Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity September 24, 2000
1, 323, 149, 32
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 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. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. So far the Holy Word.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Who “forgives all our iniquities and heals all our diseases,” Dear Fellow Redeemed,
"I’m sorry to have to tell you this—but your case is hopeless!” Those are words that haunt the dreams of virtually everyone who’s ever been admitted to a hospital with an illness. Diseases like cancer, heart disease, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis—the very names strike fear into our hearts. No one knows when they might occur, or who might be stricken with them. Diseases like these are all the more fearful because there is no sure cure for any of them. No matter how much money you spend, no matter how many specialist doctors you consult, with these kind of diseases there will always be the possibility that nothing can physically be done to cure you.
There was a disease like that in Bible times, too—a disease called leprosy. It was a horrible affliction of the skin. It caused disfigurement, loss of members, and eventually death. At that time there was no known cure. Rich and poor alike were struck down by leprosy, and no doctor could successfully treat it.
—But that’s not quite accurate. There was one Doctor in those days who had brilliant success curing all sorts of “incurable” diseases, including leprosy. Our text for this morning gives an account of one of His most famous cases, in which He cured not one patient, but ten, simultaneously! We should be very interested in this case, because this doctor is still available for us to consult with, today. Let’s you and I bring all our afflictions, today, to—
I’ve often thought that being a doctor would be a very depressing occupation. In his job he sees an unending stream of people who are sick and in pain. Sure, he has the joy of seeing the medicine he prescribes and the treatment he gives restore the health of many people. But for every doctor there will be diseases that are simply beyond his power to cure. How discouraging to have to confront those “hopeless” cases!
Jesus Christ is one Physician for whom no case is “hopeless.” He treats even the worst diseases. Our text today takes us to a town in Galilee, in the northern part of Israel. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. We read, “As he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off” They had to do that, by the way—lepers were required by law to stay a certain distance away from healthy people, because their disease was so contagious. It must have been a pathetic sight: ten hopeless cases standing there, beckoning piteously to Jesus.
But they knew what they wanted, and they’d come to the right Person to get it: Doctor Jesus Christ. They were appealing to the only Specialist who could treat their sickness successfully. “And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.!” Notice that they didn’t say, “Heal our leprosy.” They didn’t even ask Jesus to come closer. They stood humbly at a distance, and simply begged for His mercy. The Master would know what to do!
It’s a little sad these days to see someone who is diagnosed as having a terminal illness running around to different doctors, trying to find one who will tell him he’s not going to die. Well, sin is a terminal illness, too. It’s a disease that infects us all, and it’s much more deadly than any cancer. Scripture says that “the wages of sin is death.” And that doesn’t mean a few months in the hospital and a physical death softened by painkillers—that means eternal death, everlasting torment in hell! Now, you can run around getting second and third opinions. It won’t take you long to find a preacher who will tell you that you’re not so bad, and all you have to do is try a little harder—save up a few more good works—to escape hell. But Jesus is the one Doctor you can consult confidently. He won’t lie to you. He makes a quick and certain diagnosis: the problem is sin, and the solution is Christ. That’s the reason Jesus came here to earth. He Himself said, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Mk 2:17.
But Doctor Jesus Christ not only gives us a diagnosis of the disease, He also prescribes a treatment for it. And we can have absolute faith in His treatment, because this is one Doctor who gives guaranteed results.
Do you remember the treatment that the prophet Elisha prescribed for leprosy? He said to the mighty Syrian commander Naaman, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” II K 5:10. But here our text tells us that “And when Jesus saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” That’s all!
In those days, the priests were the official medical examiners. In the unlikely event that anyone ever recovered from leprosy, they had to pass a priest’s inspection before they could be declared free of the disease. And here we see Jesus putting the faith of these ten men to the test. He doesn’t give them any fancy prayers to say, no hocus-pocus to perform, He doesn’t even say a thing about healing them! He simply says, “Go to the priests.” They must have been bewildered, but they trusted Him. They went. “And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” You can almost picture it, can’t you?—Ten stricken men, shuffling down the dusty road toward the home of the priest. Then, suddenly, they notice—the scabs and the lesions are disappearing! Missing members are restored, and patchy, diseased flesh is replaced by fresh, healthy skin! Imagine the shouts of joy, the whoops of pure delight! Doctor Jesus Christ had performed a miracle of healing—a whole hospital-ward of lepers had been cured at a single stroke!
I like that prayer, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” I think it’s a good one for us to use. It doesn’t tell the Lord what to do. It simply places all our needs, all our diseases, at the feet of our Savior, and trusts His love to deal with them in the best way. It’s a prayer that the elderly can use when the aches and pains of old age become almost too much to bear. Husbands and wives can use it when confronted with marriage problems that seem difficult or impossible to cure. Parents can use it when they’re perplexed by the myriad problems of raising their children. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us;” it’s a prayer that covers everything, and a prayer that always gets results. When you’re sick, when you’re depressed, when you’re confused—or when you’re just plain tired of it all, your Great Physician says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Mt 11:28.
By far the greatest results of our Doctor’s treatment, though, is its affect on the disease of sin. Those ten men must have had their doubts about whether Jesus could really cure leprosy with just a few simple words. And we often have nagging doubts, too: Can Jesus can really cure my sin? Can His forgiveness really apply to me? But today Christ tells us to put aside our doubts. Just as those hopeless lepers were completely cured, so we hopeless sinners are completely cured by the sacrifice Jesus made for us. There’s no doubt about it! The treatment for sin is simple: apply the blood of Jesus Christ every day, and your sins will be removed from your conscience just as quickly and thoroughly as the disease disappeared from the skin of those ten men. You can trust your Great Physician Jesus Christ—he’s the only doctor who ever gave his own life so that his patients—you and me!—could live. When Jesus gave up the ghost on the cross that dark Good Friday afternoon, your sin was cured once and for all. We can now come confidently to the throne of grace. Now we can pray with the Psalmist, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving kindness; according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” Ps 51:1-2. And the result is guaranteed!
Our text continues, “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?”
I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone here that doctors’ and hospitals’ fees have simply gone through the roof in recent years. Something’s wrong somewhere in that system! That’s why it’s all the more surprising when we find that the one Doctor who can treat even our worst diseases, and who gives us guaranteed results—also asks the lowest fees! Think about it—Jesus shed His blood to cure you of your sin and make a place for you in heaven, and what does He ask in return? Your thanks. He wants you to return and give glory to God, like that man cured of leprosy—the one out of ten that remembered to come back and say thank you. Does that seem like too much to give? It was too much for those other nine men—they forgot. But it shouldn’t be too much for us.
Imagine if you traveled to the Mayo Clinic and received expensive treatment from a world-famous specialist; and when you asked for the bill he said, “Your thanks will be enough!”—That’s all Jesus asks of us. It doesn’t cost much, but it’s a payment we should be careful never to overlook. Paul says, “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I Thes 5:16-18. By all means, don’t neglect to attend worship here on Sundays—this is where we, together, offer our praise and thanks to our Savior. Don’t forget to return thanks for the blessings of food and drink at mealtimes. Don’t neglect to count your blessings before you turn in at bedtime, and thank your Lord for the many blessings of the day. It’s an extremely low fee to pay for everything God has done for us; but giving thanks is something we can do, and it’s a God-pleasing thing.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this—but your case is hopeless.” Let’s you and I give thanks this morning that there is one Physician from whose lips we will never hear those words! He treats even the worst diseases, he gives guaranteed results, and He asks the lowest fees. Thanks and praise be to our Great Physician—Jesus Christ!. In His saving name, AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.