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Diseased in Soul
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
What the eyes see is leprosy; what their skin feels is leprosy. And the law declares that lepers are not only diseased in body; they are spiritually unclean. Do you really think the Lord’s Spirit lays down a law only about one skin disease and ignores all the other diseases of the body? Or does this particular disease reveal what is in a man’s soul, what infects man’s spirit, what threatens to destroy his spiritual life? Thank God that the condition of our soul is not so much on display today. Thank God that we still have skin to hide the nakedness of our wandering spirit.
Our spirits wander because we so easily fall for the lie. We are weak, and so we are easily enticed and seduced by the lie that says that we have no lord and master. The lie says that we can worship whenever we feel up to it, that we can believe whatever we think is right, that we can help ourselves to whatever life offers, that we make it on our own, that we can treat people as we please, that we need to submit to no one and nothing. The lie drives us away from true love, because the one who truly loves will never live for himself. The lie drives us away from the Truth, for you must sacrifice your sin-blinded notions of right and wrong to live for the Truth. But most of all, the lie stokes your pride, telling you not to repent, not to apologize, not to return to the Lord.
So what is it that eats away at the souls of the ten men? It is pride. And with pride comes pride’s companions: greed, lust, addiction, anger, vanity, despondency, sloth and loathing. If you look throughout the Old Testament, you will see that these are the things that accompany leprosy. The leprous man suffers not from a rash or deterioration of the skin, but of the soul. The leprous man is spiritual sick unto death. Our greatest threat is not physical leprosy; it is the leprosy of the soul, the belief that we can come to God on our own terms, that we deserve His mercy.
When Our Lord sees what we have done to ourselves, how much we hate ourselves, how estranged we are from Him—when He sees how we are spiritually killing ourselves, He is moved with compassion. And so—not because they cry out, but because He is merciful—Our Lord heals these ten lepers.
But did you listen for the medicine they had to swallow? Our Lord Jesus does not say, “You are healed.” He says, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” This is what the Law prescribes. Lepers must be declared by the priest to be clean and healed. But why? Are the priests also doctors? No. But remember that leprosy is not chiefly a skin disease; it is a disease of the soul which makes the leper unclean. And the Great Physician who works through His priests is the only One who can address diseases of the soul.
While we don’t know whether those nine lepers ever made it to the priests, we do know what happened to the one. The Samaritan did not go to show himself to the priests. Rather, when he saw that he was healed, he returned to the true High Priest, the Physician of the Soul. He returned and glorified God. But the man is not just praising Jesus. The Lord brought the man back to sacrifice his pride. The man makes a fool of himself, falling down at Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving for the healing of the soul that the Lord has given him.
As the man gives thanks, the Lord gives His blessing. “Arise, go your way. Your faith has saved you.” Those are the last words that accompany the sacrifice. That is the blessing you are given when you give thanks for the Lord’s mercy. This is the blessing you receive in the medicine of immortality, the body and blood of Jesus, the thanksgiving meal of the healed and redeemed children of God. The priest, speaking in the name of Jesus, has declared that you are clean, forgiven, healed in body and soul. Thanks be to God for His abundant mercy! In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.