Jesus had been preaching to a great crowd gathered on the hillside. The people liked the stories Jesus told. They were happy to hear how much God loved them.
But there was one who could not join the crowd on the hillside. This man was a leper. From the moment the priest had said to him, “You have leprosy,” the man had to leave his home and family and live in caves with other lepers.
Never again could he come to other people. To make sure no one touched him accidentally, he had to call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” whenever anyone came near.
The leper had heard about Jesus. He heard that Jesus healed the sick, and had even brought a dead girl back to life. Maybe Jesus could heal leprosy. The sick man believed He could.
As Jesus came down from the hillside, the leper called out to Him, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean!” All the people with Jesus stepped back in horror. They did not want to touch the leper. But Jesus walked right up to the sick man and put His pure, clean hands on him.
“I am willing,” said Jesus. “Be cleansed.” Immediately the leper felt the blood rushing through healthy hands and feet. His bones and muscles were strong again. The flesh that had been rotting and sickly white was now clear and healthy. All the terrible sores were gone. The man was so happy, he wanted to stay with Jesus. But Jesus told him to go.
“You must show yourself to the priest as the law says”, Jesus told him. Once in awhile leprosy would stop spreading and the person was no longer a danger to others. If a person thought he was healed this way, he had to go to the priest. He could not go home again until the priest said he was well.
The man went to the priest. The priest looked at his skin and in his hair. Not only had the leprosy stopped spreading, but there was no sign the man had ever been sick.
“You are clean,” the priest told him. At last, after all the years of sickness and loneliness, the man could go home to his family. He rejoiced, and told everyone he met about the Man who healed him.
The story was told over and over. Other lepers heard it. Some believed. A group of ten lepers who lived together in a cave near Samaria believed it.
“If only we could see Jesus,” they said, “He could heal us.” Then, one day, they heard the wonderful news. Jesus was coming! He would be at a nearby village.
The lepers went as near as they dared to the village and waited for Jesus. When they saw Him coming, they called out to Him as loudly as they could. They wanted to be sure He heard them. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” they cried.
Jesus stopped walking. He looked at the ten sick men. He did not touch them this time. He just spoke to them. “Go, show yourselves to the priests,” He said. The lepers were still sick. Their flesh was still dying; the lame ones still had to hobble along with the help of crutches. But they had enough faith in Jesus to do exactly as He told them to do. They did not stop to argue. They just turned around and started toward the synagogue to show themselves to the priests.
As they walked along, the lame lepers stood up straight and threw away their crutches. They did not need them anymore. All the lepers looked at their clear, healthy skin. They were well! With shouts of joy, they began running.
But one leper, a Samaritan, stopped. He turned back and ran to Jesus, praising God at the top of his voice. He fell down on his face at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.
The Jews despised the Samaritans as heathens who did not know how to worship God. Jesus wanted the people around Him to see that this Samaritan knew how to worship God with his whole heart.
“Were there not ten cleansed!” Jesus asked the people. “But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” Then He turned to the Samaritan, “Get up; go on your way,” He said, in His sweet, loving voice. “Your faith has made you well.”
The story of the one leper is found in Matthew 8. Can you find the three verses? The story of the ten lepers is found in the book of Luke:17. Can you find it? Elisha the prophet healed a leper. That story is found in the Old Testament in the book of 2 Kings 5:1-15. A little girl had a part in the story. Can you find what she did?
God can cleanse our hearts, just as Jesus cleansed the lepers from their sickness. David wrote:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10