“And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.”
There are times in one’s life when we may find our backs to the wall and we call out to God for help, promising to do anything if God will help us. We will go back to church, we will pray more often, we will turn from our “bad” ways and never go back. We will bargain and say whatever it takes to get out of the situation we are in. Then miraculously, it seems, our prayer is answered. Once we got what we wanted, how good was our promise to God? The account of the lepers is an enacted parable for us. Lepers were the outcasts of society, on the outside looking in. Because of their disease they could not go about like others; they could not live like “normal” people. Seeing Jesus in their village, they called out to him and he healed them from their leprosy. In accordance with the law (Leviticus 14) they had to be declared clean by a priest. After their supplications had been answered only one came back to Jesus. Where were the other nine? The other nine forgot about Jesus and went on to be declared “clean” in a legal sense but were they converted in their hearts? The one that came back was not only cleansed but also saved because he realized his state would never have changed if it wasn’t for Jesus. He was converted.
James says that we can look in a mirror and observe all of our sins and ask for forgiveness. However, once our leprous life has been removed from us we must be compelled to live a new, clean life in Christ. “He shall be blessed in his doing“. How can we act on the change that has taken place in our lives? How can we be more like the one who remembered and not like the nine who forgot? We cannot live as we used to. Christ has made the change in us and we, like the one leper, have to follow up his mercy with being a “doer that acts“.
We should never forget that we, like the lepers, are dependent upon the mercy of our Lord. That without his mercy and forgiveness we will remain in our “leprous” state, cast out, on the outside looking in, realizing that without Christ’s forgiveness our state would never have changed.