies and divisions, our idolatries and hatreds, our jealousies and fits of anger, not to mention what you do with food, drink, or drugs as you seek to salve your aching soul.
And these lusts and desires within erupt from your heart, and burst forth through your mouth and your skin, in word and deed cutting you off from your loved ones and making a leper of you.
And our Lord’s Word to you is still the same as it was in the past, “Go and show yourself to The Priest in order that He might declare you clean and restore you to your loved ones.” Your desires wage war on your faith, on the Spirit within you granted you in Baptism. They seek to isolate you both from God and from your loved ones. So that you are left alone outside the community, by yourself, ruling a kingdom of filth and death. That’s what your flesh wants for you. It wages war on the Spirit of God within you, on your faith, on your Jesus.
And when your flesh seems like it is winning the battle for you and you are cut off from Him, from your loved ones, from everyone, His Word is still same to you, “Go and show yourself to your Priest so that He might declare you clean and restore you to your loved ones.” For Jesus is your high priest. He has taken your sin on Himself. Nailed it to the cross. Paying its price there so that He has purchased at the cost of His blood your healing. So that showing your sickness to Jesus, your Priest, He will declare you clean and restore you to your family.
That’s the point of His word of forgiveness. It cleanses you. It heals you. It saves you. It removes from you the works of the flesh which are manifest in you and brings forth the fruits of His Spirit. (Gal. 5:19, 23) So that as His priests you may go into the world declaring His word of forgiveness restoring you and your loved ones to each other.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock