11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
In my opinion, ingratitude is far too common in our society. God does so much for us and our indebtedness to Him is enormous, yet we rarely or at least infrequently offer thanks for what He has done. In fact, most professing Christians don’t even offer thanks over their meals much less offer thanks over all that God does in their lives. We take all the blessings we have for granted then cry out to God if they aren’t exactly what we expect them to be.
In this passage of scripture, we read a story of ten men who were healed from leprosy. The word “Leprosy” means to be stricken, smitten, or to receive a blow. The Jews believed that leprosy was God striking or punishing the afflicted person. Leprosy is an awful disease. It begins with specks on the eyelids and the palms, gradually spreading over the whole body, bleaching the hair white, crusting affected parts with white scales causing terrible sores and swelling. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the entire body, piece by piece. In the later stages of leprosy, the diseased person’s limbs can literally, fall off.
Leprosy was a fatal disease and it affected the sufferer far beyond the physical realm. Luke says here they stood afar off. The disease of leprosy was a painful disease, but the physical pain was not the only area suffered by those inflicted. Lepers were separated from the rest of society. They were shut out from their family and friends. They were forbidden to worship or fellowship in the synagogue or temple. They were the outcasts of their society.
Notice that Jesus on his way to Jerusalem entered a certain village and there met the lepers. The religious crowd had no room for these leprous men. The law shut them out. The law set forth the conduct of lepers. The law said when you pass one, pass on the other side and cry out Unclean! Unclean!
As Jesus entered the city, from a distance, He heard their voices crying out to Him, “Have mercy on us!
They had been afflicted physically, relationally ostracized, they were mentally “unclean,” and they were emotionally wrecked as loneliness had most likely gripped their hearts. This group of men, in my opinion, were spiritually bankrupt.
As a person who has recovered from alcoholism and addiction, I can relate to their circumstances. I know what it feels like to be cut off from society, to be shut out from your family and friends, to be written off by the religious, and to be cut off from fellowship with God. In that regard addiction is much like leprosy, although I believe that addiction is more of a spiritual affliction than a physical one.
I chose this passage of scripture because of the relation that I see between how the leper suffered and how the addicts in our society still suffer today. But more than just the similarities between how they suffer, I chose it because I believe it holds the key to true recovery for those who suffer in addiction.
When they cried out to Jesus, he healed them all. Then He told them to go and show themselves to the priest so that they could be declared clean. This was a requirement of the Law of Moses. They all went to the priest as Jesus directed. Every one of them was declared ritually clean by the priest. All ten of these men were healed, but only one returned to Jesus to give thanks for what he had received; only one was grateful, and only one was made “whole.”
The other nine would have been declared ceremonially clean again and would have returned to the lives that they had left behind. They would have found that some of their family and friends were there waiting for them, but some had most likely moved on. They most likely would have found that some of the religious people accepted them back with open arms, but others kept them at arm’s length, or rejected them outright. And eventually they would discover that even though they were healed, they were not whole – they were still broken inside from the leprosy and all that it had cost them.
In the time that I have been involved with the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous I have seen many people come into the rooms and receive the gift of sobriety. I have also seen many of those same people go back out and drink again. Why? I am sure that there are many excuses that could be used to explain it, but the simplest way that I can describe it from my perspective is: they stopped drinking, but they were never made “whole.”
They stop drinking and then go back and try to re-enter society as if nothing happened, but they are still broken. The things that made them sick are still there. The effects from the life they have lived still haunt them. They try and go about their lives forgetting about the God that rescued them and gave them the gift of sobriety.
Being made “whole” is more than just an initial healing, it is restoration. We are whole only when we are restored to a right relationship with Jesus. And the key to total restoration, a restored relationship to Jesus, is gratitude. All nine of the men were healed, but only one returned to give thanks. And only the one that returned to give thanks was declared “whole” by the Lord. Gratitude is the key to total recovery.
I have learned that I must thank my Lord, Jesus is His name, every day for the gift that I have received. Every morning I ask him for another day free from drugs and alcohol and the strength to do His will, and every night I thank Him for another day that I didn’t drink. Every day I thank Him that He has removed the desire from my life. Every day, I show gratitude to Jesus because I am truly grateful for all that He has done and is doing. Every day, one day at a time, He is making me whole.