Our Gospel this morning is a story full of healing and faith. The action begins with Jesus on foot making his way towards Jerusalem. As Jesus enters a village, ten lepers approach him. These ten lepers are respectful of Jesus and do not get too close to him. They cry out to Jesus saying “Jesus, master, have mercy on us”. These men are sick and outcasts in society, they are begging for help.
Jesus tells these ten sick men to go show themselves to the priests. They do as they are told by Jesus and begin their journey. Then as these ten men are making their way to the priests, they are all healed. Now this is where the story gets interesting. One of these ten healed men turns back around. He makes his way back to Jesus. He throws himself at the feet of Jesus, praising God and thanking him for his healing.
Jesus is clearly pleased by this man’s gratitude but also wonders aloud where the other nine men he healed are. How come they haven’t come back to give thanks? The story ends with one of the most beautiful lines in the Gospels. Jesus tells the healed man at his feet to “Get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well”.
We have lots to learn from the journey of this gratefully healed man. First, consider how distant he was from Jesus when the story started. He was simultaneously approaching Jesus while keeping his distance. He wanted to get close to Jesus, but not too close. Maybe that sounds familiar to you.
We are not that different in our relationship with God. In our woundedness, we may feel tempted to keep God at a distance. We may do the same with people, even our loved ones. Like the leper, we may fear that our wounds are contagious. We may fear that if we let anyone get too close, even God, something bad will happen, something uncontrollable. We may say to ourselves if anyone got to know the real me, they would run.
This instinct to keep our distance is nothing to be ashamed of. We are all doing our best. We have all been hurt and we have all hurt. In the midst of pain, we develop isolating tendencies that may work in the short term but leave us lonely in the long term.
Jesus shows us there is a way out of this sickness. A way to heal not through isolation, but through vulnerability and intimacy with God. Just like the ten sick men did, this way starts by us calling out to Christ. These men called out “Jesus, master, have mercy on us”.
Try doing the same call these men did. Call out to Christ in your pain, confusion, and frustration. Pray for mercy. Why not get vulnerable with God? What do you have to lose, besides your suffering? God already knows your pain and is calling you to a path of healing.
Jesus answered the call of the sick men by saying “Go and show yourselves to the priests”. Jesus was calling these men to a path of healing. This path of healing is a journey. Deep wounds take time to heal. Patience is critical. On the way to healing, there will be footsteps in the desert, nights in the wilderness, and days of darkness. These are the times when our wounds will be so foul to us that healing feels impossible or maybe not even worthwhile. We may ask ourselves why we bother with the journey, why keep up all this effort.
We keep up this effort because we know we are on a God given path. Like the walk of the ten lepers, we are on a journey from, to, and with Christ. We know that this a journey of faith.
This journey of faith is what led our grateful leper to be healed. Try to imagine how he felt seeing his sores come clean off his body. Try to imagine how he felt realizing he had actually been healed. His faith had made him well. What is the first thing you would do if you were that man and had just been healed?
Our gratefully healed man decided to go back to Jesus to give thanks. Why did he do that? He could have just gone on his way.
We as Christians know that we are not our own way, we are on God’s way. We are faithful to this way. As we are healed more and more on this way, our desire to praise God and give thanks grows and grows. Our desire to be closer than ever to God grows. It is not hard to imagine why this healed man threw himself at the feet of Jesus. He wanted to be as close as possible to God. He wanted no more distance from his healer.
What does Jesus say to this man at his feet praising God? Ok, stay here forever and keep saying thank you? No. Jesus told the man “Get up and go, your faith has made you well”.
The act of getting up and getting going after being healed is harder than it looks. We may feel tempted to hide beneath our scars thinking they are still wounds. Jesus encourages us to get up and live. With our faith in God, we can live proudly with our scars. We can smile with the wrinkles around our eyes. We know we are on a journey of healing, a journey of faith towards God.
This journey of faith is a life long adventure. We will need to continually come back to Jesus again, and again, and again. The circumstances of our life will change but God remains eternal. God is our rock. God is our refuge. God will keep us safe. Amen.
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