Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ten Lepers - Part One

Luke 17: 11-19 tells of an incident during Jesus minstry wherein ten lepers came to him asking for mercy.

Leprosy is a disease which is mentioned throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. It is also quite universally known as a symbol of sin. Leprosy has terrified humanity since ancient times. For many centuries, leprosy was considered a curse of God, often associated with sin. It did not kill, but it lingered for years, causing the tissues to degenerate and deforming the body.

Leprosy is spread by multiple skin contacts, as well as by droplets from the upper respiratory tracts, such as coughing or sneezing. When you consider those facts, God's mercy can be seen in the commands given in Leviticus concerning the disease. Clearly, those steps would help to stop the spread of leprosy.

The symptoms start in the nervous system, then spread to other parts, such as the hands, feet, and face. Patients with leprosy experience disfigurement of the skin and bones, twisting of the limbs, and curling of the fingers. Tumor-like growths may form on the skin and in the respiratory tract, and the optic nerve may deteriorate. But the largest number of deformities develop from loss of pain sensation due to extensive nerve damage. Someone with leprosy is constantly in jeopardy of damaging their body because they don't have the warning sensation of pain. They might leave their hand or foot too close to a fire and burn it without ever feeling the heat.

With that in mind, it is easy to see why leprosy is such a good fit as a symbol of sin. Just as leprosy is a disease that attacks the skin, sin also attacks our flesh.

Galatians 5:16-21 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

the flesh, or the earthly body, is not the problem. As my Pastor has pointed out, the Gnostic's belief that every thing to do with the flesh is sinful, is what led them to the heresy that Jesus never actually came into the world as a man. But Jesus Christ did come in the flesh and had an earthly body of flesh. So the flesh itself is not the problem, the problem is the disease of sin that attacks the body.

The passage from Galatians above describes the sin infested flesh. Remember that I said that biggest problem with leprosy was that you lost the pain sensation so that you would not realize that you were hurting your body. Sin works the same way. The deeper one falls into sin, the less warning you will get from your conscience. And finally when sin has run its course, you will receive the wages of sin, which is death, and you would no longer have even felt that you were doing anything wrong.

Yes, leprosy is a pretty powerful symbol of sin!

Leprosy was a disease which many Jews of that day understood to be inflicted by God as a punishment for some particular sin, and a mark of God's displeasure. While that view does not really affect the story of these ten lepers, it might be prudent to mention that this is not necessarily true. If leprosy was a punishment for sin, then we would all be afflicted with it, for all of us are sinners. Remember what Jesus said when asked by his disciples about a blind man: who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? His answer was that neither one. He was born blind so that the work of God could be shown through him. So we need to be careful that we don't make assumptions about someone based on what they may be going through.

In our text I would like to draw some parallels and hopefully seize on some truths, based on leprosy being a symbol of sin. Again, not a proof of sin, or a sign of sin, but a symbol of sin

Verse 12 "And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:"

If its true that many Jews looked at leprosy as a judgment for sin, then these 10 men knew that they were viewed by others as being sinners and as under God's judgment, but we don't know that they all agreed with that diagnosis

Not everyone you will meet today agrees that they have a sin problem.

But these lepers DID know that they had a problem. The condition of their flesh showed them that.

Even today most men know that they have some kind of problem. their conscience tells them so, but as I mentioned before, if you ignore your conscience long enough, it will loose its voice. Deep down that conscience will keep up its rumblings though, which helps explain why we have so much "religion" in the world geared toward making man feel better about himself.

Some of these lepers probably saw themselves as victims of the disease; that they themselves were not responsible for their condition.. As far as the actual disease of leprosy goes, as we said before, they could very well be correct. However in regards to leprosy as a symbol of sin, they were not victims; we are each responsible for our own sin. This is a common reaction of men today. "It's not my fault... "

"Sure I treat my spouse badly, but you don't know what they're like...."
"....its just man's nature to lust after more than one woman "
or even "God made me with an attraction to the same sex, so how can it be sin?"

It's just never our fault!

But my guess is that at least one of these ten lepers saw himself as being guilty and deserving judgment. be continued

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