Embracing Grace: Leprosy of the Heart

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 14

Scripture: Luke 17:11-21; Mark 1:39-41; 2 Kings 5:1-14; Hebrews 11:6; Psalm 100:4

When Jesus was traveling on his way to Jerusalem one day, as he passed between Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers came and called to him from a distance, saying “Master, have mercy on us!” You know the story, but let’s back up a bit.

One of the requirements of the law in Bible times regarding lepers was that they were made outcasts. They were not allowed to live among anyone else unless they, too, had the disease. Another requirement was they had to call out “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever they went anywhere. This was so that people would not accidentally “bump” into them, and so that they would have enough time to get out of their way. Both laws were made to prevent the spread of a contagious disease.

When these ten lepers approached Jesus, they must have been calling out “Unclean!” They must have also seen Jesus before from a distance and had heard of his ability to heal, perhaps from the leper healed in Mark chapter 1. Encouraged by that man’s healing, a group of them must have decided to ask Jesus to show mercy.

Scripture says Jesus saw them, and then he spoke to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”1 He did not touch them as he had previously touched the other leper, nor did he instantly heal them. He instead required something from them – faith.

The passage in Mark does not point it out, but I believe that, unlike with the ten lepers, Jesus touched him because he already was exhibiting faith when he approached Him. This is evidenced by his words (See Mark 1:39-41.)

It does tell us regarding the ten lepers, however, that “as they were going, they were cleansed,” yet only one, a Samaritan, whom Jesus called “foreigner” returned and gave thanks, “glorifying God with a loud voice.”2 The implication here is that the others were of the house of Israel and not foreigners, as was the Samaritan.

If these ten lepers had not stepped out in faith – to go show themselves to the priest – I do not believe they would have been healed anymore than Naaman would have been healed of his leprosy had he not agreed to bathe seven times in the dirty river Jordan as instructed by Elisha in 2 Kings.

Stepping out in faith requires humility.

Stepping out in faith acknowledges to the world that we cannot accomplish by our own power what our heart desires.

Stepping out in faith places a demand on God. It declares that we believe, and by spiritual laws God Himself placed into motion, He is required to respond.

Did Jesus know ahead of time that only the one foreigner would return to thank him? Yes, for he was in continuous communication with the Father. What he then spoke was not for the ears of the Samaritan, but for those who were gathered with Him, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine–where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”3

The nine lepers who did not return to give thanks to Jesus were healed physically, but I believe they retained a disease much worse than physical leprosy.

They had leprosy of the heart.

According to NCBI, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, in their Pub Med Health online resource, “Leprosy is an infectious disease that has been known since biblical times. It is characterized by disfiguring skin sores, nerve damage, and progressive debilitation.”4

Leprosy of the heart affects everyone at one time or another. Its most common symptom is an evident lack of thankfulness. If left untreated, the unthankful heart over time develops thorns of bitterness (disfiguring sores), cynicism, unbelief, and insensitivity to others (nerve damage), over time progressing to a perpetual state of hardheartedness (progressive debilitation.) Once the heart has become hardhearted, it can no longer step out in faith. And without faith, we cannot please God.5

The lack of thankfulness of heart is like a decayed flower – the only fragrance it gives off is one of death (Proverbs 18:21.)

Dried Roses. Photo Credit: Yana Ray.

This is why scripture commands us to give thanks in everything.

Most of us stop in the story at this point, but the next two verses tie into it as well:

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.”6

Of course, we know this was a reference by Jesus to those with Him of his divinity, but that is not all. It points forward in time to when the Spirit of God would dwell within us as New Testament believers.

Psalm 100:4 gives us four commands for when we approach God: “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.”7 We approach the Throne with words of thanksgiving. We enter the throne room with praise. We walk into His presence in a state, or condition, of thankfulness, and we bless His name. In a heart condition of thankfulness, we present our petitions to God then follow it up by blessing His name. Though the story of the ten lepers did not point it out, I believe we can take this one step further: once we’ve made our petitions known to Him, begin thanking Him for the answer before we see it. This step requires faith but is greatly rewarded. I believe the Samaritan leper did this step without being asked, for Jesus said to him that it was his faith that made him well.

What is it you most desire from God? Where is your point of greatest need? Approach Him as prescribed in Psalm 100:4 then thank Him until you see your petition granted.

Heaven awaits the thankful heart.

Read: Luke 17:11-21; Mark 1:39-41; 2 Kings 5:1-14; Hebrews 11:6; Psalm 100:4. Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, thank you for showing us in Your Word how to approach You. Thank you for sending Jesus to be our intercessor. Thank you for planting within me a thankful heart, that I may approach Your throne with faith and boldness. Thank you for filling me with Your spirit. Help me to never grieve your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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 1Luke 17:11-21. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
2ibid.
3ibid.
4Leprosy. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Pub Med Health online resource. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH000232
5Hebrews 11:6.
6Luke 17:11-21. Italics mine. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
7Psalm 100:4. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. http://nelsonbibles.com/

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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