Luke 17:11-19 NASB While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. (12) As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; (13) and they raised their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" (14) When He saw them, He said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they were going, they were cleansed. (15) Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, (16) and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. (17) Then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine--where are they? (18) "Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" (19) And He said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has made you well."
These ten weren’t asking for signs. They weren’t trying to show off. They were lepers. Their bodies falling apart. They were isolated, separated and humiliated by a disease that even allowed a Samaritan, a man of mixed heritage, to find community because no community would allow them in.
That alone tells us something more is here, hidden. Something more is implied in this healing. Consider that the term “sozo” is used for both “healing” and “forgiveness.” Something more than just healing has taken place. Something transformative without and within was experienced on that day with one of those lepers.
That is good to know, that brings some comfort for those of us who haven’t found the physical healing to take place. But then, when we suffer, we’re not far removed from some pretty esteemed company in the Bible. God didn’t heal Moses of his stuttering. Jacob, who was quite healthy, actually found himself handicapped after wrestling with God. God didn’t answer David’s prayer and fasting for his infant son. God didn’t raise Ruth’s husband and two sons from the dead. God didn’t remove Paul’s thorn in the flesh nor did he stop the stomach illness of Timothy. Remember that 100% of those who Jesus healed, still died.
I will not be an apologist for an incomplete view of healing packed in a false assurance. Certainly not, when we consider that the symbol of our faith is a cross: a symbol of pain, suffering, humiliation and execution. We, pastors, laity and theologians, have not spoken to this well.
I want to share a story I've never shared in a sermon before because it brings this home for me. The evening before my surgery to remove my cancerous testical, I sat on the couch and listened as a local preacher in our community explained that bad things happen because we’ve taken Jesus on the throne of our hearts. A week later, as I was still recovering, I saw that same preacher speaking, and on one hand he had a cast. The irony was not lost on me. When asked about why some were ill, Jesus also said (see John 9:1-3), our suffering and pain isn’t so easy to explain away. Sinfulness is not always the cause.
The Healer is concerned about you - all of you - your whole being. Our traditions, reasoning, experiences and the Bible, reinforce this as one of the cornerstone pieces of our faith that God is in love with you and me, John 3:16 is that all telling verse and passage of God’s love but even it is just one of many. As such, he cares about our mental pain, our physical suffering and the condition of our souls. Our faith tells us in the beginning chapters of the Bible, that this is a soul-making world where our pain and suffering play a role in our journey.
But like Jacob, I find myself wrestling with God, maybe you do too. To give you and I freedom, God has limited, at times what God is going to do. I suspect, that is because the healing I need has far less to do with my physical condition as it does to do with healing my soul; healing my faith. I have an assurance, not pollyanna pie in the sky, wish on a star -hope about God’s role and work as the Healer. We are called as God’s people to come together and pray for one another for sure but I want to suggest to you, God does not intend this as a prescription for our healing but plan of wellness:
1. Sustenance is where it begins. What are you putting in you and no, I don’t mean just food. When challenged by the devil, Jesus had no problem with his response. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' " Matt 4:3-4 (NKJV) In fact throughout his ministry, Jesus pointed this out time and again the health of our soul is dependent on God’s word.
2. The second part of the wellness plan is to recognize that Hebrews 6:12 is correct, we can become spiritually dull and weak. A strength plan is also important. Again, there are many verses but I think it is key to consider here Jesus’ words again. What we take in, God’s words are not merely for us to ponder but to live out. Jesus said of this “…whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt 20:27-28 (NLT)
3. It is more than a commandment, it characterized the life of Jesus for he understood the true need for Sabbath, at time to rest. Genesis 31:12-18 makes the importance of Sabbath clear. We find in Mark 1:35; Mark 6:30-31 and Luke 5:16 that Jesus took time to rest, to not work. He took time to go to temple and synagogues. Rabbi David Horowitz, who spent a week with my Academy group in early November, shared much with us about Jewish influence upon our Christian faith. This helped us to understand better the practices of Jesus' life. You see, Sabbath is NOT about worship for 1 hour each week, but it is to be three fold:
1. It is about REST. This is a gift.
2. It is about JOY. It is time together, not alone.
3. It is about Sanctification. In the synagogue, when sending forth, the people aren’t sent forth to go in peace. Instead, they “Go To Peace.”
My experience; our experience and the Biblical history leave us at times wanting. The path to healing isn’t so easy. A doctor once said to a patient before surgery, “I may hurt you, but I won’t injure you.” Like the lepers, we come wanting healing – we don’t want to feel hurt but God comes wanting us to be whole. We know that one leper, went away whole in body and soul. Does your plan of wellness include both body and soul? The path for wellness, for wholeness is available to all, just as it was to the lepers.