We are in the season of “Thanksgiving” here in the United States, and these last few days we have been looking at the story of the 10 lepers to learn about “Thanksgiving.” We have focused on our story of the 10 lepers and the one that returned – only one, that returned to give Jesus thanks for healing him of this dreaded disease.
Yesterday, I left you with the “cliff hanger” of three distinct words used in Luke 17:11-19 by Jesus that, in English, all say the same thing. But when taken in context to Hebrew that the lepers and disciples heard, convey an entirely different, deeper meaning than our English translation.
One healed leper came back. One caught himself in the midst of the celebration, and returned to Jesus. He reversed his steps, put his family on hold, put the priest on hold, and came back to the cause of his celebration. His response and life situation were unique, but in the simplest sense of what he did his thankfulness led to action. And boy, did that turn out to be important!
"Where are the other nine?" Jesus asked.
Do you realize what this says? Jesus said, "Go, and show yourselves to the priests.” Jesus never commanded that any of them express thankfulness to God, or return to him, the healer. Nevertheless, that is what Jesus expected.
Look at the Scripture again, and walk with me through this. We're going to look at three different words that are all trying to say the same thing. They're all saying that this leper-used-to-be is well.
Look first at verse 15. "One of them, when he saw he was healed . . ." and stop there. This Greek word is "hi-a-tha," which is a purely medical term. It means to mend, to repair. It's like a broken bone finally mending. This guy was all patched up.
Look at verse 17. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Stop there. This is a different word than hi-a-tha. This is "kath-a-ri-dzo," the root word for our "catheter." It, too, is a medical word in part, for it means, "remove the impurities." When a doctor inserts a heart "cath", angioplasty might remove a blockage of an artery. It will cause healing. Naturally, the Jewish connotations of this word are important, too. To be "cleansed" was exactly what the priest would be looking for, and would declare. It carried some religious overtones, too.
And now, look at one more word. In verse 19, Jesus says to this very thankful man, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."
"Made you well . . ." that's a different word. It's not a medical word, necessarily, although it was used to describe the safe delivery of a baby. This is the word, "so-so," which means, "saved." The Greeks used it for people who escaped dangerous situations. Sailors surviving a storm at sea had been saved, they said. "So-dzo." When Matthew began his gospel, he started with the Christmas story. The angel told Joseph to name the Christ child "Jesus," because that name meant that he would "save people from their sins." He would "so-dzo" the people.
When Paul described what would happen to a person who publicly professed Jesus as Lord and savior, he used this same word.
". . . If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (so-dzo). For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved (so-dzo!) (Romans 10:9-10).
And Jesus says to this very thankful man willing to follow God before his circumstances changed - to worship God before he returned home - Jesus pronounces a complete healing, a wellness that passes all other wellness terms. This man, Jesus said, understands.
Do you understand?
I want to understand more and more about our wonderful Savior.
Remember that a priest must make a declaration that a leper had been healed? There were great details involved in this process. There were details of what a priest was to look for, and how a person with the disease could be readmitted to the community, healed, and whole.
But did you know that in our record of the Old Testament, and the New Testament, that every single healing of a leper came by supernatural means? Now think about this: There were great details about what would happen if a leper became naturally well, but it never happened as far as we know. Perhaps people suspected of leprosy were pronounced clean when their skin rash cleared up. Perhaps someone with a mild infection ran the course of the sickness, and was readmitted. But according to the records of the Bible, no real leper was ever just naturally cured. This was a lifetime sentence of pain and exclusion.
But there were some healings. The sister of Moses had leprosy for a week, and was miraculously cured. A man named Naaman was cured miraculously. And that's it, in the OT. In the NT, however, Jesus heals lepers as if they had mild colds, and he had the right medicine. Jesus continued the practice of healing lepers not naturally, but supernaturally.
It was another way of God saying to us: This is the Messiah. This is the Christ. This is Immanuel. God is with you, for only God has healed lepers. Only God.
And Jesus was healing lepers as if he had the very power. He did. He was (and IS) the Son of God, God incarnate, and God worthy of worship.
And He can heal you, too! Amen!
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