Children, could there be anything worse than getting sick on your birthday? It happened to me when I was 6 or 7. All our relatives came anyway. Lying in bed I could hear my aunts and uncles talking and my cousins playing, and I'm thinking, "Why did I have to get sick on my birthday?" We think about a lot of stuff when we're sick, like, "If God's teaching me a lesson, I wish He'd hurry up and show me, so I can get better." Or, "I got so much to do, I can't be sick now!" Or maybe it's just, "How long before I take my medication again?" Whether we're dealing with an illness or some other problem that won't go away, it's hard not to keep thinking about it; yet thinking about it gets kind of sickening. So, instead of dwelling on what we're going through, on the basis of our text let's think about what makes Jesus happy.

There are two things:

  1. Cleansing us from our sins.
  2. Receiving our praise.
We read in our text, "Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" In those days leprosy was one of the most feared diseases a person could get. It would start with patches of dead skin. By scratching it, it'd get infected. As the disease progressed it would attack the person's nose, ears, fingers and toes, and those parts would literally die and fall off. Eventually the disease would also attack a person's internal organs and he'd die.

The disease itself was bad enough. But in Old Testament Israel, people with leprosy could only be with others, who also had it. And so, they would live off by themselves, and if anyone started to get too close, they'd have to shout, "Unclean, unclean!" Can you imagine what life was like for these 10 lepers? If they had a nice job or a nice house, they had to walk away from it. Worse, they couldn't have any contact with their family other than shouting back and forth from a distance.

We read on in our text, 'When Jesus saw them, He said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests."'

There was no cure for leprosy, but sometimes a person would miraculously be healed. When this happened, he'd have to show himself to a priest, who would declare him "Clean", and then he could go home. And the purpose of having to go to a priest first was it was a reminder that healing comes from God.

Thankfully we don't have to deal with leprosy anymore, but there are still bad things like cancer or diabetes, or depression. When a person gets hit with one of those, it's hard not ask, "Why is God allowing this?" Well, because He loves us! In the Old Testament God used the physical disease of leprosy to teach His people about the spiritual disease of sin. As I said before, leprosy would start out as just a little patch of dead skin, and the person's first reaction might be, "No big deal, maybe it'll go away by itself." So it is with sin, it may start out with just visiting a few dirty websites, no big deal, everyone does it. Or, maybe it starts with just getting a little hammered on the weekend, after all it's someone's birthday, or my favorite team is winning or my favorite team is losing. The problem with so called little sins is that's where big sins come from. Sin grows. But someone might argue, "Not me, I can control it." Well, just as leprosy came from within a person and eventually oozed out, so "little sins" are the "oozing" of the sin that's inside us, and that's what makes us unclean before God, so we can't come near Him or enter His heaven.

We read on in our text, "And as they went (to a priest), they were cleansed."

Jesus not only cleansed them of their physical disease, but by healing them He was the one who would heal them from their leprosy of sin. He would do this by taking everyone's sins into His own body and carrying them on His conscience.

He said in the Psalms, "My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear."

Having made Himself disgusting before God with our sins, Jesus was lifted up to God on a cross, and you know what happened next. The Father did the only thing a holy and just God could do. He turned His back on His Son, even though He loved them from eternity. What that felt like for Jesus was far worse than the pain of the nails or the crown of thorns or the whipping. And so, just like the 10 lepers cried out, "Have pity on us!", Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me." But the Father could not have mercy on His Son, because of our sins. And yet in all His suffering, Jesus was doing what made Him happy He was cleansing us from our sins! Because Jesus loves us that much, when we get sick or have problems that won't go away, we can count on it Jesus has a loving purpose. Now, what that purpose is, we may not understand this side of heaven, it could be a lot of reasons and blessings at the same time. But here's one blessing that's common to every illness or suffering. It teaches us humble reliance on God.

So, thankfully God has given us many cures through medical science, including antibiotics that have knocked out leprosy. Yet even if we're just down for three days with a virus, does it not remind us that we depend on God for our health? Even more, may it remind us that we depend on up for our forgiveness and our faith! Getting back to our text, the 10 lepers were not cleansed, when Jesus told them to show themselves to a priest. They were cleansed as they went. So also for us, sin still lives in us, and sin oozes out of us every day. Yet by faith we know that on the Day of Judgment when we stand before the eternal High Priest, He will declare us clean, so that we can go home, because He has promised that at that moment we will be cleansed from the sin that lives in us and we will be as holy as He is. But until then here's how Jesus is showing mercy to us. By our baptism, He has covered the leprosy of our sin with the robes of His righteousness. Furthermore through the pastor's announcement of forgiveness and through the Lord's Supper, Jesus keeps reminding us that His death paid for our sins. And so for the sake of our faith, let's keep relying on this Good News by hearing and receiving.

On the other hand, if we're not hearing and receiving, is it because we no longer have leprosy of sin in us, or is it because the leprosy of sin is spreading and we don't want to face it? Whenever that's the case, let's continue to cry out to Him for mercy. And He will cleanse us, and He may even use earthly troubles to help that along. But then He will also have mercy on us in our earthly troubles. And so, in every illness or suffering He will do one of five things. He will remove it, as He did with the 10 lepers. Or, He will lessen it, so that our strength will be sufficient, as He often did during the persecutions. Or, He will increase our strength to endure it, as He did for St. Paul when He said, "My grace is sufficient for you for my strength is made in weakness."

And finally He will remove us from the situation by relocating us, and someday that relocation will be heaven. However, what if we don't like thinking that far ahead? We don't have to. Rather let's commend ourselves into the hands of Him, whose greatest happiness is cleansing us of our sins. And then instead of focusing on ourselves, let's focus each day on thanking and praising Him, which is Jesus' second greatest happiness.

We read, "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him-- and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

All ten had faith in Jesus to go and show themselves to a priest. Only the Samaritan had enough faith to come back and thank Jesus. Jesus was disappointed with the other nine. They were probably Jews and would have known God's Word as well as any of us. But they were so eager to get back to enjoying God's earthly blessings, thanking God would have to wait.

The Samaritans on the other hand were notorious for their weakness of faith and messed up ideas about God. This Samaritan, however, threw himself on the ground before Jesus, because maybe that's how intently he had prayed at times, and now that's how intensely he thanks and praises Jesus. That makes Jesus happy. And it's not that Jesus is on an ego trip, but He knows that our thanks and praise is good for us. You see, not thanking and praising Him shows we're not relying on Him totally, but we're still relying some on ourselves or we're just thinking about ourselves. Whenever we catch this in ourselves, here's what Jesus wants us to do. He wants us to cry to Him, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." And Jesus will have mercy on us. He will strengthen and purify our faith, so that we will thank and praise Him. However, this can be a fearsome prayer, because what if God uses troubles to do this? If we fear that all the more, then, let's pray, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us", for He will!

Again we read in our text, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

This man was healed from his physical leprosy. Likewise, just like Job had many more joys and blessings after his suffering was over, in God's time we will too. However, what makes these joys and blessings all the more enjoyable is remembering what makes Jesus happy. It's cleansing us from our sins and it's receiving our thanks. Because that's what makes Jesus happy, our happiness is guaranteed. All the more then, let's put our trust in Him through His Word and thank Him with our life, till we get to thank and praise Him in His Kingdom, free from sin and free from all illnesses! Amen.

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