One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan (Luke 17:15-16).
I used to admire the young girls in my church raised by Godly parents who affirmed them and brought them up in peaceful environments. I saw the edge they had on life as they left home for college, free from the strife of disfunction and chaos. Okay, maybe “admire” is not really the right word. Jealousy is a more accurate description of what I felt. Truth is, I wanted what they had because growing up, I felt like a loser.
As I compared my life with these young women, I often caught myself wondering, How would I would be different today if I were raised in a functional Godly family? Would I have spent two decades of my life uncovering the debris of abuse and the effects of my resulting sin?
Apparently God was concerned about my lack of understanding. “Whatever I’ve allowed in your life, Christy, I meant it for good. Adversity played a role in making you who you are today. Being made whole is better than just being clean.”
That’s sounds like the story of the ten lepers.
In chapter 17, Luke tells the fate of ten “losers” who sat far off on the edge of town. They were the rejects, the cast-aways, the forgotten of society. Evicted from their loved-ones and communities, their contagious disease was so shameful they were forced to live in seclusion. No one had hope for their recovery, but one day they saw Jesus coming. They had heard about this man and how he healed people. “Maybe he can deliver us,” they said. As he walked by them on the road, they cried out, “Jesus, have mercy on us.”
And he did. But look at what he tells them. “Go show yourselves to the priest.” He didn’t heal them right there on the spot. He didn’t even say he was going to heal them. He simply told them to go. They didn’t have to go. They could have just sat there in the dust and refused to budge until they saw they were changed. They could have complained and lingered in leprosy. But Jesus wanted them to take action. Without effort and participation, their faith would be worthless. It took some trust for them to go to the priest before they saw evidence of any reason to go. But check this out:
As they went, they were cleansed.
I can imagine the joy they must have felt as they ran back to their families and communities. They were cleansed from a disease that made them life-long members of the Lonely Hearts Club. But now, loved-ones embraced them in marvel and astonishment. Rejoicing surrounded them wherever they went. Celebrations were held. It was time to par-tae!
But One had something else on his mind. One went back to Jesus.
When Jesus saw One, who by the way was a Samaritan—a foreigner, an outcast of the outcasts—he was surprised. He had something else he wanted to give All. He wanted to make All whole. “One, where are the other nine?” he questioned. “Where are the others I healed?” Jesus was saddened that only a foreigner had returned to give him glory. Nonetheless, Jesus told One, “Your faith has made you whole.”
To be made “whole” comes from the Greek word, sozo, which not only means to restore to health, but also means to preserve one who is in danger of destruction—to save in the technical biblical sense. When One came back to Jesus, he got much more than just having his body restored; he also received a covenant relationship with Christ and salvation for his soul!
Let’s look at the distinction between what the other nine received and what One received. Luke says nine were “cleansed.” Cleansed comes from the Greek word, katharizō, which means to make clean from physical stains, to cure, to purify from wickedness. Katharizo implies the type of cleansing that must be repeated. It’s the same word used in Matthew 23:25 when Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for only cleaning the outside of the platter but leaving the inside dirty. This type of cleansing heals the flesh, but doesn’t save our soul.
For several years, One was considered unclean. His uncleanliness drove him away from society and forced him to live on the edge of town. Ironically, the very issue he and his culture despised was the very thing that drove One to Christ. Without a desperation for deliverance, would he have seen his need for Jesus?
The story of the ten “losers” makes me realize Jesus has something more he wants to give those who live on the outskirts of town. The other nine didn’t realize—their external issues may have been cleansed, but without an inner healing, the leprosy would also rot their soul.
My opinion about my issues and the way I was raised has changed. Now when I’m tempted to think about how my life could have been, I’ll contemplate the truth: If adversity played a role in making One who God intended him to be, then living on the edge of town was exactly where I was destined to live. God intends our issues for good. If I grew up in a perfect environment, I may never have felt the need for Jesus. But just like One, Christ has brought purpose to my issues, and now…I’m better whole than just plain clean.
Dear Jesus, forgive me for the times I’ve compared my life and my circumstances with others. You are the One who makes All things new. So today, I thank you for my life and the adversity that drives me to You. You are so able to bring beauty out of the ashes of my life. Thank you for healing me inside and out! In Your name I pray, Amen.
Scriptures to Ponder:
She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save (sozo, be made whole) his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed (sozo, be made whole)” (Matthew 9:20-21).
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (sozo, to be made whole) (Acts 2:21).
And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve (sozo, to be made whole) me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:18).
Questions to Ponder:
Glance at the scriptures above. Using a variety of English words such as “save,” “healed,” “saved” and “preserve,” all verses reference the Greek word, sozo, which means to “be made whole”. What insight does this bring?
Based on what you’ve read, what do you think is the difference between being made clean and being made whole?
Why do you think the other nine lepers failed to return to say thank you and give glory to God?
Have you ever been spared from an issue or circumstances only to have the emotional remains rot your soul? What happened?
Have you ever felt like an outcast or a reject, locked in a leprous situation—hopeless circumstances that only Jesus could redeem? If so, what finally drove you to Christ?
The story of the ten lepers makes me wonder how many times I’ve forfeited a blessing by being a “no-show,” failing to return to say thank you. Instead of being made whole, I settled for half. Has Christ ever done something marvelous in your life and you failed to offer thanks? If so, what are some ways you can return now and give him glory?