Gospel Story: The Ten Lepers

In Jesus’s day, lepers and others with virulent skin diseases were shunned and segregated to special ghettos on the outskirts of the village.

They dared not move out of these. And if they needed to use a common road, or the market-place, they had to ring a bell to warn people to get out of the way.

Have public attitudes to leprosy and such changed much today? Consider, for example, how AIDS patients are treated.

Here is another healing story from Luke’s Gospel, though some feel it was originally a parable, which has changed its form. The point of the story is not just the praise and thanksgiving which the healed display, but that the sole act of thanks comes from an outsider, a despised Samaritan.

It echoes a pattern often found in the Gospels that, while the ‘children of the family’ take their benefits for granted, it is the ‘outsider and the pagan’ who expresses a deeper faith.

One of the best known stories of a leprosy cure is found in the Old Testament. Elisha the prophet heals Naaman the Syrian commander of his illness, by asking him to bathe in the river Jordan. Jesus once referred to this incident when he said that though there were many lepers in Israel at that time, it was a pagan who was cured, not an Israeli.

“Your faith has cured you” – it’s this new attitude of heart which is far more important in God’s eyes than the external healing.

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