Jesus' devotion to outcast lepers (even Samaritans)

Posted Feb 13, 2020

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Daily Scripture

Matthew 8:1-4

1 Now when Jesus had come down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with a skin disease came, kneeled before him, and said, “Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.”

3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to. Become clean.” Instantly his skin disease was cleansed. 4 Jesus said to him, “Don’t say anything to anyone. Instead, go and show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded. This will be a testimony to them.”

Luke 17:11-19

11 On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, 13 they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!”

14 When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. 16 He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” 19 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”

Reflection Questions

In Jesus' day, people called any visible skin disease “leprosy.” Leviticus 13-14 gave detailed rules and called for isolating anyone with a skin disease to keep it from spreading. Most people feared these sufferers and avoided all contact. It was stunning, even forbidden, when “Jesus reached out his hand, and touched” the man in Matthew 8 and said, “Become clean.” Jesus also healed ten “lepers.” Some were Israelite, at least one a despised Samaritan, bonded by their shunned and outcast status.

  • The desperate isolation lepers faced seemed to have created an atypical group: Jewish lepers mixed with at least one Samaritan. The gospels say Jesus, unlike most Israelites, shunned neither lepers nor Samaritans. How good are you at seeing beyond surface differences? When has someone looked beyond your surface limitations and accepted you anyway? (See the book Safe People* for wise Christian ideas on when and how to protect yourself from unsafe people.)
  • Today we know more about leprosy and other skin diseases, so we don’t see people literally wearing signs that say “unclean.” But social shunning still goes on in 2020, based on race, age, gender, socio-economic or educational level, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and even personal quirks, political beliefs, or looks. Have others ever shunned you? Have you ever shunned someone else? How is God calling you to live up to Jesus' example in touching the leper today?

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I might never favor a law or rule that shut a whole class of people out from services. Help me also to avoid the informal injustice of any kind of social shunning. Amen.


* Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Safe People: How to Find Relationships that are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

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Lindsey Arnold Seevers

Lindsey Arnold Seevers

Lindsey is part of the Missions team at Church of the Resurrection. She received her M.A. in Religious Studies from Missouri State University. Her favorite Bible story comes from John 21, because she will never turn down a brunch invite… especially not from Jesus.

This morning, as I ascended the east stairs of the Kansas statehouse, I was met with a wild-eyed stare from a man holding a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other. 

“Tragic Prelude” (for those of you who weren’t lucky enough to have a 4th grade field trip to the capitol) is an 11-foot tall mural depicting Civil War anti-slavery activist John Brown and the Bleeding Kansas conflict.

I was at the capitol this morning as part of the Johnson County Health Equity Network’s efforts to make safe, stable and affordable housing a priority in Johnson County. Today's focus was supporting the expansion of KanCare as a way to help low-income families by reducing medical debt. As I met with legislators and listened to members of the network (including Resurrection's own Senior Director of Missions and Outreach -Carol Cartmill) speak about why this cause was important to their sectors, I kept coming back to the stories of healing in Matthew and Luke.

Healing wasn’t just a small part of Jesus’ ministry, it was central.  And his actions were transgressive – he touched people who were considered “untouchable” by society. Jesus went against the law, the way things had “always been done,” to provide compassion and much needed medical attention to a neglected group.  He extended a hand to those desperately in need of hope, and through their healing they gave witness to the goodness of God.

While John Brown is a complicated historical figure, I admire his dedication to ensuring freedom for all human beings. I admire the dedication of the legislators working to ensure that all Kansans can live healthy lives.  As a Christ-follower, I am compelled to do my part to extend a hand to the outcast, to the voiceless, to the marginalized, so that they too can see the goodness of God.

UMC Book of Resolutions: Health Care for All in the United States

 

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