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Taking Jesus at His Word

A Word for Today | Luke 17:14

Luke 17: 11-13 tells of a group of ten lepers who spied Jesus in the distance and cried out to Him for mercy.  In a previous miracle, Jesus had confronted a poor leper who asked for compassion.  Jesus had lovingly touched his corrupted flesh and cleansed the man on the spot.  On this occasion, Jesus wanted to emphasize the role of faith in the working of His miracles.  Therefore, he answered the ten lepers with the surprising words: “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (Lk. 17:14). 

If we wonder why Jesus would tell a group of lepers to show themselves to the priests, the answer is found in Leviticus 14:1-32, which states that when a leper was cleansed of his skin ailment, he should present himself to the priests.  The priests would perform a battery of tests to determine if the person was clean or unclean.  The unclean ones would be sent away.  But those declared clean were able to return to the life of the nation, participating in its religious rites and receiving again the benefits of God’s covenant.  Now, if there was one portion of the Bible that lepers knew well, it would have been this passage.  Jesus was telling themselves to present themselves as clean before the priests.  But there was a problem: the men were not clean!  The splotches were still there!  The last thing they wanted to do was show themselves to the priests!  So how wonderful to read how these men responded to Jesus’ command: “They went” (Lk. 17:14).  They took Jesus’ Word as a promise of salvation and they believed.

These ten lepers provide a display of what saving faith involves.  Faith is trust in the authority of Christ and His Word.  If anyone but Jesus had given this command to go to the priests, we might suspect cruelty, but what makes this command different is the One who gave it.  These lepers evidently had heard about Jesus’ saving power: how had driven out evil spirits and cured so many sick people.  What they heard was good news of salvation — and they believed that good news.  They knew that One who could do such works must bear divine power; therefore his Word must have authority over life, death, and even leprosy. 

Christians are like these lepers when it comes to Christ’s promise of salvation.  Jesus tells us that through faith we are justified and made holy.  Yet we are guilty before God!  We are not holy, but natural-born sinners!  But Jesus reminds us through these ten lepers that salvation comes through a faith that takes Him at His Word.  We are not accepted by God when we have become suitably righteous.  It is not the godly but the ungodly who are justified through faith in Christ: “To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith in Christ is credited as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5).  Jesus calls us therefore “to walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).  Are we willing to believe that Jesus can forgive us, or sanctify us, heal us, provide for us, and preserve us safe for eternity?  The lepers remind us that to experience Christ’s saving and healing power, we must believe.  Indeed, the true miracle is when we believe and take Jesus at His Word.  Luke tells us, “And as they went, they were cleansed” (Lk. 17:14).  So for us, it will be as we trust His Word that we experience Christ’s power.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Phillips

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