Pastor David B. Curtis


Where Are the Nine?

Luke 17:12-19

Delivered 02/01/1998

Would you classify yourself as a grateful or thankful person? Some folks are grateful if you do something really special for them, and others are grateful for anything you do. Then there are those who are not grateful no matter what you do for them, they have the attitude that they deserve whatever you give them, they act as if the whole world owes them. Which one of these would best describe you?

Let's look together at a story in the gospel of Luke that shows us the gratitude of one man and the ingratitude of nine.

Luke 17:12-19 (NKJV) Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.

As Jesus traveled toward Jerusalem, he traveled along the boundary between Samaria and Galilee. Entering a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers. Let me tell you a little bit about leprosy. In Jesus' day, the Greek word for leprosy was used for a variety of similar diseases, and some forms were contagious. Its symptoms ranged from white patches on the skin to running sores to the loss of digits on the fingers and toes. The disease deadens nerve endings, so a leper could cut or burn himself without even realizing it.

Leprosy, like AIDS today, was a terrifying disease because there was no known cure. Can you imagine for a moment what it would be like if you were told that you had an incurable disease. How do you think you might respond? Fear, anger, or depression might be a response. What would you want most at that time? If you are at all like me, you would want to be around the love and support of family and friends. When I was diagnosed with Gillian Barre syndrome, I was greatly encouraged by Christian friends and family. Their support meant so much to me. Well these lepers not only had a terminal disease, they were social and religious outcasts because of the disease.

"Who stood afar off" -- For the Hebrews, leprosy rendered its victims ceremonially unclean--that is, unfit to worship God.

Leviticus 13:3 (NKJV) "The priest shall examine the sore on the skin of the body; and if the hair on the sore has turned white, and the sore appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a leprous sore. Then the priest shall examine him, and pronounce him unclean.
Leviticus 13:45-46 (NKJV) "Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!' 46 "He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

If a person contracted the contagious type, a priest declared him a leper and banished him from his home and city. He had to cry, "Unclean" when other people came near. Anyone who came in contact with a leper was also considered unclean. Lepers were not permitted to travel on the roadway, nor could they have any social contact with "clean" people. Therefore, lepers were isolated from the rest of the community so that the members of the community could maintain their status as worshipers. The leper was sent to live in a community with other lepers until he died. Lepers were social outcasts.

So these ten men not only had a terminal disease, but they had been separated from their family and friends. They were ceremonially unclean, they were unfit to worship God. They were dying and they had no comfort from family or friends or their church. They were truly hurting. Some of you know that the pain of rejection alone can be devastating. They were dying and rejected.

Leprosy serves as a biblical illustration of sin. Leviticus 13 describes the priests' test for leprosy and shows how leprosy is a picture of sin: it lies deeper than the skin (v. 3); it spreads (v. 7); it defiles (vv. 44-45); it isolates from God and man (v. 46); and it is dealt with by fire (v. 52). The nation of Israel was pictured as defiled with leprosy.

Isaiah 1:4-6 (NKJV) Alas, sinful nation, A people laden with iniquity, A brood of evildoers, Children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, They have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, They have turned away backward. 5 Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints. 6 From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it, But wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; They have not been closed or bound up, Or soothed with ointment.

Leviticus 14 describes the ceremony the healed leper went through when declared clean. It describes the work of the Cross.

Our sin like leprosy has separated us from God.

Isaiah 59:2 (NKJV) But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

So in a spiritual sense, we are all born like these lepers. We are born with a terminal spiritual disease that separates us from God. Notice how they approached Jesus.

13 And they lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"

What is mercy? The biblical concept of mercy always involves help to those who are in need or distress. What does this tell us about their view of Jesus? They must have believed that He had the ability to help them. They were right, He was able.

14 So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.

Under the Mosaic law, they must be examined and pronounced clean by a priest before they could go home to their families or participate in worship (Lev. 14:1-32). We see this same thing in:

Matthew 8:1-4 (NKJV) When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. 2 And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." 3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, "See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them."

The men exhibited faith by starting on their way to the priest before being cleansed. There was no visible evidence of their healing at that time, but they all obeyed Jesus and started off to see the priest. They exercised faith in Jesus. Faith is understanding and ascent to a proposition. We receive eternal life today in the same way that these lepers received their healing, by faith and faith alone.

Sin is also an incurable disease--and we all have it. Only Christ's healing touch can miraculously take away our sins and restore us to real living. But first, just like the lepers, we must realize our inability to cure our self and ask for Christ's saving help.

John 3:16 (NKJV) "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Everlasting life is promised to all who trust in Jesus. We're not saved by anything that we do, but by Who we trust in. To some folks, that's too simple so they reject it. They feel that they must somehow earn their salvation.

In 2 Kings 5, there is a story about Naaman, captain of the host of Syria, who was a leper. He was sent to Elisha to be healed.

2 Kings 5:9-11 (NKJV) Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha's house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean." 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, "Indeed, I said to myself, 'He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.'

Naaman left in a rage because the cure for his disease seemed too simple. He was a hero, and he expected a heroic cure. Full of pride and self-will, he could not accept the simple cure of faith. Sometimes people react to God's offer of forgiveness in the same way. Just to believe in Jesus Christ somehow doesn't seem significant enough to bring eternal life. I know people who have rejected God's offer of salvation because they said it was too simple, they felt that they needed to do something. What Naaman had to do to have his leprosy washed away is similar to what we must do to have our sin washed away--humbly accept God's mercy.

So these ten lepers head off to see the priest, and on their way they are all healed. What would you do at this point? Well, I don't know what nine of them did, but one came back to worship Jesus.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, 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 So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 "Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" 19 And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."

Ten men were healed, but only one returned to give God thanks. Now, if leprosy is a picture of sin and their healing is a picture of salvation, then what we have here is only one of the ten involved in worship and thanksgiving as a result of salvation. Where are the nine? How prone we are to be like the nine. God has through Jesus Christ paid our sin debt, healed us of an incurable terminal disease, and we go on with our lives at times as if He didn't exist. We have been cured of the incurable disease of sin and given eternal life and fellowship with the eternal God of the universe. How grateful are you for that?

How would you classify yourself, are you like the one who came back in worship and thanksgiving or like the nine? I think that if we really understand the depth of our sin, we would live a life of worship and service to God.

Luke 7:41-47 (NKJV) "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 "And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" 43 Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged." 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 "You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 "You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."

Now folks, we are all sinners. The only difference here is that one person realizes the depth of their forgiveness and one doesn't. The person who doesn't think they were really that bad, loves little.

So my question to you this morning is, ",Where are the nine?" Are you one of them? How much of your life is lived in worship and service to Jesus Christ? We are all quick to receive from God, but too careless to give thanks. We pray for God's help in our lives, then congratulate ourselves, rather than God, for the results. When one of the American lunar missions was in serious trouble some years ago, the American people were asked to pray for the safe return of the astronauts. When they were safely back on earth, credit was given to the technological achievements and skill of the American space industry. No thanks or credit was publicly given to God. This is not unusual. It is the natural tendency of man. Where are the nine? Does one of them live at your house?

Thankfulness to God is a recognition that God, in his goodness and faithfulness, has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. It is a recognition that we are totally dependant upon him; that all we are and have comes from God.

I believe that if we really are thankful to God for what He has done for us, it will be manifest in our worship and service. If we really understand the wonderful salvation that the Lord provided for us, we must respond with whole hearted devotion. Truly understanding the love of God in our redemption means that the whole of life is to be lived in service to Him.

A hen and a pig were walking by a church and they noticed the church sign which read, "How can we help the poor?" So the hen and pig began to discuss ways in which they could help the poor. The hen said, "We can offer them a ham and egg breakfast." The pig responded, "That would require a contribution on your part but total commitment on mine." I think that most Christians are like the hen and are only willing to make a contribution. God wants more from you than just a contribution, he wants total commitment.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NKJV) Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

"You are not your own." Do you live with that truth? Why do you do the things you do? Most often, it's to please ourselves. Where are the nine? What are they doing that is so important that they have no time to worship and serve their God who delivered them from Hell and gave them everlasting life?

How do we respond to God's great mercy and grace? What is true worship and service to Him? I think that if I had to answer that question with one verse it would be:

James 1:27 (NKJV) Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

The term "religion" denotes the zealous and diligent performance of the outward aspects of worship. Religion refers to our conduct and behavior in response to our concept of God. It is our outward response to Him as we consider and think about Him. Religion is what we do for God out of gratitude for His grace.

"Pure religion" is this -- "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. " "To visit", denotes more than a friendly social call. In classical Greek, it was commonly used of visiting the sick, whether by a doctor or a friend. In Jewish usage, it commonly denoted to visit with the aim of caring for and supplying the needs of those visited. The term implies concern and personal contact with the needy.

Fatherless and widows are representative of the two most needy classes in ancient society. Meeting needs is what biblical love is all about.

1 John 3:16-18 (NKJV) By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

True religion is loving. In expressing concern for these needy classes, we are worshiping God and showing our gratitude. There were no programs of retirement, welfare assistance, or social security when James wrote. And having these programs today doesn't negate our responsibility. We are to reveal our love to Christ by ministering to others in need.

"and to keep himself unspotted from the world"

The word "and" is not in the Greek text. It is preferable to translate the phrase " in order to keep oneself unspotted from the world." This suggests that the regular practice of love toward orphans and widows, is a safeguard against worldly defilement. Any Christian who fails to mingle with and assist those who have greater material needs than his own, is in serious danger of being infected by the world's selfishness, greed, and indifference. True religion also manifests itself in personal holiness, which here refers to a non-materialistic attitude, a genuine spirit of giving.

Moffatt notes that "charity and chastity" were the two features of early Christian ethics which impressed the contemporary world. Some Christians are clean enough, but they are not kind. Others are kind, but not clean enough. Believers, there needs to be both, and when there is, Jesus Christ will be glorified and given praise by our lives.

Nothing does more to frustrate one's own stewardship of life than the sin of ingratitude. Picture yourself as one of those lepers; terminally ill, separated from all friends and loved ones, hurting, desperate, and dying. Then you meet Jesus, and by faith in his sacrificial death on the cross, you are healed. Now, are you one of the ungrateful nine? Or are you like the one who runs to Jesus and falls at his feet in love and gratitude? Is your gratitude to Christ for your salvation evident in your life? In light of all that God has done for us, we all should be wondering, "Where are the nine?" Having been given such a wonderful salvation, why aren't they worshiping and serving the God who loved and healed them?

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