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Saturday, July 6, 2013

It is Your Choice


Luke 17 (Amplified)

11 As He went on His way to Jerusalem, it occurred that Jesus was passing along the border between Samaria and Galilee.

As Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, He was determined to go to the people in Jerusalem, to the Father’s chosen people, for whom He came to set right with Yahweh. On the way there, He journeyed between Samaria and Galilee. The Samaritans were a small populace taken from tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim into captivity to Assyria. Prior to their captivity, King Jeroboam promulgated a new ideology to which these two tribes adhered. This ideology was anti-Semitic. When Jeroboam became king of the 10 northern tribes after the split of Israel, the people still wanted to go to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. Jeroboam purposely created a religion that was opposite of the one which Moses had taught the Israelites in the wilderness. He created a new "Jerusalem" to which the worshippers could go; it was Mt.Gerazim. Mt. Gerazim became their “holy mountain.”  Shechem was the home base of the Samaritans as Jerusalem was for the Jews. When these two tribes returned from exile, the people married Gentiles. Shalmeneser, the king of Assyria, placed the Gentiles in Samaria, who were found by the returning captives. One of the Lord’s priests was sent there by Shalmeneser to tell the Gentile people about God. The Gentiles who were placed there refused to follow God and made altars to foreign gods to put in their homes. The priest then reverted to teaching them the religion that Jeroboam created. The people, including the priests, continued to worship their idols and fear the Lord. The Samaritans had not learned the lesson from the Lord during their captivity as the Judeans had in their captivity in Babylon. It is for this reason, for their idol worship and disobedience to Yahweh, that the Jews considered them apostate and unclean. 

12 And as He was going into one village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance.

So Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and when He was between Galilee and Samaria, he encountered 10 lepers. We have to understand that, just on the basis of their geography, being from Samaria, these 10 lepers were considered unclean and outcasts; not only that though, they were unclean because they had leprosy. Jesus viewed these lepers as apostates, ungodly ones, but He chose not to shun them, as the Jews did. HE stopped, heard their plea, and chose to heal them. 

13 And they raised up their voices and called, Jesus, Master, take pity and have mercy on us!

They called on Jesus, not teacher. They knew who He was. They knew Him to be one who was Master/Lord. He has authority. They knew what He could do. He had authority to heal them. From where did this authority come? They, in their calling out to Him as Lord/Master, believed Him to be the Lord. This is what their faith testified of in their cry for healing, for mercy. They wanted to believe that He was Lord and by believing they were healed; they were privileged to know first-hand that Jesus is the Lord. 

14 And when He saw them, He said to them, Go at once and show yourselves to the priests. In addition, as they went, they were cured and made clean.

This “saying” to them by Jesus was more than that; it was a command from Him to the lepers. For one to consider obeying a command, one must recognize that person’s authority over himself or herself. He commanded them, “Go, at once/now/at this instant and show yourselves to the priests.” This command is an implied command to the hearers who were the lepers who hailed the Master. In Levitical law, any leper, to be considered clean, had to present himself to a priest, who would go outside the city gates, look the person over well, then provide instruction as to the sacrifices that were to be made to the LORD for the sin of the priest and leper as well as a sacrifice for guilt (Leviticus 14). Only after all this was done, would a previously leprous person be allowed to return to Jewish society and live within the gates of the city. 

Notice, not only did Jesus command them to show themselves to the priests, but also by their obedience in faith upon the mercy and power of Jesus as Lord, they were healed. This shows us that healing is two-fold. Not only must the Master choose to heal a person, but also a person must choose to believe which is recognizing Jesus as Yahweh and trusting in that belief that what He has said and done is true. There is more to God’s hand upon a person, a person must recognize God and then trust in Him that what He has said is truth. Belief is recognition, trust, and Truth. 

15 Then one of them, upon seeing that he was cured, turned back, recognizing and thanking and praising God with a loud voice;

The one returning healed former leper not only recognized Jesus as Master and Lord, but he recognized his insignificance to be in Jesus’ good graces and to receive His mercy; this is what HE shows when he returns to give thanks and praise to Jesus. He recognizes that he himself was incapable of healing himself and recognizes that not only has Jesus healed him, a lowly, unclean leper, but that he could never do anything to have deserved the touch of One so Holy and powerful. In this mental place, he realizes that all he can do is return Jesus’ love and acknowledgement by thanking Him and praising Him so that all may know not only what Jesus has done for Him, but also what He is capable of doing and being for all humanity.  

16 And he fell prostrate at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him repeatedly. And he was a Samaritan.

This previous leper turned and prostrated himself, the most humble position into which a person can place himself in. He thanked the Lord repeatedly with spirit and body. 

17 Then Jesus asked, Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the nine?
18 Was there no one found to return and to recognize and give thanks and praise to God except this alien?

The presentation of this one made obvious the lack of thanks by the other nine lepers. Jesus asks incredulously, where the other nine are. His question then gets personal. Did the others not recognize the Son of God as the reason for their healing? Could they not recognize their insignificance as compared to the magnificence of the Master? These nine men were more interested in getting back to their lives than in recognizing in Whose presence they had been and by Whom they were healed. Do these nine men sound like so many of us humans now? We only want God to be mentioned or be in our lives when we have needs, but then choose to go back to our lives as we have planned it. What makes it even more profound is that the one who chose to return and recognize the Son of God, the Master, and to thank and praise Him was not a Jew, one whose life is supposedly intertwined with the presence and will of God, but was a Samaritan, one whose life was lived among the recalcitrant people who chose to worship idols and turn away from Yahweh intentionally. By Jesus pointing out this thankful Samaritan’s being an “alien,” He is pointing to the Jews who are following Him as also having recalcitrant people who choose not to recognize and praise the Master Who is in their midst. Is that something with which we today have a problem? Is God in our midst and we intentionally choose not to recognize, thank, and praise Him? 

19 And He said to him, Get up and go on your way. Your faith has restored you to health.

In this verse, Jesus is telling the leper to stand and go on his way, on his life’s journey. He tells him that his faith, his recognizing the Master in his presence and his trusting in the power of this Master/Yahweh of which his people does not adhere, has not only healed him of leprosy, but has given him salvation, that which his people had not had in hundreds of years. This man’s faith is greater than God has seen in anyone from his people since before Jeroboam’s time (920BC). This is another reason why Jesus was as incredulous as to only one man returning to give Him thanks and praise. How long has it been since we believed God? If it was only last month or last year or even 5 years ago, shame on us for forgetting so easily God’s activity and power in our lives and in our presence. It should be we that sees Him more easily and thanks and praises Him more readily. How much harder then would it seem to be for someone who has never seen or heard of Him to believe? Yet, this one thankful ex-leper believed in the Master’s power and received physical healing and spiritual life. This is contrasted with the Pharisees and Jews who have known of or known Yahweh as His chosen people, yet who choose not to believe Jesus is the Son of God. This should shame each of us who have believed in the past who now choose to walk our own made paths rather than God’s.   

20 Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He replied to them by saying, The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display,
21 Nor will people say, Look! Here it is! or, See, it is there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you in your hearts and among you surrounding you.

Upon this twinge the Pharisees receive from recognizing that an unholy, ungodly, unclean man has believed and been healed physically and spiritually, they show their blindness to Jesus with their next question. They ask Jesus when the kingdom of God would come. They expect it to be a time or era. Have they not just seen a glimpse of the kingdom through the power of Jesus healing the lepers and, yet, they choose to keep their eyes and hearts blinded to the truth of Who Jesus is? Knowing their hearts, Jesus replies to them that the kingdom of God does not come with signs that can be seen or with visible power. It is nothing that can be pointed out by others as either here or there for the kingdom of God is within a person. A person chooses to recognize and believe that Jesus is the Son of God, which then heralds in the kingdom of God for himself in his heart and among you within the hearts of other believers. It is by the eyes of the Holy Spirit within a believer that the person is able to see the kingdom of God in the lives of His followers. 

It really is a matter of choice as to what we will allow ourselves to believe. What is of importance, though, is the recognition of Jesus as the Son of God, Who is greater than our insignificant selves are. After this recognition of Him, a person has another choice, to trust and rely upon Him. There are those who choose not to recognize Jesus or the Father. There are others who will recognize Him, but who will not trust and rely upon Him for their daily guidance, protection, and provision; they would rather do this for themselves because they can only trust themselves since they cannot see Him with their physical eyes. All of these hinder faith in and for a person. If we do either of the above, we will never see the kingdom of God. If, on the other hand, we choose to do all of the above, recognize, trust, and rely upon Him, not only will we see the kingdom of God upon Christ’s return but also we will see His kingdom within our hearts and within the hearts of other believers. To know God, we must believe. Belief is the recognition of the greatness and holiness of Jesus and the insignificance of ourselves, as well as the absolute trust and reliance upon Him. We can choose to ignore Him when He calls to our hearts or we can choose to hear and respond to Him in faith. It really is all down to our choice. Has God given you a vision of Himself? It is your choice to listen and respond in faith to Him. What choice will you make today in regards to Jesus’ loving salvation He has given for us to receive freely? Will you believe and follow Him or will you deny Him and founder in your trials of life into eternal hell? It is your choice.