There were ten of us… we were forced to live just outside the gates of the city. One by one our group had grown to its present ten. I think I was the fourth or fifth to join the community. We spent most of our days begging for scraps of food by the road under the shade of a single tree. At night we huddled together and slept in the dust around its trunk. My family had last seen me three years prior.
I’m not even sure how I got it… my skin began to itch and scratch… my fingers and toes began to look different, blood oozed from the simplest scrape. I had heard about leprosy… who hadn’t? Believed that those who had it were responsible for it somehow… surely they had sinned or chosen a lifestyle that wasn’t appropriate. Next thing I knew, I was scolded, yelled at, spit upon, cursed at… told I was “unclean!” And I was forced to the edge of town.
For 12 seasons I had learned to deal with this awful affliction. The touch of my wife? Gone. Holding hands and walking with my daughter? No more. Wrestling with my son? Not a chance. Oh, how I longed for their touch. For anyone’s touch.
I had little in common with the others. They were Jews. I was from Samaria. As castoffs, they observed their traditions as best they could. I just wanted to be normal again.
One day the Teacher they called “Yeshua” walked by. We weren’t really sure what He could do for us. After all, what could anyone do for us? It was so unfair. It wasn’t my fault I was unclean! Oh, how I wanted to be clean… but no one ever recovers from the incurable.
We shouted the same words to him as we called out to everyone: “Have mercy! Have pity!” Ironic now, looking back… we did not cry out “Heal us!”
He broke His stride, stopping long enough to show compassion in His eyes and love on His face. He had nothing to give us. But His look… it was heartfelt, deeply sincere. His followers urged him to move along, but he motioned toward them as if to say “I want to linger here for awhile.”
We kept crying out: “Have mercy! Have pity!” though I, for one, did not know what He could do.
Then He spoke just six words. Six words. “Go. Show yourselves to the priests.”
We were stunned… I was not really sure what that meant. I wanted food. I craved a touch. But all we got from Him were words. Then the murmurings began. The Jews gathered together and moved as one. Like a sheep, I followed the flock. As we shuffled down the road I asked one of the Nine what the priests could do? “Don’t you see,” he said, “the priests can declare that we are clean.”
“But…” I stammered… “we are unclean…”
And with a second and third look, one at a time, we each began to realize the lesions had disappeared. One’s face was not blemished. Another’s hands were no longer bloody. The crusty sores up and down my legs were gone. What was happening?
The pace quickened as the whole group began to see a miracle right before our very eyes. We were being healed! We had been healed!
Suddenly I stopped in my tracks. The others ran ahead. I turned and looked back and saw the Master with a grin from ear to ear. Such joy! Such compassion… I looked as the Nine galloped toward the temple.
“I must go back and say thank you!” I said outloud to no one in particular. “Praise God!” I shouted as I looked and saw my now-healed, outstretched hands.
The thoughts started to swim in my head: Do you know what this means? I can go back and tackle my son. I can squeeze my young daughter’s hand. I can hold and caress my bride again. “Praise God!” I shouted over and over.
I sped with the urgency of a sprinter on the final lap back up to the crest of the hill where He stood. His followers and He… all smiles as I topped the knoll with little breath left. I threw myself at His feet. I couldn’t believe what was happening, what had happened. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” I cried. “You don’t know what this means to me!” I said through my tears of joy and relief. And yet, somehow I knew that He indeed knew what it meant to me…
And as He put His hand in my tangled and matted hair He asked, “Were not ten healed? Where are the other nine?” And He looked at His followers and asked with an air of genuine perplexity, “Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Not being a Jew, I didn’t fully grasp what he was saying… I was so thankful… I was healed! I was going home!
Then He said the most intense thing anyone has ever said to me. With an outstretched hand and loving eyes: “Get up. Go. Your faith has healed and saved you.”
Me? Faithful? Me? But I’m a Samaritan. I’m a sinner. Yes, I believed. Yes, I had faith… but it was only because my need was so great. I was desperate! Me? Healed? Yes! And saved? Yes, saved…
I had heard both Jews and Gentiles talk about being saved. It is something everyone longs for, I suppose. I’m not really a religious man… but do I want to spend eternity with Almighty God? Absolutely.
I went on my way as He directed… ran up to the gates of my home, ripping off the ragged bandages with each step. “I’m healed! I’m clean!” I shouted. “Praise God! The Teacher has healed me!”
My wife could not believe her eyes. My daughter squealed with delight. My son, now a young man whom I hardly recognized, gave me the biggest hug of my entire life. Ah, their touch… so sweet.
That was 25 years ago. I’m still clean… not a trace of the disease ever since. And I still believe that what the Teacher did that day — He touched me with His words — is reason to believe He will touch me for all eternity.
My interpretation of Luke 17:11-19. May you be one to give thanks today, and every day, for His words, His touch!