Pity Us

Photo credit: FreeBibleImages.org

One of them, when he saw he was healed,
came back, praising God in a loud voice.
He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—
and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?
Has no one returned to give praise to God
except this foreigner?”
Then he said to him,
“Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
─Luke 17:15-19

Pity Us

By Pat Knight

Had you lived when Jesus walked the earth, you may have required the restorative powers of the Great Physician, willing to comply to whatever Jesus requested to be healed of an incurable disease. With only a few minimally educated physicians and no medicines or hospitals available, debilitated people were desperate. Unless Jesus pronounced them cured, all hope of recovery was lost. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases of the day. According to Jewish law, once the disease was suspected, it must be confirmed by the priest. The person was then shuttled off to a colony outside of town, where all lepers lived in seclusion from the rest of society, an early form of quarantine. Because the disease was considered contagious, whenever lepers approached from a distance, they were required to shout “unclean” so contact with them could be avoided.

While traveling toward Jerusalem, Jesus met ten lepers who “stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ And, as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’  Then he said to him. ‘Rise and go: your faith has made you well’” (Luke 17:13-19).

It was the one Samaritan who turned around amid his trip to the temple priest to thank and praise Jesus for his instant healing. Samaritans were considered half-breeds and despised by Jews, who normally refused to affiliate with them, but living conditions within the leper colonies necessitated relaxation of typical social segregation. The healed Samaritan was ecstatically grateful, demonstrating vocally in a loud voice and physically by throwing himself at his Master’s feet, a display of humility, unworthiness, and worship. As a result, Jesus granted the Samaritan the spiritual healing of salvation in addition to his physical healing.

The quintessential question arises: why did the nine lepers not return to offer gratitude and praise to the Great Physician? They were recipients of a divine miracle, visible immediately as their skin cleared to a perfectly robust condition. Was it their intent to rush to be checked by the priest? If so, they could easily have returned later to the site where Jesus was ministering, announcing the priest’s decision of complete healing to all of the people gathered there. Though we could offer plausible excuses, the behavior of the nine was inexcusable. Rather, through the ages they have served as the epitome of selfishness.

Before we rush to judge the nine lepers, let us consider how we may have reacted. Or, evaluate how we currently respond to similar gifts from our Lord Jesus. Is it our habit to thank God for medications to treat our illnesses, or for complete reversal of symptoms following surgery? Though physicians now have more knowledge, research, and technology at their disposal than at any other era in history, they are still incapable of curing disease.

Physicians treat; God alone heals.

The Lord is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, truth and righteousness, mercy and grace, and the conqueror of sin and sickness. He delights in confounding physicians with miraculous healings they cannot explain scientifically.

Though the Samaritan leper knew the least of the ten about Jesus and Jewish law, he unabashedly threw himself at the Healer’s feet. Jesus viewed the intent of his heart and discovered his desire to know the Master Healer and to repent in gratitude. What does Jesus see inside our hearts? Our motives are of utmost importance to God; an attitude of gratitude pleases Him.

Only when we are focused on God, when our hearts yearn to obey, love, and serve, will our lives overflow with thanksgiving in response to Christ’s atonement for our sin. For such an incredible gift, the psalmist vowed to praise God. “‘I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High’” (Psalm 7:17). Praise is a predictable result of deliverance, as demonstrated by the healed leper. How many times in our lives have we been rescued from health, financial, employment woes or social conflicts? How often do we praise God for His overwhelming protection and provision? “Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NLT). No item or occasion is excluded from praise and thanksgiving.

 Adoration praises our Lord for who He is. Thanksgiving worships God for what He does. Praise exalts His character and His actions. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). To pray without ceasing is to recognize God’s constant presence in our lives and our dependence on Him; to acknowledge His supremacy and authority. He peers into our hearts to ascertain our intents, expressed by continuous submission and obedience to Him, revealing personal praise and thanksgiving that permeate all of our thoughts and actions.

When we view a gorgeous sunset, perfect rose petals, ferocious ocean turf, or snow-capped mountain ranges, do our hearts spontaneously erupt with praise for our Creator’s magnificent design and visual gifts for our enjoyment? Or, are we guilty of neutrality toward the commonplace—a ho-hum, I’ve-seen-it-all-before complacency? We are commanded to worship the One, true God and Creator of our universe, superior in character and accomplishments. “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:2, 6). We are commanded to worship the Lord in the splendor of His majesty.

On Palm Sunday, when Jesus inaugurated Passion Week by triumphantly entering Jerusalem, His followers publicly announced His royalty by spreading clothing and palm branches on His path, rejoicing and praising their Messiah and King with loud voices for His mighty works. “‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mark 11:9).

Jewish religious leaders were incensed by the public worship afforded Jesus. “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples! ‘I tell you,’ He {Jesus} replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’” (Luke 19:39-40). His religious opponents were livid that Jesus accepted public praise and refused to silence the large crowd. Jesus recognized the progression of events that must occur leading to His crucifixion. This was His time to be honored, praised, and glorified as Messiah and King of the Jews. He graciously accepted the reverence from those who worshipped Him then, just as He does from us today.

Humankind and inanimate objects are compelled to shout acclamations to the Messiah. If human praise is suppressed, then all creation will exclaim Jesus’ exaltations. Tangible objects stand as a testament to God’s creative powers, written in the sky and the earth’s landscape, motivating glory and praise simply by demonstrating the purpose for which each item was designed. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Psalm 96:11-12).

Gratitude is the echo of grace as it reverberates through the hollows of a human heart. Gratitude is the unashamed acceptance of a free gift and the heartfelt declaration that we cherish what we cannot buy. Therefore, gratitude glorifies the free grace of God and signifies the humility of a needy and receptive heart.
─John Piper

As we reflect on the euphoric thanksgiving reaction of the healed Samaritan leper and the ungratefulness of the remaining nine men cured of leprosy, let us assess our own responses to the love and grace God lavishes upon us. Believers live thankfully. Pity the unbeliever who has no source of help or healing or the privilege of bowing at Jesus’ feet in worship.

#Complacent

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Complacent

By Patricia Knight

Each day I traveled to work, I encountered a stretch of residential build-up on a secondary road where the speed limit was reduced from 55 mph to 35 mph. Familiar with the road land marks, I decreased my vehicular speed in preparation for the new speed zone.

One morning a state police vehicle passed by me from the opposite direction. I perceived I was within the posted speed limit, so I ignored his presence, assuming he had business elsewhere. That is, until he negotiated a screeching U-turn! Suddenly I was engulfed with eye-popping blue lights and ear-piercing sirens. The policeman then had my undivided attention.

When the imposing officer appeared at my car window, he was straightforward. “Do you know you were traveling 52 mph in a 35 mph zone?”  He had the proof; I had no excuse. Still I felt obliged to offer a weak explanation: “I drive this route to work every day and I’m usually more compliant with my speed.”  To my surprise, the state policeman gently responded, “It’s easy to act complacent when repeating the same activity frequently.”  Fortunately the officer dismissed me with a warning. Little did he know the impression he made that day, affecting my driving alertness and compliance, as well as my reaction to life in general.

Complacency denotes self-satisfaction that results in false comfort, diminishing an awareness of danger.

Apathy is closely related, expressive of indifference, a lack of feelings, or inaction. The opposite of complacency is passion; zeal rather than indifference. Jesus taught that love knows no boundaries, tantamount to the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself” (Luke 10:27, The Msg.).

Jesus defined our neighbor with a parable: A man was attacked while traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho through rugged, crime-ridden terrain. He was stripped of his clothing, robbed of his possessions, beaten unmercifully, and left for dead. A Levite, a priest, and a Samaritan eventually passed the victim’s way. The first two ignored the assaulted man and intentionally crossed to the opposite side of the road.

Complacency reeks of self-importance and indifference. What could possibly have been so pressing in the lives of the Levite and the priest that neither could conjure up the minimal time and compassion to cover the naked, bleeding man with a garment? It is obvious that neither religious leader cared about his fellow man. The suffering victim’s pitiful condition didn’t tug on their heart-strings. For them it was easier  to turn away and ignore their neighbor with an indifferent attitude, though they would likely claim personal righteousness. Complacency is the greatest hypocrisy.

Historically, Samaritans and Jews exhibited open hostility toward one another. But, it was a Samaritan who ran to the aid of the beaten, robbed man lying beside the road. He bandaged his wounds, and lifted him onto his own donkey for transportation to a local inn. There the Samaritan cared for the assaulted man. The following day, the Samaritan gave sufficient funds to the inn keeper to provide for the man’s future care, assuring the inn keeper he would reimburse any extra expenses incurred when he returned (Luke 10:27-28).

The man who posed the question to Jesus, “ ‘Who is my neighbor’” (Luke 10:29), learned explicitly from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ story highlights a neighbor as one we help when a need is displayed, to whom we may give of our time and treasure, and for whom we are willing to be inconvenienced.

One great danger of complacency is that it gradually overtakes the heart space reserved for kindness and decency. Apathy is so deviously replaced with nonchalance and mediocre responses that it is easy to ignore danger along life’s journey. Complacency bows to subtle changes. The process is so insidious that before we are aware of the changes, we’ve been converted to a curmudgeon who increasingly replaces a once tender, passionate heart with reluctance. What happened to fierce, dynamic faith? It cooled to tepid.

Jesus didn’t call us to follow Him when it is convenient. Our time on earth is brief; we are here on assignment. There is kingdom work to be done, people to help, and the gospel to proclaim. He wants 100% of each of us, with the adoration of our hearts, the zeal of our souls, and the days of our lives. Because Jesus died for us, no sacrifice can be too great for us to make for Him.

What is your response to Jesus when you recognize a paramount need in another person’s life? Do you avoid prayer, assuming Jesus is incapable of surpassing human limitations? “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God’” (Luke 18:27). Continual prayer is our most powerful deterrent to apathy, preventing us from slipping into smug self-dependence and self-satisfaction. Acknowledging that God is supreme and capable of the miraculous, dispels indifference. Apathy requires low energy output and provides no positive returns.

There are blue lights of warning surrounding many of our personal scenarios, reminding us to slow down to discern and evaluate. It is never too late to comply to the greatest commandment in which there is no provision for self-serving motives. Complacency and apathy provide only convenient excuses.

Jesus desires to fill our hearts with a deluge of joy. In addition, He clothes us with joy.

You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12).

From the riches of heaven’s own wardrobe room, swishing robes of rejoicing define us externally, as Jesus, the source of our praise, engulfs our hearts. Joy is to be the constant dimension of a life of faith, a sovereign characteristic that flows freely from dwelling in God’s presence, a gift that interlocks with God’s everlasting nature. Following His example, let us love our neighbor, reaching out with enthusiasm and joy.

Thankfully, neither complacency nor apathy are permanent states, easily remedied with commitment to spiritual renewal as we discover anew the exhilaration of displaying our Lord’s characteristics. We are transformed by Christ; a holy reconstruction project uniting us with Him that motivates us to ask,

“What can I do to help my neighbor?” 

Mortal Meets Immortal

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Envision that you are standing in the very presence of Jesus when He walked this earth, so close you could reach out to touch the Savior as He healed all manner of illness and disability. Most diseases in Jesus’ day had no cure. Imagine celebrating exuberantly with those individuals who, within seconds, were transformed from a life of physical or mental misery into complete health. Those who formerly depended on others to provide their most basic bodily needs were suddenly transformed to wellness and independent living by a mere word from Jesus.

A desperate woman who had suffered a hemorrhagic affliction for twelve years, had exhausted her finances consulting numerous physicians, with no relief. Her life was limited; constant bleeding rendered her unclean, preventing her from worshiping in the temple. She had heard that the Healer was in town, so she devised a plan. Her most critical aspiration was jostling through the tightly congested crowd pressing against Jesus. She was convinced that a slight touch of Jesus’ flowing outer cloak would be sufficient to transfer Jesus’ healing powers to her ravaged body. Whether the diseased woman’s scheme was pre-meditated or if she acted on impulse, we will never know. Of one fact we can be sure—she needed her plan to succeed.

“‘Who touched me?’ Jesus asked.” (Luke 8:45).

Being exposed wasn’t part of the woman’s plan. She commingled with the crowd engulfing Jesus, intending to quickly touch Jesus’ clothing, discreetly slipping away healed and unnoticed. It isn’t Jesus’ method to perform healings on demand. He came to earth as the Son of God to accomplish the will of His Father in heaven, to obey Him explicitly, and to bring glory to His name. Jesus wouldn’t permit the woman to recede into the crowd before He announced her healing and she made a public profession of faith.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Photo credit: Wikimedia

“Jesus said, ‘Someone touched me. I know that power has gone out from me’” (Luke 5:46).

With crowds of people encircling Jesus, it was inevitable that several in the group casually brushed His clothing or unintentionally bumped against Him. Jesus knew the one who contacted Him hadn’t brushed His clothing accidentally. The woman’s touch was different and distinct; light but intentional. She probably stretched her arm to its maximum length from as far away as possible, believing that a delicate touch of Jesus’ garment would harbor sufficient strength that would transfer to her body.

When Jesus inquired about the person in the crowd who had touched Him, the disciples were incredulous. Peter addressed the peculiar question for all of them. “‘Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you’” (Luke 8:46b). The disciples thought it futile to seek out one elusive person among a massive crowd of admirers.

“Then the woman seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling at his feet. In the presence of all the people she told why she had touched him, and how she had been instantly healed” (Luke 5:47). Mortals cannot touch the immortal without phenomenal results occurring. The mortal is always empowered or energized; changes occur like fireworks illuminating a pitch black sky.

Jesus didn’t touch the woman; she reached out to touch Jesus, resulting in an instant healing.

“Then he said to her, ’Daughter your faith has healed you. Go in peace.’” (Luke 5:47-48). In the Gospel accounts this woman is the only individual Jesus addressed as daughter, a tender, loving term Jesus used to express compassion for her and praise for her faith.

When we approach Jesus in prayer, is it with a believing heart overflowing with trust? Or do we, like some in the crowd, doubt a brush with Jesus will have lasting consequences? We are commanded to exemplify a solid belief in Jesus, reflecting faith, convinced that Jesus has an ultimate purpose for our individual lives. “Confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).

The woman touched Jesus with intent, convinced that when she boldly reached out to Him, Jesus would respond with healing powers. Jesus never disappoints! Let us react in prayer like the suffering woman Jesus commended for her faith, unlike the crowds of complacent curiosity seekers who knew not the depth of love and power in their midst.

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“For God didn’t give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

We may not physically stand in the presence of Jesus today, but He is ever-present in our lives, encouraging us to commune with him through prayer. Like the woman who was determined to touch Jesus’ garment, our outreach may be vague, even tentative, but with boldness and confidence we are privileged to call on Almighty God, knowing He answers each of our prayers. Jesus is just as accessible to us in prayer as His physical presence was real to the suffering woman. She approached Jesus with confidence and courage, the methods with which we are commanded to pray. The difference is that the woman walked toward Jesus physically trembling in fear. We are not to fear Jesus, but to reverence Him with a prayerful attitude of boldness and strength.

Jesus-Spotlight-50--AMPWithout a doubt, Jesus performs healing miracles in our current age. Jesus is more available to us today than He was to the people who solicited His attention centuries ago. We need not push through crowds to reach Him; our faint call of Jesus’ name alerts Him to our needs immediately, assuring us of His undivided attention. He then responds from His throne in heaven, adjusting His responses to conform to His sovereign plans for our individual hearts.

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