The Lord was walking with the disciples from village to village, teaching them as they walked. Often sick people came to Him for healing. One day ten men who were lepers called to Him for help. The lepers were very pitiful. Their hands and feet were much deformed and their faces disfigured. They were not allowed to come into the towns, but must stay outside and must call, "Unclean, unclean," to warn people not to come near. (Leviticus 13:45, 46) Now there are hospitals for the lepers, but there were none in the Gospel days, and even many years after this story in the holy land outside the towns lepers sat begging by the roadside, as we see them in our little picture. The Pharisees and Jews would not touch a leper, but many times when they called out to the Lord for help He put His hands on them and healed them.
We read in verses 11-19 that as the Lord was coming into a village ten men that were lepers stood afar off and "lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." We feel sure that the Lord would heal them, and He did. "When He saw them He said unto them, Go show yourselves to the priest, and as they went they were healed." It was the law with the Jews that when one was healed of leprosy he should go to the priest. The priest must examine him and say that he was healed, and the man must give to the priest offerings for the altar. (Leviticus 14) But besides these offerings, would it not be still better to give thanks to the dear Friend Who spoke the word and healed them, the Heavenly Father come so near to them? Only one of the ten turned back to give thanks, and he was a Samaritan - just as it was a Samaritan in the parable who helped the poor man who fell among thieves. "Were there not ten cleansed?" the Lord asked. "But where are the nine?" Do we often forget to thank the person who helps us, and to thank the Lord for all that He does for us?
The chapter divides into two paragraphs of teaching, connected by the short account, verses 11-19, of the healing of the ten lepers. Before the story of the lepers, listen to the Lord's teaching in verses 1-10. Verse 1: We shall necessarily meet evil in the world, but may the Lord help us not to choose it and make it ours. As we read verse 2 we recall many other sayings about little children and see that they teach the duty of protecting the little child of innocence in ourselves and in others. To "offend" means to cause to stumble. Reading verse 3, we think also of Matthew 8:15-17. Both passages teach the wisdom of going directly and kindly to our brother with any trouble, instead of speaking harshly of him to others or cherishing hard feeling toward him. With verse 4 read Matthew 18:21, 22, and think what the Lord means by forgiving seven times in a day. Read the little parable of the servant, verses 7-10. Does it seem to say that we do right to feel proud and to think ourselves deserving for work that we do or for keeping the Lord's commandments? It is our simple duty.
Here our attention is attracted by the cry of the ten lepers. This was at one of the times when the Lord. on His way to Jerusalem was passing along the border between Samaria and Galilee, perhaps turning to the beyond-Jordan road as in Luke 9:51-56. Learn the story of the lepers, and read a little about them in Leviticus 13:45, 46, and 14. Jews perhaps would go to a priest in Jerusalem, and the Samaritan perhaps to his place of worship on Mt. Gerizim, to make their offerings. (John 4:20) But the One to Whom they should give thanks was near at hand.
The last section of the chapter is the Lord's answer to the Pharisees who asked when the kingdom of God should come, the kingdom of which He was so often speaking. The Lord's answer shows how much they had misunderstood. It would not be a great earthly kingdom, but a kingdom in men's hearts. Still He would have them look forward to a time when He should be truly known and His kingdom should be glorious. The time is now. Revelation declares, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 11:15) The Lord comes to find people for His kingdom. All seem to be busy with their worldly cares and pleasures, but some in their hearts are living in the ways of the Lord's kingdom, and some are not. So it was in the days of Noah, and in Sodom in the days of Lot. So it is today. Two people may be living together, two people may be working together. We cannot surely know who is living for the Lord's kingdom and who is not; but the Lord knows, for He reads all hearts. The Lord did not tell the Pharisees when His kingdom should come, but He told them how the kingdom is formed in men's hearts, and that it will some day be known who are of His kingdom and who are not.
1. How many times should we forgive?
2. What does the Lord say that faith can do?
3. How many of the ten lepers gave thanks for his healing? Who was he?
4. Where is the Lord's kingdom?
5. Who was Noah? Who was Lot?
Verse 1: It is impossible to avoid contact with evil in the world; it will come up in us from our inherited nature; but we become guilty if we choose it and so give it a new start and a new existence in ourselves. Verse 2: Willful violence to things of innocence is very dangerous; far more so than by false teaching to be kept from ever knowing the things of heavenly life. This falsity is the millstone. Hanging about the neck suggests cutting off the life from interior and heavenly things. It is better to be so cut off than to receive and abuse them. (E. 1182) "Seven times in a day," or "seventy times seven," means "always and without number." (E.257) The mustard seed suggests the smallness of our faith; but little and imperfect as it is, to what may it not grow! Removing the tree is removing false thought; the mountain is the love of self and of the world. (E. 815)
The servant who simply did as he was commanded represents ourselves; we are called servants in the early stages of regeneration when we act obediently from duty. It is especially in this stage of regeneration that we are apt to be self-confident and feel deserving for what we do. Read an interesting explanation in E. 794.
The story of the ten lepers and the one who gave thanks reminds us how few are grateful to the Lord; how little the gratitude of any one is compared with what it ought to be. There is more gratitude in simple Gentile hearts, than among those who have better opportunity to know the Lord. (E. 375, 537)
The instruction about the Lord's second coming reminds us of similar instruction in Matthew 24. The words,, "The kingdom of God is within you," prepare us to learn that the signs of the Lord's coming are in the minds and hearts of men. (H. 33) The lightning shining from one part under heaven to the other, or out of the east unto the west (Matthew 24:27) is explained to mean the light of love and faith which began in brightness but would be quickly and wholly dissipated before the Lord's second coming. (A. 3900)
The carelessness in the days of Noah, when men were destroyed by a flood, suggests immersion in falsity; the carelessness in the days of Lot, when Sodom was destroyed by fire, suggests abandonment to evil. Particulars are explained in E..617. The safety on the housetop or in the field shows the duty if we have attained to something of charity of remaining in it, and not turning back to a state of mere faith or to evil. The danger of such looking back is shown in the story of Lot's wife. (A. 2454, 7857)
Two are together in one bed, grinding at the mill, in the field; one is taken and one left. The Lord's coming works a judgment, revealing opposite motives in lives outwardly alike. To be in one bed is to rest in one doctrine; to grind together is to search and reason in regard to truth; to be in the field is to be busy about things good and true. The Lord knows who is inwardly in the life of heaven and who is not. (R. 137; E. 163) In the last verse of the chapter you see pictured a time when the church is dead, and consequently false reasonings are multiplied. (A.3901)