Sometimes it hard to talk about healing.
Most of us have had to deal with situations where we have lost a loved one, having watched them battle disease, suffer and die. And when we’ve prayed we’ve felt as if heaven’s door were closed shut, God had gone home, taken the phone off the hook, put his feet up in front of the TV and dozed off. I know some of you are facing those kinds of issues today… and Large chunks of the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament wrestles with this, wrestle with why do the innocent suffer? Wrestle with Where is God in the face of evil?
We’ve been put off by the over the top excesses of the shaman, the showman and the salesmen, the faith healers and the snake oil salesmen. It’s so tied up with the call to donate, and in the face of people not getting healed that abusive lie… ‘You just didn’t have enough faith”.
In God’s providence we live in the wonderful age of the wonders of science and medicine, able to help and cure so many, and to talk of praying for healing is relegated to the level of quackery and the lunatic fringe. Even in the growing ranks of alternative medicine, it’s kind of pushed to the back of the shelf.
In the Passage we are looking at today Jesus encounters and heals ten lepers, only one of whom come back and receives not only healing; is made clean, but receives Wellness and wholeness at the feet of Jesus. It’s a passage that talks of faith and healing, the compassion of God and healing, gratitude and worship in response to God’s over the top lavish grace. So while it’s hard to talk about healing that’s what we are going to talk about today.
We are working our way through Luke’s account of Jesus journey to Jerusalem, a journey that takes up the central third of the gospel narrative and a narrative that focuses on Jesus teaching his disciples about what it means to follow him. The passage we are looking at today is the fourth of five miracles stories in that narrative. It acts as the start of a new section in Jesus journey. We’ve just been looking at a large section of teaching which seems to have taken place at the house of a Pharisee and now we see Jesus moving on. He is following the pilgrim trail from Galilee to Jerusalem, which means making a detour round Samaria. The encounters we have with Jesus now focus on people’ responses. These encounters and these Responses show how we too should respond to Jesus.
Let’s have a look at the passage today
Jesus comes into a village, and ten men who had leprosy meet him. For us this might seem a strange occurrence but in Jesus day this would be common place. People with skin diseases, probably not the modern disease we call leprosy, were ostracized from the community, they had to live outside and away from people, there were stringent rules and regulations about keeping a distance from others, of warning people of their approach. These men keep the law concerning such diseases, by staying a distance from Jesus.
They call out across that distance to Jesus, ”Jesus, master, have mercy”. They humbly call out in the hope that Jesus might be able to help them. It’s not a demand it is hoping that Jesus will be compassionate. They do it because they had heard of the things that Jesus had been doing. They had heard his teaching about kindness and compassion to the outcast, the little ones, the beggar at the gate. Maybe they were simply expecting a hand out, alms from a righteous and generous person. Maybe hope against hope that they may receive something more from Jesus. In Acts 3 Peter and John are going to the temple to pray and they are confronted by a lame beggar who asks for help, and Peter and John don’t have anything to give them but they pray for him and he is healed. It is a good example of how we come to Jesus in times of trouble and in need for healing. We come Humbly, no demanding. We come with faith because of what we know of Jesus; trusting in his compassion.
Jesus shows them compassion. He says “go and show yourselves to the priests”. In the Old testament law the priests acted as health professionals, if you had one of the skin diseases that made you unclean they would diagnose and proclaim that. If you got better, they were the ones who checked it out and provided the processes by which you could be acknowledged as clean again and reconciled to the community.
Luke tells us it is only as the men go on their way that they find that they are healed. This is where faith had come into the picture. Faith in Luke’s gospel is hearing Jesus word and Obeying it. In the Old Testament Naaman is a Syrian general who has leprosy and who is told by a Jewish slave girl that there is a prophet, Elisha in Israel who can cure him. When he goes to Elisha he is told to go and wash himself seven times in the Jordan river, he gets upset about that, it’s not a mighty river like the ones back home, But he does it and it is in this obedience putting his faith into action that he is made well.
I’ve heard people say I believe God has healed me so I don’t need to go to the doctor, I don’t need to carry on with my treatment. But often faith in Jesus is being willing to go and do the things we need to do to be declared well again. Go to the doctor, if we are healed on the way, it is confirmed, if we must go through treatment, well we have faith that God is with us and moving through that process. Both are acts of faith.
We can think faith is this big thing, this supernatural strength to believe, if I just believe enough, but in this passage it is simply to trust Jesus words.
One of the ten when he sees he has been made clean again, responds by coming back praising God, and falling at Jesus feet thanking him. All ten were made clean, healed of leprosy, but this one man during the spiritual experience recognizes who Jesus is and comes back to acknowledge that. This is a salvation moment for him. Not only is he made clean and able to reconciled with his community, but enters the Kingdom of God.
It’s interesting that in Jesus response to this we find out that the man was a Samaritan, so for the Jews not only was he unclean because of his skin disease he was an outsider because of his nationality. Jesus points this out, the implication is that this group of men would have been a diverse group, Jew and Samaritan. It affirms the kingdom of God is for all who will put their trust in God. It shows the compassion of God is for all people. Even those we might deem far away.
Remember the Samaritan were of mixed heritage and they believed you worshipped God at a different place than the Jews. But he is the one who recognizes, God present in Jesus. Jesus response signifies a different level of healing for this man. He can rise and Go because he has been made well or whole. Not only cleansed of leprosy, not only able to reconciled with his community again, but reconciled with God through his belief in Jesus Christ. It is that faith in Jesus, that has meant he has wholeness wellness in his life.
We often think of healing as being a physical process. But in Christ there are different kinds of healing.
Yes there is physical healing. God can and does heal and make clean. It is based on the compassion and the love of God. We humbly come to God and ask for mercy. God will and does respond.
It maybe, in that physical healing but he answers that prayer in other ways as well. The courage to face medical procedures, coming to the place of knowing God’s peace and presence in the midst of the upheaval, and the emotional and physical roller coaster of illness. I’ve mentioned it several times before but Walter Breuggemann identifies a process in the book of Psalms. He says there are psalms of orientation, when everything is rosy and wonderful, the happy clappys which are great expressions of praise to God. Then he sees the psalms of disorientation, when it all goes pear shaped. Like you’ve gone out to the wild west coast and find yourself caught up by wave after crashing wave, spinning round now knowing which way is up, and trying to hold your breath… and where is God in the midst of the white water and the boom crash of Wave after wave? Then he detects another type of psalm the psalms of reorientation, where people come to a place of peace and calm, where in the midst of all that is going on, even in the face of sorrow and suffering they become aware of god’s abiding presence and peace. Sometime they are healed and other times they can face everything knowing God’s immanence and sovereignty.
It may sound rather callous, or pie in the sky when you die, opiate for the masses, but death is also a form of healing. It is an end to suffering and pain, a going to be with Christ. A couple of weeks ago we looked at the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16… Jesus paints the picture of Lazarus in heaven in Abraham’s bosom, all his suffering and sorrow behind him. Through deprivation, homelessness, illness and the shame of being a beggar he had kept his faith in God and now he finds himself, with God, consoled and cared for. The passage I often preach on at funerals is John 14 where Jesus says In my father’s house there are many rooms and I go to prepare a place for you.. and I come back so you will be where I am. In the book Philippians, which we will be looking at later this year, Paul in chains and facing possible death says ‘to live is Christ, to die is gain.’ It still leaves us here to deal with the grief with unanswered questions with loneliness that someone is not with us anymore. But it is the gospel hope.
The passage in Luke also points to healing as reconciliation and welcoming back. Healing relationship and community. Jesus heals the lepers but also makes it possible for them to be reconciled with their community, by going through the legal and religious processes set out in the Old Testament. We see this time and time again Jesus reconciling people he has healed or forgiven, to the people of God. The women who touched the corner of Jesus garment is reconciled to her community by Jesus asking her to tell what she had done and his affirmation that her faith has made her well.
Forgiveness of sin brings the same healing. In our devotions at the Maungarei Ministers Association on Thursday, Russel Grainger from Mt wellington community Church, shared the story of Tarore and her gospel of Luke. She and her father the chief Nagkuku had become followers of Jesus. Tarore was killed while on a trip to the bay of plenty, by a raiding party from Te Awa tribe and her gospel of Luke which she carried in a Kiti around her neck as a treasured possession was taken by the leader of that raiding band Uita. He had hoped it was valuable but when he saw it was a book didn’t know what to do with it as he couldn’t read. At Tarore’s funeral Ngakuku because of his new-found faith had preached against taking Utu, revenge for the death and mana the tribe had lost. Utu was expected but he spoke against it. Meanwhile a slave called Ripahau offered to read the gospel of Luke Uita and his people. Uita became a follower of Jesus and was convicted of his sin of killing Tarore and knew he had to go and ask forgiveness, even if it meant death. When he came to Ngakuku he confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness and the two knelt together in prayer. It was timely reminded of the healing power of Jesus love just after Waitangi Day. How Jesus can bring healing and wholeness between people.
The last type of healing in this story is salvation. The Samaritan came back to Jesus and recognizes who he is and so is reconciled with God. This is not just being made clean but Jesus proclaims him well, whole healed. Free from his illness, able to be reconciled with his people and reconciled with God and welcomed into the kingdom of God. The Jewish word for peace means wholeness, right relationships, this starts with that relationship with God through Jesus Christ… the hope of healing and wholeness in our life and world.
He is the example for us of how to respond to God grace, with faith, he did what Jesus had told him to do, with gratitude and thanks. The nine who didn’t return show us how often we take God’s graciousness for granted, and how we can encounter Jesus compassion but it may not change our hearts. But the Samaritan calls us to with thanksgiving and worship acknowledge Jesus as God’s son and our saviour.
So today I want to invite you to hear this passage in your life.
Hear Jesus desire to show compassion and love and speak healing into our lives. As we call out to him ‘have Jesus, Lord, have mercy.
Hear Jesus words ‘Rise and Go, your faith has made you well”, as an affirmation of our salvation as we affirm our faith in him and give him thanks for what he has done for us.
Hear them as life affirming, that we can go through life trusting in Jesus presence peace and strength, as we hear Jesus words and obey them.
A portion of this message comes from a shorter reflection a few week back called... four types of healing.