Posts Tagged 'Miracle'

LUKE AND THE SOLDIER

A Roman Centurion

A Roman Centurion

Luke 7:1-10

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26 NIV84)

This is a very practical statement concerning the right kind of faith.  If we look at the context of Jesus’ encouraging word, we note that it has nothing to do with anything worldly.  Jesus is not suggesting that any impossible thing we may face in life is conquerable if we just trust in the Lord.  Peter had asked a specific  question about salvation, specifically how can a person be saved?  A rich man cannot be saved by virtue of his wealth, and he cannot be denied salvation on account of it, so just how can a person be saved?  The answer:  all things are possible with God.  It is God who saves.  A rich man cannot trust in his wealth any more than poverty is a virtue.  God is the one who judges hearts and souls.  All things are possible with God – anybody may be saved, rich or poor – anybody.

In the Roman centurion, we see somebody as practical as Jesus.  He had a very matter-of-fact way of dealing with the Lord.  His servant was sick, so what did this centurion do?  Did he talk about it?  Did he worry and fret?  No, he sent at once for the Great Physician.  Did this Roman centurion love Israel?  Yes!  He built the synagogue.  He didn’t just talk about how much he loved Israel; he showed how much he loved the nation.  Does he have faith?  He doesn’t just talk about his faith, he demonstrates his faith; he shows that he has faith.

Yes, this man was practical and he was logical – his logic based what he knew to be true concerning this man, Jesus:

…say the word, and my servant will be healed.    (Luke 7:7 NIV84)

Like any soldier, this one recognized authority when he saw it, and he saw that spiritual authority that resided in Jesus.  Even Jesus’ own people didn’t see that!  In response to this Roman centurion’s simple, practical, and logical faith, Jesus responded in kind:

“I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”   (Luke 7:9 NIV84)

Jesus’ important sermon on the plain was over, but an important encounter is about to take place.  This is a pivotal point in the ministry of Jesus.  It is also recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 8:5-13), where Jesus says something that Luke omits:

“I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  (Matthew 8:11-12 NIV84)

In other words, Jesus’ ministry and the Word of the Lord will move beyond the Jews.  This centurion was a Gentile, yet he received the Word of the Lord and his servant was healed!   It wasn’t Cornelius in Acts 10 who was the first Gentile to have faith!  It was this most impressive Roman – a Gentile – soldier.

1.  The servant’s need

(A)  He was completely helpless

There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.  (Luke 7:2 NIV84)

Of this much-valued servant, Matthew observed:

“Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.”  (Matthew 8:6 NIV84)

The sick servant had NO hope; he had NO future.  He as not only sick, but he was suffering terribly; he was in constant pain.  The KJV says this sick servant was “grievously tormented.”  His employer, this Roman centurion, had the respect of those around him, but there was absolutely nothing he could do for his servant.  He had no favors owing him.

This sick servant is the classic picture of the sinner, who is so spiritually sick there is nothing any human being can do to save them.   An unrepentant sinner who knows of his sin and guilt is similarly “grievously tormented.”  It may feel bad at the time, but the conviction of the Holy Spirit is a very good thing for it can lead to repentance and salvation.

(B)  He was ready to die.

There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.  (Luke 7:2 NIV84)

The servant’s time was almost up.  Perhaps he had been sick for a prolonged time and his body, now deteriorated, was on the verge of complete collapse.

Again we see the picture of the sinner, who needs Jesus; who needs salvation.  His life could end at any moment; his soul is in constant peril of eternal damnation!

2.  The centurion’s request

This Roman official was employed by Herod himself.  He was a man of good reputation.  Scripture actually has good things to say about Roman centurions.  It was a Roman centurion who, after Jesus died on the Cross, remarked:

Surely this was the Son of God.  (Matthew 27:54)

A centurion also told Pilate the truth about Jesus’ Body (that it was really dead) and the Cornelius of Acts was a Roman centurion.  But of all the centurions mentioned in Scripture, this one must surely be the most remarkable, given his request, which reveals the love he had for his servant.

The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.   (Luke 7:3 NIV84)

We learn in the following verses that it was out of humility that this centurion didn’t go personally to make the request of Jesus.  Of special note is what these elders said of the centurion:

When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”   (Luke 7:4-5 NIV84)

His heart was right, both in regard to his servant, but also in regard to himself.  He could have approached Jesus on his own merit; touting his accomplishments and speaking for himself.  Instead, he approached Jesus through another.  Mark this and think about it.  He felt unworthy to come to Jesus personally; his request came through others.  Nothing we can do makes us worthy to approach God.  Only through Jesus may any human being approach God.  This centurion with such a good, well deserved reputation did not think he had it in himself to ask Jesus for anything.  This humility, like the simple, uncomplicated faith of a child, is what the kingdom Heaven is all about.   Remember, it was when Saul was puny in his own sight the Lord exalted him.

Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel.”  (1 Samuel 15:17 NIV84)

This centurion had some incredible faith!

That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.   (Luke 7:7 NIV84)

“Say the word.”  What a remarkable thing to say.  As far as this centurion was concerned, all Jesus had to do was “say the word,” and the servant would be healed.  No oil.  No laying on of hands.  Just “say the word.”  But this attitude proceeded from the centurion’s own experience.  When he, the centurion, needed something done, all he had to do was bark a command and his subordinates jumped to and the work got done.  He reasoned it worked the same way with Jesus!  His faith and his view of Jesus came from his life’s experience.   How good is God?  That He would go along with this man’s vision of how he thought it should be done?

It’s tempting to spend a lot of time on the faith and character of the centurion or the need of the servant, be we should never overlook God’s amazing grace and mercy in this story.  A stanza from Faber’s, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” says it best:

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

But this centurion was on to something very profound, even more so considering he didn’t have the New Testament.  He somehow knew the power of the Word.  Jesus said this:

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”   (John 6:63  NIV84)

The centurion never heard Jesus say this, but somehow, he knew the truth.

3.  Jesus’ response

(A)  It was prompt

So Jesus went with them.  (Luke 7:6b NIV84)

The focal point of the story switches from the centurion’s need to the Savior’s response.   It was as prompt as the centurion’s faith was logical.  The servant may have been at death’s door, but Jesus was about arrive at the right time.  Jesus never comes to early or too late.  God always does things at precisely the best time for all concerned.  God sent His Son to save us at just the right time:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6 NIV84)

(B)  It was encouraging

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”   (Luke 7:9 NIV84)

Jesus gave credit where credit was due!  He knew faith when He saw it, and He wasn’t afraid comment on it.  This man had faith, and Jesus noticed it and acknowledged it.  He encouraged the faith of this centurion.  It wasn’t perfect faith.  It was mustard seed-sized faith, but it was enough to amaze the Lord.  The man was filled with “personal unworthiness,” but God saw his faith.

Returning to the centurion for a moment, he must have been a very thoughtful individual.  At beginning of the incident, the centurion sent word asking Jesus to come to his home (verse 3). But by the end of the story, when Jesus is almost there, he sends word saying the opposite, “don’t come.”  Why?  It’s pure speculation, of course, but it may well be that this Gentile had time to think about Jesus – His greatness, His power, His holiness, and His mercy – and in comparison, he saw himself as even more unworthy than he did before.  The greatest of us shrivels in comparison to the wonder of Jesus.  Other people, the elders, thought this centurion “worthy.”  But the centurion knew the truth about himself as surely as he knew the truth about Jesus.

That’s why Jesus was so astonished.  How refreshing this centurion must have been to Jesus.  He had no religious pride at all.  But Jesus saw beyond the humility to the faith, and He was pleased.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.  (Hebrews 11:6 NIV84)

Long before this letter to the Hebrews was written, the centurion was practicing it!  He had faith in Jesus and Jesus was about to reward that faith!

(C)  It was effectual

Matthew’s account of the story at this point is a little more powerful:

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.”  (Matthew 8:13 NIV84)

This reminds us of the psalmist’s words:

He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.  (Psalms 107:20 NIV84)

This is a remarkable story on so many levels.  We see the utter helplessness of one who is dying.  We see the depth of faith in a man who had no relationship to the Law or to Judaism in any way.  We see the power that Jesus wields – able to speak healing from distance.  But we see something else:  we see how Jesus responds to those who respond properly to His Word:  He praises them.  Even though this centurion’s faith did not come from within himself – faith is a gift from God – Jesus exalted the centurion for responding the right way.

Jesus also said this:

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”   (Luke 7:9 NIV84)

Jesus was so amazed at the centurion’s faith, He “turned to the crowd” and told them how amazed he was.  But what was it that amazed Jesus so?  Was it that he knew Jesus could heal his servant from a distance?  Yes, but to stop there is to miss the true heart of this Gentile Roman centurion.  He also had great compassion for his servant, he had respect and generosity toward Israel, a conquered nation, and he had a deep-seated awareness of his own unworthiness.  So when you stop to think about it, great faith consists of merely possessing the right attitude:  toward Jesus; toward others – both believers and unbelievers; and toward yourself.

Great faith is probably as rare today as it was in Jesus’ day.

 

HEALING OF THE WATER

2 Kings 2:19—22

As we begin a look at this miracle, we need to understand why the water was bad in the first place. To do that, we need to understand that at this time in Hebrew history, the city of Jericho had been living under a divine judgment since the days of Joshua.

At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the LORD is anyone who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: “At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.” (Joshua 6:26)

Just like our sin-cursed world, Jericho’s curse could only be lifted by the sacrifice of a first-born. All the wealth and collected wisdom of the town fathers could not remove this “plague of bitter waters.” The same is true of the sinful condition of mankind: all the wisdom, wealth, and schemes of man cannot change his sinful state one iota. The nature of sin is what it is and there is nothing any human being can do about it apart from Jesus Christ.

The desperate need of Jericho represents the desperate need of every life lived apart from Jesus Christ: divine healing.

1. The sad condition

The state of Jericho can be viewed in two different aspects:

(a) It was pleasant, verse 9a.

Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see…”

Looking at Jericho from the outside, from a distance, everything looked good. The town was in a good location. The soil was rich in possibilities. The climate was perfect. The city was well-built and beautiful to look at.

What a picture of a person without Jesus Christ who may have everything else going for them! A person without God in his life may have success, prosperity, a measure of joy and happiness, friends and all things this world may have to offer. Imagine that kind of life. We all know somebody who, at least as far as we can tell from the outside, from a distance, who “has it all.” Yet, “having it all” is not enough.

(b) The ground was barren, verse 9b.

…but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.”

The people of Jericho worked and worked that land but to no avail. No matter what they did, the land yielded exactly nothing. The problem, though, wasn’t the land or the growing conditions, it was the water; the water was bad. The people were treating the symptom but ignoring the source of the problem.

Here is another sad portrait of a person without Christ. They continually “kick against the goad,” trying to get what they cannot have with out God. These people may do all the right things by the reckoning of man, but their problem is not what they are doing, it’s what they have failed to do: seek the healing of their sin-sick hearts.  Those without Christ become experts at treating the symptoms; symptoms like a bad marriage, financial problems, family tension, job dissatisfaction, alcoholism, emotion distress, etc.  These same people have failed to see their real problem:  they need a relationship with Jesus Christ!

The fruit of joy and peace cannot grow in a patch of weeds and thistles; the state of the human heart without God.

Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? (James 3:11)

The answer to James’ question is, naturally, no. Bad water will always flow from a bad heart. Nothing clean can come from something unclean.

2. The cure

(a) Its nature, verse 20.

Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.

This new bowl is really a picture of the New Testament, with Jesus Christ as the Salt of salvation. In Elisha’s work or restoration, the salt represents the healing power of God. Praise God, to this very day, that salt has never lost its savor!

(b) Its application, verse 21.

Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the LORD says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’”

Elisha went right to source in order to heal the water. He did not try to heal the ground or heal the streams or the bodies of water around Jericho, he went right to source of the bad water. The salt could not work its miracle until it came in contact with the spring that fed the streams around the city. The salt in the bowl did nothing for anybody.  Elisha needed to exert an effort; he needed to find the source of the problem and he needed to throw the salt into it.

Nobody can make themselves righteous or holy by doing “good things.” Nobody can make their life right before man without letting God make their heart right before Him. Trying to work your way into heaven would be like Elisha trying to purify a stream while the spring was still spewing forth the bitter water! That would be a waste of time and effort.

It is not Jesus Christ in the Bible that saves, it is Jesus Christ in your heart that saves. Just as Elisha cast his salt into the spring, dealing with the source of the bitter water, so our Lord case salt into the spring of life when He told Nicodemus: You must be born again.

Mark 9:50 makes it plain:

Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

3. The results

(a) The healing, verse 22.

And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.

The streams around Jericho, the streams that irrigated the land, were healed, and they remained healed. It the heart is healed, the life will be healed, also. Make the soul healthy, and the spirit will be healthy. Only the Good Physician can do that.

When Jesus Christ comes into a life, He heals it completely and forever. The presence of the Jesus Christ in a person’s life changes everything about that person.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The streams that surrounded Jericho still looked the same after they were healed, but they were as different as night is from day! Once they killed, now they brought life. A person who is born again may look the same, but once he was dead, now he is alive! For the first time in his life, he is fully alive.

(b) The land became fruitful, verse 21b.

…Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.

The the land that just a day before was poisonous and barren, the next day was perfect for growing crops in. The water that just one day earlier was bitter and unusable, the next day was cold and clean and pure. If this is what the power of God could do to a spring of water, imagine what He can do with a life that is turned over to Him! God can transform any life into something pure and useful. He can turn a sinner from one who is dead into a one who not only lives but is able to help others to live.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4)

When we are in Christ, we bear the best kind of fruit! Fruit is more than the result of what we do, though. A barren heart will make a barren heart. A life with Christ in it will produce other lives with Christ in them.

Salvation is contagious!  The power of God is explosive. When the spring changed, all the water changed. When your life is changed by the power of God, other lives will be changed, as you live in obedience to Him.

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. (John 7:38)

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

HEZEKIAH’S SURPRISING ANSWER TO HIS PRAYER

Isaiah 38

This is one of the most intriguing incidents in the Bible.  Anybody who has passed through a terrible illness and has stared death in the face can relate to this story of Hezekiah and his prayer.  The thing that jumps off the page is not what Hezekiah prayed but rather the sign offered by God.  How many prayers have we prayed that either began or ended with the phrase, “Show me a sign?” or some similar plea?  In Hezekiah’s case, a sign was neither asked for nor sought after, yet it was given by God.  There are some lessons to be learned in this story about a godly king who prayed a powerful and effective prayer.

1. The setting, verse 1a

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death.

Chapter 38 is a parallel of 2 Kings 20:1—21 and 2 Chronicles 32:24—33.  The phrase “in those days” serves to establish the general time frame of Hezekiah’s illness.  It sends us back to 36:1 where we read about the impending Assyrian siege—

In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.

The exact nature of Hezekiah’s illness is not stated, though use of the phrase “in those days” seems also to indicate that the king’s illness was lingering.  Some have suggested he was afflicted with boils or perhaps even cancer.  Whatever the disease was it took a prophet, Isaiah, to put the disease into perspective.

King Hezekiah ruled a total of 29 years, 15 years of which took place after this event.  His sickness, then, occurred in the mid-point of his career.  This was clearly a bad year for Hezekiah; Jerusalem was under siege by the Assyrians and he was about to receive some really bad news regarding some sickness that had been plaguing him for a period of time.

2.  Bearing bad news, 1b

The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

The king was about 38 when Isaiah was sent to him with this bad news.  This sickness, whatever it may have been, was not, we may assume, a judgment from God, but God’s command to Hezekiah is most instructive; it suggests that Hezekiah had a solemn duty to his family and his kingdom to arrange for their future care.

What Isaiah proclaimed to Hezekiah was a prophecy, but it was a prophecy with a difference:  it was conditional.  A conditional prophecy is to be distinguished from most OT prophecies; generally speaking, a prophecy is a statement of a fact ahead of time.  It is a declaration of what will happen or what must be.  However, a conditional prophecy was given in order that it might not need to be fulfilled, as in the case of Jonah’s proclamation to Nineveh (Jonah 3:4).

On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned.”

Jonah’s preaching to Nineveh served to rouse them to repentance, staying God’s judgment.  Here, Isaiah’s prophecy to Hezekiah moved the king to “put his house in order.”  Unlike the sinful city of Nineveh, Hezekiah did not need to repent, but apparently the disease that was destined to take his life was a catalyst to push the king into doing some things he should be have been doing all along.  Hezekiah at this time had no son; therefore the dynasty of David, in which centered all the Messianic hopes, was threatened.  If the king died with no natural heir, the Davidic dynasty would die too.

3.  A prayer full of integrity, verses 2, 3

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD,  “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is the nature of Hezekiah’s prayer:  he did not ask to be healed or for his life to be extended.  Turning his face to the wall, Hezekiah reminded the Lord that his faith in Him was without equivocation.  The phrase “wholehearted devotion” means there was no double-mindedness about the king’s relationship with God.  God’s favorable reply to Hezekiah shows that the king’s estimate of himself was right and accurate!  There was no boasting in this prayer, it was, among other things, a result of doing exactly what he was told to do.

Even though Hezekiah “wept bitterly,” (what 38 year old wouldn’t upon learning of his impending death?) there is an air of confidence in his prayer to God.  It has been said that “a calm conscience, which is the result of a pious life, gives confidence in prayer.”  Only one who has maintained integrity in their walk with God is able to pray confidently to God.

God respected Hezekiah’s tears because they were genuine, born of a lifetime of worship and service to Jehovah.

3.  God’s amazing response, verses 4—6

Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah:  “Go and tell Hezekiah, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life.  And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.”

God’s response is full of implications and gives us an insight into the nature of God’s working in the affairs of man.  God refers to Himself as “the God of your father David.”  The implication here is that God is absolutely committed to the covenant He made with David.   God is a God who keeps His promises and never forgets His Word.  In fact, God’s response to Hezekiah’s prayer shows us that He was more concerned with continuing the Davidic dynasty, thus keeping the covenant alive, than Hezekiah was.  Also, God intimated that He would bless Hezekiah as He had blessed David.  The promise of an additional 15 years meant that Hezekiah’s reign would double and the Davidic dynasty continue.

God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and was moved by it, not for Hezekiah’s sake, but for David’s.  Has there ever been another human being who has so ingratiated themselves to God than David?  His relationship with God must have been truly remarkable!

In responding to the king’s tears, God also promised to deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrians; God would save a nation because of a righteous king, his heartfelt prayer, and his earnest tears.

4.  A startling sign, verses 7, 8

” ‘This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.’ ” So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down.

Signs were a big part of Isaiah’s ministry.  Though Jesus refused to give signs on demand (Matthew 12:39; 16:1—4; etc.), Isaiah did offer signs routinely to confirm God’s Word, especially to those weak in their faith.  The account in 2 Kings 20 gives us some details left out in Isaiah—

Hezekiah had asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the LORD will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the LORD on the third day from now?”  Isaiah answered, “This is the LORD’s sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?”  “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”  (2 Kings 20:8—10)

While Hezekiah did not ask God for a sign, he did ask Isaiah, although it should be noted that when he asked for a sign, he had already been healed (verse 7).  In all probability, the sign Hezekiah was asking for was to be a confirmation that Jerusalem would remain safe from the Assyrians, and not a sign involving his health.  The sun was about to set on the reign of Hezekiah, so it was entirely appropriate for God’s sign to involve time, in this case, a time-keeping device.

Isaiah offered Hezekiah a choice in the sign:  a shadow that would either rise or fall 10 steps (or 10 degrees).  The king rightly noted that it would be entirely natural for the shadow to advance as time wore on; a supernatural sign would involve time going backwards!  Symbolically, time going backwards was the sign that Hezekiah’s reign would be extended.  If God could turn back time, He could extend a life and therefore his reign!

There is no way to explain this miracle scientifically.  God healing a terminal king was one thing.  God extending his life another 15 years is conceivable.  But turning back the hands of time is something thing that seems to go against nature because it affects the entire planet.  As far as we know, God lengthening a day happened only one other time, in the case of Joshua (Joshua 10).  In the case of this miracle, we need to accept the testimony of God’s Word over the objections of scientists.

5.  God and man working together, verses 21, 22

Isaiah had said, “Prepare a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil, and he will recover.” Hezekiah had asked, “What will be the sign that I will go up to the temple of the LORD?”

The last two verses of Isaiah 38 actually occur in 2 Kings 20 immediately after the promise that Jerusalem would be delivered.  The account in 2 Kings does not contain Hezekiah’s psalm of praise, which in Isaiah seems to interrupt the flow of the narrative.

Isaiah’s medical prescription was for a “poultice of figs” to be “applied to the boil.”  Faith in God is in no way negated by taking medicine.  The prayer of faith and taking medicine often go hand-in-hand.  Some Christians wrongly think that doing what the doctor says is somehow going to hamper God.  In response to this kind of thinking, the motto of the French College of Surgeons provides a balanced philosophy:

I bound up his wounds, God healed him.

Conclusion

What a remarkable man and king Hezekiah must have been!  His earnest and simple faith not only preserved his own life and kingdom, but also the Davidic dynasty.  But Hezekiah is often referred to as “the man who lived too long,” for his last 15 years were tarnished by pride and arrogance.  All too often, godly character acquired after some dreadful trial is weakened with the passage of time.  As Ross Price observed,

We must ever be aware of “the moment after!”

(c) 2010 WitzEnd

1 in 10

Luke 17:11—19

This singular event is peculiar to Luke and is filled with important themes.  For example, while the Jewish religious leaders of the day hated Jesus by this time in His earthly ministry, our Lord is seen here conforming to Jewish norms by requiring that the lepers go to the priest for the required pronouncement of health (see Leviticus 14).  Another critical theme is that healing brought about by faith should result in praise to God.  Finally, the most important theme of all, and one which is stressed in Luke, is that the grace of God is for all people not just the Jews.

Grace gives direction to the life of believers and ought to be the motivation for joyful living.  Those who have experienced God’s grace should be changed in many different ways.  This story is an illustration of one way God’s grace should manifest itself in us.

1.  Setting the scene, verse 11

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.

Jesus is steadily approaching Jerusalem; His crucifixion is mere months away.  The exact location of this miracle is not given, but we do know it must have taken place between Samaria and Galilee and we also know that our Lord was traveling in the company of His disciples.  Since the location of the miracle is not given, it can’t be important.  In fact, as we read this story, it becomes evident that the miracle itself is not the important event of this story; something else is.

The setting of the narrative is important in seeing the ultimate meaning and application of this story.  In the preceding section, verses 1—10, we learn that when a follower of Christ does all he is supposed to, all he has done is his duty; nothing more.  Among the most basic of Christian duties:

  • Confronting and forgiving a fellow believer if they “sin against you,” verses 3, 4.
  • Exercising the faith God has given you, verses 5, 6.
  • Living in obedience to the will of God, verses 7—9

The whole section is summed up with verse 10—

So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ “

The section following the healing of the ten lepers, verses 29—37, deals with the kingdom of God already in the midst mankind.  The Jews were waiting and looking for the kingdom to come, but Jesus told them it was in their midst; that the kingdom had come in such a way as to not attract attention to it.  In other words, the Jews had certain preconceived notions as to what the kingdom would look like and because of those preconceived notions, they completely missed its arrival.  Why did they miss it?  Because when Jesus came the first time, the kingdom was established spiritually, not physically.

Jesus then focused on His disciples, warning them about the (second) coming of the Son of Man and what conditions on earth will be like in that day—a time of peril and judgment.

Sandwiched in between these two teachings, is the event of the healing of the ten lepers.

2.  Misery loves company, verses 12, 13

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

These ten lepers, following the letter of their religious law, were actually not all national Jews; one was a Samaritan.  The Jews had nothing whatsoever to do with Samaritans and the Samaritans, for their part, avoided the Jews like the plague.  There was a tangible hatred between the two.  Yet, here we see that the seriousness of the moment broke down all barriers that otherwise existed between people.  These lepers were united in their misery.  Suffering removes all vestiges of prejudices and discrimination.  Under adverse conditions, people forget the things that separate them or drive them apart.  In that respect, we might almost suggest trouble and misery may be beneficent, if they draw disparate people together and force them to seek out God.

At any rate, these ten lepers did not come near Jesus.  This was not out of respect or concern for the Lord but rather for legal reasons.   Somehow they learned about Jesus’ miracle working talent, and so they called out to Him for “pity,” but in reality they were trying to get His attention, hoping He might heal them.

3.  Miracles in motion, verse 14

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

It’s amazing how different this act of healing leprosy differed from the one described in 5:13—

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.

Not only did Jesus refrain from touching any of the ten lepers, He did not even pronounce them as being “clean!”  All Jesus told them to do was, basically, continue obeying the Law by going to the priests.  He said nothing about their healing.  In the previous healing of the leper, Jesus healed the man first, and then sent him to the priest.  Why the difference between the two miracles?  Clearly Jesus wants us to learn a valuable lesson:  our Lord deals with a variety of people in a variety of ways.  Yet, differences in the working of God in lesser areas of life have the sad result of dividing the Church instead of uniting it.

Obviously these ten lepers, who obeyed the Lord’s command immediately and without question, had assumed that Jesus would heal them.  Their pathetic condition united them in a common goal.  Notice the points of similarity between all ten of them:

  • They had leprosy;
  • They were all determined to do something about their condition;
  • They all heard about Jesus and believed this may be able to help them;
  • They all appealed to Jesus as “Master” or “Rabbi”;
  • They all obeyed Jesus’ command to go visit the priest;
  • They were all healed.

Their obedience was based on a belief—or faith—that Jesus was going to heal them.  But, note this:  before being healed, they would have to (1) have faith, and (2) act in obedience to the command of the Jesus.  They did so and, evidently, were healed on their way to the priest.

4.  The surprising outcome, verses 15, 16

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

This is whole point of the story, and no point so poignantly illustrates man’s ingratitude.  The ten lepers desperately asked Jesus for help, they received it, and nine never thanked Jesus.  How common an occurrence is this?  Once we get what we want out of God, we go on our merry way.

These ten men were all cured as they made their way to the priest, and it was obvious to them.   Suddenly, without warning, one turned back and walked toward Jesus.  It is likely they hadn’t walked too far away from the Lord.

What is often overlooked in this account is that this man—a Samaritan of all things—was “praising God in a loud voice” before he reached Jesus!  He was excited about being well again and he wasn’t ashamed to testify to that fact.

Only the Samaritan had gratitude in his heart, the other nine, Jews all, did not.  Why not?  The Jews were God’s chosen people; physical healing was their right; so they thought.  In grace and mercy—and in hopes of making a point for all generations to see—all ten lepers received their healing, but because of a spirit of ingratitude, nine of them missed the redemption which fellowship with Jesus brings.  Their bodies were made whole, but not so their souls.  Verse 19 is better translated:

“Your faith has saved you.”

5.  The grieving of Jesus, verses 17—19

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”  Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

As King Lear said in the day of his tragedy, so our Lord might have said this day:

How shaper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child!

Well, Jesus had nine of them; only one out of ten lepers thought enough of what Jesus did to come back and thank Him.  Though we are greatly impressed with this Samaritan, was Jesus?  If He was, He certainly kept it to Himself!  Notice that in response to this Samaritan’s attitude of gratitude, Jesus almost ignores him; instead, our Lord asked him what had become of the other nine!  Jesus, it seems, was more concerned that God had not received the praise due Him from the other nine than with the fact that one had, indeed, praised God and thanked Jesus.

What do we make of that?  Remember the context:  in the previous story we learn about the duty of believers.  This Samaritan who praised God and thanked Jesus for his healing was not fawned over by Jesus because this Samaritan was simply doing his duty!

Finally, Jesus tells the thankful Samaritan, “Rise up and go; your faith has saved you.”  Faith is the only basis for membership in the kingdom of God, the main point of emphasis of the section following this story.  The Jews, as God’s chosen people, felt they were already a part of the kingdom by virtue of their birth.  Not so; faith is required; faith as exemplified by this Samaritan, the one in ten who came back praising God and thanking Jesus.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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