One Leper Had More Than a Memory

Luke 17:11-19

By: Rev. Dr. William H. Chavis, Jr.

My knees weakened and my hands trembled. The beating of my heart raced quickly after I negotiated a stolen pocketbook from a thief outside my college library. I thanked and praised God for protecting me from being physically hurt by the thief. As I trembled, I thought about the woman who did not express her gratitude to me for retrieving her pocketbook. 

Perhaps, she was surprised that she was given back her pocketbook virtually as fast as it was stolen from her. Perhaps, she was too excited that she forgot to express her gratitude for my actions. Did she forget? Maybe. 

Luke tells the story of ten lepers who were cleansed and healed by Jesus. One leper returned to give Him thanks and praise! As a Samaritan, he was considered a social and religious outcast. “Where are the other nine?” Jesus asked (v.17). They may have been so overwhelmed by their newly healed condition, that expressing gratitude was lost to them.  

They might have gotten caught up in how dramatically their lives had changed for the better and were shocked at what happened to them. Did they feel driven to hurry and tell their priests who needed to be informed and verify their cleansing (v.14)? Is it possible that they forgot all about Jesus once they became healed? All we know is that only one formerly diseased leper came back to our Most High Priest to say “thanks.” 

This grateful leper remembered his life before he was healed. He remembered living in squalor and abject poverty in a contagious environment. Presumably, he could not forget how being isolated from civil society prevented him from socially interacting with others. These are the reasons why the ten lepers yelled to Jesus from a distance for healing. He answered them by His unparalleled grace and mercy.  

Do you have a memory of God’s matchless grace – that same grace that delivered you from a life of sin? It is that same grace that delivered you from indifference or active resistance to God’s unconditional love. 

What was your life like before COVID-19? Are you thanking God for the life you have now? Are you interpreting yourself in terms of the past? Are you giving God thanks and praise for what might have been?  

The thankful leper understood that he was not defined by yesterday. He faced discrimination because of his race (Samaritan) and as a leper. He surrendered himself to the unconditional love of Jesus. Jesus responded in verse 19 by saying “Rise, go your way, your faith has made you well.” He simultaneously received physical and spiritual healing from our Most High Priest. 

His leap of faith in Jesus was more than a memory of his former life, and more than what might have been. It was a “thank you” for a physical life that had become healthy, and a spiritual life that had joined him with the living Christ. His new life became defined by the light of the Gospel as a new creature born by the Spirit of Christ.

How about you? In this pandemic, what are you thanking and praising God for? Do you imagine what would have been, if it were not for God’s grace?

If you have not joined yourself to Jesus, why don’t you do it now so you can be made whole. Say YES to Jesus! He will respond to your leap of faith in him and make you whole.