“Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). Jesus was speaking to the only leper who returned to praise God and give thanks for his healing. One in ten gave thanks, yet all were healed. Or were they? In a sense they were healed, physically that is. They no longer had to say “unclean” so people would not come near these outcastes of society. But they did not receive the same healing as the one leper. He received a healing of body, mind and spirit. He was eternally healed, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Giving praise and thanks with faith to Jesus Christ is the only way to be totally healed. Christ is patient with us, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). This is not talking about dying from leprosy. This is talking about spiritual death and darkness. Leprosy is symbolic of the outcaste and death. Jesus made this one leper totally new.
I serve as chaplain in a large teaching hospital where I see dozens of patients daily asking for prayer for healing. They are talking about bodily healing for the most part. Yes, I pray with them and talk of the promises of healing and eternal life through the Son of God. This is talking about more than healing our bodies, but more so our spirits and souls. The promise of eternal security and life is given to us for the taking if we will become like the leper and praise God in faith. This brings spiritual health and cleansing. It may not bring physical healing. You may ask why not. For Jesus and each of us the more important healing is spiritual because it is eternal, for no one can snatch it out of God’s hand (John 10:28). Remember, Paul was never healed of the thorn in his hip even though he prayed for it three times. But he did have his Damascus Road conversion experience.
You know that starting in our early 20s our bodies begin to decline, even if we workout and eat well. We will all die, “it’s what we do.” And all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But He is faithful and will forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness if we trust in Him. Romans 10:13 tells us, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” He is talking about God’s perfect sacrifice for our redemption to eternal life.
It seems that this Leper parable is also frighteningly close to our American experience. The Pew Research Trust survey showed about 70% of American adults identifying as Christian in 2014, down from 78% in 2007. How many are there really. Speaking of the narrow door in Luke 13 Jesus says, “Many will try to enter and will not be able to...’I don’t know you or where you came from. Away from me all you evildoers…we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” These are some of the scariest verses in the Bible. It is saying that of the 83% who say that they are Christians, probably many are not. Who am I to judge? I am not the judge, Jesus is. However, I now have been serving many years as a pastor and chaplain in churches and hospitals. My experience is that many who profess to be Christians do not know how to be and cannot tell how to become a Christian. I know that the Holy Spirit must draw them, and they must hear the Word of God and confess their sin, repent and receive Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died for our sins into their hearts as Savior and Lord. No sacrament or ceremony will make someone a Christian. Being in church makes you no more a Christian than being in a garage makes you a car.
Jesus wants no one to perish as I quoted earlier, but as Luke said in Acts 4:12, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” This is a decision of the will. God does the saving, but we must first chose Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The parable of the lepers tells us that perhaps one in ten are saved. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association does not measure people’s hearts but knows that mainline denominations are declining dramatically and evangelical churches are growing. This is encouraging and discouraging as it means that many nominal Christians are falling away sadly. It seems that the Bible and salvation is not being preached clearly and secular influences are stealing people. Sadly millennials are coming to the Lord in smaller numbers today as prayer and the Bible have been taken out of school and most of society.
Jesus said He that He is returning when the whole world has heard the Gospel. Some say that point will be reached in less than 10 years. Pray for a revival.