Today’s story comes from Luke 17:11-19. This is one of those passages that has academics debating whether or not it happened.
But does it really matter whether or not it happened as Luke presents it?
“Stories can be true without being literally and factually true.”― Marcus J. Borg, The Heart of Christianity
Here, I’m not going to delve into the factual inconsistencies – but rather focus on the Truth that we can discover through the story of ten lepers healed.
Only one came back to say thank you.
My first question to myself is one of simple awareness in my every day life: If I receive ten miracles, did I only notice and give thanks for one of them?
How aware are you of the miracles you experience each day?
Seven lessons from Luke
But lets dive in, deeper, to the lessons available to us from the story Luke shares of the ten lepers.
#1 – The Divine meets us where we are:
We are told that Jesus is travelling to Jerusalem, and somewhere crossing from Galilee into Samaria, he comes upon a village with ten lepers.
What strikes me about this – God always meets us where we are! The road to healing starts where we are. While we might feel distant from the Divine, we can breathe in the life of the Divine at any time.
We simply need to open our eyes to see that the Divine has already arrived.
#2 – Being lepers – they were taught to keep their distance
In what ways have you been told to keep your distance – that you cannot come close, that you are unworthy? Perhaps you’ve been told that you are unclean and not worthy of being part of society, or the Church, or your family.
For whatever reason, on whatever scale, you are keeping your distance. You are standing far off.
For some people, this happens because they learned that they must earn everything – and if you don’t have “everything” – it’s because you are obviously not “enough”.
- Perhaps, it’s because you can’t stop smoking
- You’re normal, but “different”
- You’re the black sheep of your family
- You allowed yourself to be rejected, cheated on, led on, and/or played – not once, but many times. How could you possibly not have learned the lessons yet?
- You’re gay
- Your life is a mess – you haven’t got a job or you are struggling to make ends meet
- You’ve made a huge mistake, and feel that you can’t forgive yourself.
- You’re exhausted and burnt out – you just can’t keep holding it all together.
- You dropped the ball, and now everyone is blaming you.
- You’re failing at being a model citizen / model mother / model father / model son/daughter
- You’ve become a human doing, rather than a human being – and you’re afraid that if you stop doing, other will cease to appreciate you
- You are suffering from anxiety, depression, deep grief and sadness – and you feel like you cannot move on, while everyone else is expecting you to just get over it.
Perhaps it’s even an illness, like an auto-immune disease, that others cannot easily see the symptoms of. Maybe you have suffered a trauma, and you are a survivor of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, that has lead to depression, anxiety or PTSD. Or you might have suffered a debilitating injury that you feel keeps you separate from the world.
Whatever it is that plagues you, you get caught in a vicious cycle that ultimately leads to self-loathing, depression, anxiety, perfectionism, apathy, and sadness. Like the lepers, you feel disconnected, alienated, separate, and alone.
And so, even when the Divine is present, you keep your distance.
#3 The lepers called out – asking for mercy
When we turn to the Divine, when we ask for mercy, we may be healed immediately. Mercy is the Christlike treatment of suffering – the true overcoming of the pain and separation.
It’s interesting to note that they did not ask for healing – to be restored to their original purity or integrity – but only for treatment of their suffering.
Consider, for a moment, how many times, instead of asking for a complete healing, have you simply asked for an end of the suffering – the pain and separation?
Rather than daring to believe that you can be returned to wholeness and integrity – it would be just enough if this didn’t hurt any more! Could you dare to believe and hope in more than just less pain and suffering?
Could you dare to have faith that you might be whole?
#4 The Divine response: end your isolation
The first step, of course, in the healing process is to believe (something that happens on the emotional and mental level), and from there you open up to receiving the stream of healing life. But we have to exercise our faith, using our words and actions, so that the work is manifest and accomplished in our lives.
The true healing – the receiving of the blessings – takes place when the lepers end their isolation by returning to their community.
The Divine response – go and show yourselves to the priests – rejoin your community, there is no reason to keep your distance and be isolated. On the one level, if we see the priests as a metaphor for that place between the spiritual and the material worlds – we are also being told to reconnect the spiritual and physical.
“Go to the priests” is another way of saying – make a connection with the healing power of the Divine – connect your material situation with the spiritual aspects of life.
On a pragmatic level, as leprosy was a common disease, especially among the poor, it was left to the priests to decide whether the victims actually had leprosy or some minor skin disease. But only the priests could pronounce a leper clean, re-establishing their ability to rejoin community life.
The command to show themselves to the priests was confirmation of their healing – that they would receive permission to rejoin their community and end their isolation.
In what ways does your healing journey require that you end your isolation?
#5 Action required – faith is more than believing
It was only as the lepers went – as they exercised their faith in movement and action – that they became clean. Luke tells us “while still on their way”.
In what areas of your life have you asked I AM for a miracle, received a response of inspired action, and then sat waiting for your miracle to happen without actually moving your feet?
When you pray, move your feet.African Proverb
When you sit in the silence of prayer and the presence of the Divine, when you hear the still, small voice of Spirit – receiving an instruction of inspired action – now it falls on you to take action.
You have to move.
The miracle happened for the lepers because they acted on their faith. They couldn’t immediately see the results of their request coming to fruition – it was as they were on their way to the priests that the healing occurred.
Where in your life have you received the answer and you’re still stuck – sitting still – waiting for the miracle to happen before you move?
Take a moment to recognise that sometimes healing miracles happen when you step forward in faith. Perhaps you can only see one step ahead – you only know the next right step.
Take that step.
#6 An act of gratitude
Following on in the story of the lepers, we then read that one of them turned back, once he realised he had been healed, to show his gratitude and acknowledgement of the source of his healing experience.
This was not about acknowledging Jesus, the man, but the source of his healing – the Divine. We read that he knelt in gratitude, and praised God.
Once again, it is interesting to note that the man who is grateful is a Samaritan – a foreigner, an outsider. This leaves us believing that the other nine were Jewish, belongers, with families and communities that they were in a hurry to return to.
For me, the lesson here is to celebrate the victories – taking a moment for gratitude. Before you rush back into your responsibilities – your family, your community, or even your chores – when you experience a miracle, no matter how small – take a moment to acknowledge it!
Perhaps you have a gratitude practice that you do at the end of each day – or maybe you take a moment at each meal to give thanks. But get in the habit, as small miracles and victories happen in your life – to acknowledge them and especially to acknowledge the Source of all: the allness of Good.
#7 Total healing includes being grateful for the miracle – then spiritual healing occurs
The story finishes with Jesus asking, after the one man has returned:
“Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?”
How often is it that it’s an “outsider” that really sees the truth, not those that are the closest to the truth? But the emotional and spiritual healing that was available, when this man acknowledged the source of his healing and miracle, was a making whole.
Healing is to make hale, sound or whole: to restore to original purity or integrity. It is to return us to perfect connection and Oneness with the Divine.
We are told that the tenth man is not only healed, but also “saved” – in the sense of a full connecting with the spiritual power of the Divine. He receives a double miracle – not just the physical healing and wholeness, but also a faith renewed that allows him to see the Divine within.
What miracles are in store for you when you connect with the Source of All – when you recognise that I AM is always near and available for you, as the source of all you are and can be?
Today you have an invitation to end the separation and isolation, and become whole and perfect.