Gordon Myers

Articles on Life, Truth, Love, Computers, and Music

Remembering the good

In the 17th chapter of Luke, there's a little known story about Jesus called the Cleansing of Ten Lepers. It was typical back then that anyone with a skin aberration was excluded from taking part in temple rituals and daily life with the community. But once those impurities healed (if they did), the person was supposed to present theirself to a priest who could give them the all-clear. The priests at the time received their equivalent of medical training, which enabled them to examine all sorts of skin conditions to detect what was contagious and what was benign. But leprosy was the worst-of-the-worst. Leprosy was considered incurable, so contracting it meant exile.

What Jesus has to say to the ten lepers in the story is interesting. Without hesitation, he commands them, saying, "go and show yourselves to the priests." This command only makes sense for people who don't have leprosy. I believe Jesus totally saw past the leprosy -- he refused to see the leprosy -- and instead saw nothing but the reflection of the Almighty in each of them. Jesus saw beyond the surface appearance and deep into the real, spiritual substance of who they were and Who created them. This reminds me of the following statement, by Mary Baker Eddy:

Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick.

Then, as the men walked on their way, they were cleansed -- the leprosy simply stopped existing. It miraculously disappeared from each of their experiences. And at that point, as the Bible describes, one of these ten stopped, turned around, and thanked God profusely before continuing on to the priest. Only one. The other nine just kept walking as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

I confess that the latter part of the story has always baffled me the most. Why wouldn't all of them be singing in the streets, leaping and dancing for joy? If you had been burdened with a horrible, incurable skin disease that left you excluded from society and from basic human rights, and then someone healed you of that, how could anyone NOT be overflowing with thankfulness? Could those nine men really have been that aloof and ungrateful?

Thinking about this story, I turned that question on myself -- which in general is a practice I'd always recommend. How many victories in my own life have I completely glossed over as if nothing special has happened? How many times have I written off the divine to stay focused on the task at hand? It's true that I can't claim anything quite as fantastic as an instantaneous healing of leprosy in my own life. But how many other lesser battles that I've triumphed over have I failed to give thanks for, or even acknowledge at all?

I have had some breakthrough moments that, to me, unequivocally reassure me that God cares for me and is operative in my life. But when all the persistent, nagging, unresolved issues seem to pile up during the week, how easy it is to forget those blessings. I think there's a message in this story about taking time out of the day, on a consistent basis, to thank God for the good in our lives. We should thank Him for everything good, big or small. Whether it's a breakthrough epiphany or just the smile of a friend, goodness, by definition, comes from God. So don't forget to stop and give thanks before getting swept up in the busyness of daily life. It's worth it!

2 Comments from the Community:

1 Erin A.D. Fisher, CS on 7 Apr 2014 at 12:04 pm

Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Gordon. My husband and I stopped to think about this point last week, too. I think a key point in the story is that the one who gave thanks was a Samaritan.

If I've got my Bible history straight, the Samaritans were the descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Once they were separate from Judah in the south, they didn't have access to the temple in Jerusalem, so one of their kings set up a new temple up north. Unfortunately, with idolatry and paganism so ubiquitous, once they allowed themselves to worship God somewhere besides the one temple in Jerusalem, things degenerated quickly into pagan groves and idol-worship. Hence the Jews' disapproval (to put it mildly) of them.

So, as we were reasoning about this Samaritan guy who was healed, we thought about his place in the world. He wouldn't have been welcome in Jewish society. So he wasn't looking at the healing as a means to getting back to his old human comforts, at least not in the way the Jewish guys who were healed were. I imagine he just wanted to be free from that imposition on himself. And once he realized he was--well, that was that--he gave thanks! Like the hymn, how could he keep from singing?

But I think the story also brings up another good point, which is that the nine Jews were healed, too. The Christ always meets us where we are. If we're not ready to take a big step (or don't even realize there's one to be taken), the Christ shows us how to take the baby step of progress--and keeps coming to us, "repeating itself" (S&H xi:15), and revealing the way and impelling our progress a step at a time. The fact that you realized you sometimes don't give thanks, Gordon, is actually a sign of progress--and you can rejoice! :)

2 Kathleen on 7 Apr 2014 at 12:35 pm

Thanks for adding an extra dimension to this well-known story, Gordon. Each time we read these very familiar stories and parables, we see another kernel of truth in action.

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