Dear Baptized, cleansed, healed, and forgiven by God. Jesus says your faith has made you whole, literally, your faith has saved you. Clearly, faith is important. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Whoever believes, whoever has faith in Christ, will be saved.
But even now, without faith, how could we live, how could we cope? Without faith in the eternal Savior, what purpose would there be in life, if everything just ended with the grave? If all we amount to is a random chance of molecules mutated over millions of years, what point would there be to life?
But with faith in Christ we know that we were created in the image of God, made to live with Him for all eternity. We have a really important purpose as His children – we are to believe in Him, take our every care and concern to Him, and know that He is with us and He will provide. And we are to share the saving Gospel of Christ.
And although there is a grave, through faith we know it’s only temporary. There was once a young girl, who needed to walk through a cemetery on her way home from school. That was the way home. Asked if she was afraid to do that, she responded, “No, it’s just something I pass through on my way home.” And that is what Jesus has done with our grave. Through His death and resurrection He has overcome it, and made it only something we pass through on the way to heaven. Jesus did not go to the grave to stay there, but to rise, and to promise we too will rise. So faith brings us the assurance that we have eternal life with God. Through faith in Christ, all our sins are forgiven and we are truly reconciled to God. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” His resurrection shows that our sins are truly forgiven by God.
So when we hear about the suffering of the lepers, let us be comforted in knowing that no matter what our suffering may be, it is not without a specific purpose. God not only has a plan, but it is a very good and gracious plan for us - the same God who planned to send His only-begotten Son to save us from our sins.
God promises to give us everything we need to get through our affliction. He promises to “bind up the brokenhearted…and to comfort all who mourn.” He promises to wipe away all tears from our eyes, and to turn our sorrow into joy. He does this by granting us peace and comfort in Christ, which surpasses all human understanding. Even though we do not understand our suffering, we can trust in God’s promise to make all things work together for our good. He will support and sustain us.
Jesus says to the leper who returned to give thanks, “Arise, go thy way.” We might take that for granted, because we do it all the time. We rise and go to work. We rise and go to the store. We rise and go visit our loved ones. We rise and go to church on Sunday... But, lepers couldn’t do that. They couldn’t go wherever they wanted. They were outcasts, separated from society. Old Testament Law prohibited them from mingling with the general public - they had to remain 150 feet away. They couldn’t go to the Temple, because they were unclean. They couldn’t be with their family or friends because they were unclean. And so they couldn’t live in the city, because the only people they could live with, was other lepers.
Leprosy was and is a serious illness that slowly eats away at the body. It isn’t easily transmitted, but it does spread eventually, through repeated contact - hence the separation. But we ask, Why? Why did it have to be that way? Why did they have to have the disease in the first place? What sense does that make?
That’s why we have faith. Faith relies on what we cannot see, or explain, or understand, or view under a microscope. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It might be a hard question, but we have to ask: If everything was always perfect, what need would there be for faith?
Faith doesn’t look to what can be seen, or explained, or proven in a lab. Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone. He alone went to the cross to take away the root and source of all our suffering. If our first parents hadn’t fallen into sin, suffering wouldn’t exist. Yet, Jesus came to take away our sin, the root of all suffering. “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.”
Ten lepers were healed, but only one returned to give thanks to God. Only one recognized the real treasure, the real healing, that lasts long after this life is over: the healing of our eternal soul. He believed in the Savior.
The other nine seemed to believe at first, but they didn’t return to the source of true faith, to Jesus. And so their religion of following the rules of showing themselves to the priests, seemed to be only a show, not genuine faith.
Don’t we need to ask ourselves: Am I just going through the motions of religion, or does it mean more than that? Do I believe that Jesus has taken my sin away? And that I too will rise with a glorified body on the last day?” I’m not asking because I’m questioning anyone’s faith here, but rather, because Paul says, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith.” Our faith is constantly bombarded by sin, the devil, the world, our flesh - constantly seeking to overthrow our faith.
The one man, the unlikely Samaritan, whom the Jews despised, returns to the source of His faith: Jesus Christ alone.
“Thy faith hath saved thee.” He received more than physical health - he received spiritual health, the forgiveness of sins, and a strengthened faith. He saw in Jesus more than the one who heals the body, but the one who heals both body and soul. Jesus healed these men, not just as a short-term fix that would end at the grave, but to show we are forgiven of all our sins. And with that forgiveness He gives not a temporary, but a permanent healing of our bodies. With Jesus, “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” Jesus came to reverse the damage of man’s sin and to restore to us eternal life. What’s left, is for us to believe.
Through Jesus, God always hears our prayers, even when they seem unanswered. He will answer, we just don’t know the how, or the when. By Grace, we believe He will help. He always has, and He always will. We walk by faith, not by sight.
On the Last Day every disease and disability will be gone completely – sin and sorrow gone completely. Jesus, the great healer, will raise us in both body and soul. Until then, God promises to give us all we need to get through our suffering, to make it all work out for our good, to strengthen our faith, increase our patience, and to never leave nor forsake us.
Since Jesus already went to the cross for us, our suffering cannot be punishment from God. It is for the strengthening of our faith in Christ. It is to bring us closer to the only one who can raise us from the grave. So, our “affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” May God grant us the continued strengthening of our faith in Christ, through the Word. In Jesus’s name. Amen