I came across a little story that I would like to share. It goes something like this.
There was this man who was living in Budapest, and one day he went to the rabbi and complained. He says life is unbearable, there are 9 of us living in one room, what can I do? The rabbi tells the man to take his goat inside to live with them, The man argued, not believing what he had heard. But the rabbi insists, do as I say, and come back in a week.
A week later the man comes back looking even more distraught than before. We can't stand it he tells the rabbi, the goat is filthy and stinks. The rabbi tells him to go home and let the goat out, and then come back in a week. A happy, beaming man returns to the rabbi a week later exclaiming life is beautiful, we enjoy every minute of it now that the goat is gone, only the nine of us.......
So now, let me ask you this. Are there any old goats in your life? Life sure can be made difficult, almost incapacitating with a mess like that, can't it? I think you know I am using the word "goat" in place of the word "sin." Something that makes our life unclean, keeps us separated from God. In Luke 17:11-19 we meet 10 lepers who had this same kind of problem.
I looked up the definition of the word leper, and I found 2 meanings. First definition was pretty obvious, a person with Leprosy. The second one I found was, a person shunned for moral or social reasons. In the reading from Luke it tells us about 10 lepers, I think it seems pretty easy to see that we are dealing with the first definition of leper, and that is someone who has leprosy. Jesus, have mercy on us is what Jesus hears as he is walking the boarder that day.
Now, in Jesus's time leprosy was a very horrible thing. There was pain and disfigurement, but there was also isolation and rejection from society that came along with the diagnosis. Lepers would gather into colonies because they needed the company, people didn't want lepers around. They were sent out into the wilderness because people were afraid they would contaminate them.
This interaction between the lepers and Jesus is stunning to me. Why? Because Jesus did not turn away from the 10 lepers. Jesus could have just kept walking, or He could have told the lepers about the law that Moses had written. The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face, and cry out "unclean!, unclean!" As long as he has infections he remains unclean. He must live alone, he must live outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45-46) But Jesus didn't treat the lepers this way, He exposed His heart, The heart of God. He showed them what was evident and on display for all to see.
Let's remember an earlier encounter that Jesus had with a leper. In Mark 1:40-42 it says A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, if You are willing, You can make me clean. Jesus was indignant and reached out His hand and touched the man. I am willing He said, be clean. Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.
So, why did Jesus help the lepers? Compassion. Compassion, love, and concern for the condition of humanity. In His interaction with the lepers, we get a peak at the depth of God's love for us. He knows about suffering and pain, and He was not going to ignore it. He would not let any old goats separate them from His love. So Jesus healed the lepers.
Do you remember that second definition of a leper? A person shunned for moral or social reasons. So, let's think about that for a minute, let's think about the fact that our condition before God is exactly that. Paul says in Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. We are all lepers before God, because our goat causes us to be outcasts, and it is a deadly disease. Paul tells us again that the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
Now think about what happens when we recognize our brokenness? What happens when we come to Jesus with our goats? Jesus, Teacher, have mercy on us! When we cry out, we know Jesus will respond with love. His compassion for us will be the same as it was for the lepers. That is why the Apostle John wrote, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness.
God has been knocking on our doors for generations. He has desired for us to be cleansed of our leprosy, to put our goats back outside. Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.(Isaiah 1:18) When we cry out, Jesus, have mercy on us, we are made pure and clean.
God's compassion was made clear to us when Jesus was beaten and crucified on the cross to cure us of our spiritual leprosy. He died on that cross because of His love and compassion for us. He saw our brokenness and took it upon Himself to restore and heal us. And, by His resurrection He showed us He overcame death. The good news is that we are restored to God's family, that was the message of the Apostles. God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, not counting men's sins against them. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
Putting the goats back outside, cleansing us of our spiritual leprosy, is the greatest need in life of any person. God, through Christ, has taken care of that for us. we have been so richly blessed and loved. He has taken care of the most needful problem in our life. That which made us outcasts. We go through other trials and difficulties, but in Christ and what He has done, heaven is ours.
Like the lepers, sometimes it is hard to put this tremendous blessing into perspective. Only one leper could do that, only one returned and thanked Jesus, and that one was a Samaritan, people who were considered half breeds, not proper Jews. Yet it was this Samaritan leper who truly realized what Jesus had done for him. He recognized that Jesus made his life clean, He had eliminated the leprosy and the sin barrier. He fell on the ground as Jesus' feet and thanked Him for making him well, and Jesus tells him to get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well.
You see, the others were cured of a disease. They could return to their lives just the way they were before. But the Samaritan, he received a greater blessing. When he asked for mercy he got more than a cure of leprosy, he found a savior. He went back to life a changed man. He recognized that God had lovingly and miraculously cleansed and restored him. His cleansing went deeper than just being healed of leprosy, there are no goats in this man's house.
No eye has seen, no hear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. We are cleansed and made part of His family through Christ. There are no goats in our house, just lives that have been blessed by God's love and compassion. Get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well..... Amen