Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 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!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. (Luke 17:11-14 NIV)
Samaria and Galilee. The complete passage reveals that this was a group of both Jew and Samaritan. The common disease of leprosy bonded these men who would normally never associate with each other.
What common suffering bonds you with those you typically are at odds with?
Labels. This translation does not label these men as “lepers” but rather says they were men who had leprosy.
What label do you give yourself or others that might be a false identity?
Distance. The ten men stood at a distance from Jesus. This was more than social-distancing. This was law. Contracting this highly contagious disease with no cure meant living alone outside the city, dressing in torn clothing, and covering the lower part of their face (Leviticus 13:45–46). The standard was strict so that anyone with this disease could be quickly identified and avoided.
In what ways do you feel like you have a disease that must be avoided by others? In what ways do you feel like you are standing at a distance from Jesus or others?
Unclean. The Law also said that these men had to call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45b) so that no one would accidentally bump into them.
In what ways do you feel unclean? Who might you consider unclean? In what ways are all mankind unclean?
Pity. The ten men ask Jesus to have pity on them. Some other translations use the word, “mercy.” The definition of this word (eleeo in Greek) is “to have compassion or mercy on someone in unhappy circumstances, implying not merely a feeling for the misfortunes of others involving sympathy, but also an active desire to remove those miseries.”* In other words, they are saying, “Do something to relieve our suffering.”
Whose unhappy circumstances have given you the desire to remove their miseries? How might you show this kind of pity/mercy on others?
As they went. Jesus didn’t reach out a hand to touch them or speak a word. Instead he told them to go present themselves to the priests—their disease inspectors. The narrative doesn’t says at what point they began to realize they no longer had leprosy. The point is they had to believe Jesus and obey.
What steps of faith must you take to demonstrate you believe Jesus is capable of healing?
Cleansed. It is obvious that these men need and want physical healing. And we know that only Jesus has the power to do this.
What do you need Jesus to do for you today? What can you ask him to do on behalf of another who is suffering?
Do Something. But I’m not God, you say. What can I do? Beth Moore suggests: “Sometimes we harden our hearts to shield ourselves from the pain of hurting for others. Better to look and hurt than ignore or grow hard. Pain is part of what reminds us we’re alive and still connected. Yes, we wish we could do more, but we know Someone who can. Christ still overflows today with a pity that doesn’t just sympathize but changes conditions.”*
Where would you gauge your heart at this moment? Hard, shielded, ignoring, hurting, alive, connecting etc. What is one action step you can take to make a difference in removing the miseries of others?
I am amazed by the parallels and applications to our current crisis in this encounter of Jesus The “disease” of our world feels overwhelming. Many in unhappy circumstances have shared their stories recently. Like Jesus, I am moved to eleeo.
Thankfully I do not have to social distance from Jesus but can offer my grain of faith to him by declaring that he is capable of changing hearts, removing oppression, setting captives free, and healing the wounded. He sees our misery and our cries for mercy and will cleanse all who call out to him.
My African American colleague describes her misery as never being able to “catch her breath.” Like her, I need the God of Psalm 34:18: “If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.”
Jesus, Master, have pity on us!
*Beth Moore, Jesus the One and Only (Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press, 2000) 177.