Imagine being consumed by a disease that forced you to isolate yourself from other people. Your own family banished you and every person you encountered recoiled in horror. Your very appearance became disfigured and unrecognizable. On top of those shocks, it meant no job, no income, no love, no hope.
What might have required a leap of imagination for most people just a couple of years ago is now all too familiar to us all. Covid has separated and isolated people since early 2020 — dividing families and friends and causing many people to lose hope.
Even the controversy surrounding the Covid vaccine has some declaring those who decline vaccination as “Unclean!” The division and distrust roiling our society is only growing deeper. But our collective experience offers a unique moment of clarity in understanding a biblical truth.
In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus encountered 10 lepers. They had undoubtedly been shunned by family and friends and were banished from society. When they encountered Jesus, they cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Luke records that Jesus matter-of-factly told them to “go and show yourselves to the priests,” conveying without elaboration His great compassion and power.
Luke, who Paul called “the beloved physician,” says that as they were going — obeying the Lord’s command — they were cleansed. This episode echoes the cleansing of a single leper (in Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45, and Luke 5:12-16) and Naaman (2 Kings 5). Interestingly, both Naaman and the one leper out of the ten who returned to praise the Lord in Luke 17 were foreigners.
In a very real sense, all of us are unclean before we cry out to Jesus Christ. Sin disfigures us and isolates us — especially from God. Left to ourselves, the love of God eludes us and we have no hope.
But when we put our trust in God, He cleanses us. We might not feel any different immediately, but we are new creatures in Christ. The old has passed away and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). Once Naaman obeyed the word of Elisha and dipped seven times in the Jordan River, the Scripture says his “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:14).
As followers of Jesus, we look forward to the day when we will exchange our bodies of death (Romans 7:24) for glorified bodies that will never wear out. But if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, He has already given you a down payment on His promise of a glorified body, because He has created within you a new heart.
Begin this year praising the Lord for making you clean — and for His promise of an even more glorious body to come.