Open Bible: March 2002 

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The ten lepers, Luke 17,11-19




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The ten lepers, Luke 17, 11-19

On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus went through Samaria and Galilee. Entering a village, ten lepers met Jesus and Luke noticed they were all men. For the Jews, leprosy had a close link to sin.

Leprosy is the unique identification of these men; the shameful sickness has transformed their social status. They are condemned to live outside, "out of the city" according to the Leviticus.
United in the sickness, they are also united in the request that they addressed to Jesus and the way they qualified him: "Jesus, Master" not a person who teaches but a person who "presides over". They were looking for some one who could cure the sickness; they were not looking to be taught.

Jésus vers Jérusalem 

Jesus surprises us by his answer " Go and show yourselves to the priests" Moses mentioned the case in the Leviticus (14, 1-32). Everybody would think that he meant the Jewish priests of Jerusalem, but one of the ten lepers, the Samaritan, will be going to the temple of Mount Garizim, with its own priests who are the rivals of the Jews.
Were the priests medicine men? No, they were just acknowledging that the symptoms of the disease had disappeared then they propose a long ritual of purifications and expiations, a marabou from Africa or from a cosmopolitan city will be at ease with this sort of things. After eight days they will be reintegrated into the community and ready to go to the Temple for the sacrifice of the Holocaust and the official thanksgiving.

The lepers perhaps expected an immediate and spectacular healing. Nothing happened but they trusted any way this itinerant prophet who is asking an easy thing to do. Jesus "presides over" their entering into the faith.  lépra

Then the wish of these men was fulfilled. On the way back, discretely, away from the crowd of onlookers, Jesus' compassion showed up, they were all "purified" to use a religious term for this healing event. Nine of them still went on to accomplish what the Master said. Can we blame them? Used to the letter of the Law, they were immerged in a religion of "commands", their feelings and initiatives seemed to be barred by a Law that molds and constrains. The religion of "you must do or not do" But where is the relationship with the commandment "you shall love"? The link to love is fundamental for those who have to take initiatives in front of unexpected situations.

For the Samaritan, religion had not taken away from him the human feeling. First he looked at the reality, and he named it: "healed" " knowing he was healed". For him, illness is not related to religion but is the business of the medical doctors. Unfortunately in those times medicine could not do any thing for him. The one who healed him was a man, a man of an unknown power who seems to "preside over" life and death. As it is polite to thank a benefactor, the man spontaneously came back to Jesus in glorifying God. No need for him to go to the Temple, God is everywhere and mostly he is in this man, " a force went out of him and healed them all " (Luke 6,19)." He fell down at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks"

And Jesus had this disturbing question: "Where are the nine? What kind of religion had they these nine men? It did not make them more human in their conscience and their social life. Where was their freedom of thinking, their freedom of expressing joy for recovering a healthy life? The definitive words are pronounced to the Samaritan " saved", your faith had saved you!" (thy faith hath made thee whole). He was purified, healed, saved.