“On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’” (Luke 17:11-29, ESV)
Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem, where Jesus would suffer and die. He was about to enter a village when He was accosted by a group of ten men who were lepers. Now in those days people were scared to death of lepers. Lepers were considered unclean outcasts who were being punished by God for sin.
The Law of Moses gave specific regulations as to how to deal with lepers. They could not go into the Temple, worship or offer sacrifice. They could not participate in the social life of the community. They had to be isolated from everyone else. These poor people knew they were unclean and so kept their distance. They must have been incredibly depressed and lonely. Imagine how you would feel if you had people calling you unclean all the time. You would feel pretty low, that you were no good at all. You would try to avoid all unnecessary contact with others. Lepers were despised and shunned by all, including their families. They were even shunned, so they thought, by God for they believed that He had afflicted them with leprosy as punishment for their sins. They would not have been angry with God but would rather have felt so much shame and guilt that they would have been totally disgusted with themselves to the point of self-hatred.
Each one of us is like those lepers, tainted by the leprosy of sin. Some realize it, most do not. We who realize it are the ones who are in the very place where we can receive God’s mercy and grace. We realize we are sinners. We felt crushed and weighed down by guilt and shame. But we were blessed to feel this way because we realized we were sinners and could never make ourselves right with God, unable to get cleansed of our sickness or sin. These feelings were used by the Lord to bring us to Him for help, to take repent and receive the gift of salvation. Those who do not realize that we need God to save us, that we cannot earn it, do not realize that like those lepers they are cursed by God. They may be satisfied with the blessing of daily life but they fail to see the need for the need of eternal life. We who realize we are spiritual lepers are indeed blessed for though we may have little or nothing in this world we have salvation, we have eternal life for we are citizens of God’s Kingdom. This then is what we are thankful for. Not for the family and food and the football or the parade. Our thankfulness is for Jesus and the salvation He has given us who place our faith in Him. Our thankfulness is that He chose us lowly and disgusting persons to be blessed.
“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2 ESV)
A danger that the Israelites would face in Canaan was from the prosperity they would experience. God promised to bless them in the land and provide for them in abundance just as He had done in the wilderness. Yet such prosperity would breed complacency. As the people relaxed and felt safe and at ease they would tend to be filled with an attitude of self-reliance. They would forget that what they possessed was given them by God and would begin to think that all their own work had brought them riches and success.
The remedy to this delusion was to constantly remember that the Lord was responsible for all they had and thank Him. The community as a whole and the religious leaders had a responsibility to keep the truth always before their eyes, to hold each other in mutual accountability.
The application to modern day Christians is obvious. Too often we in the church adopt the ways of the people of the world and emulate the celebrities, political leaders, civil servants, the movers and the shakers and all those who and seek praise and recognition for their accomplishments, deeds, talents and prosperity as if they were responsible for these. Yet we must never forget to remember that the blessings that we have are all given us by God. We must never become so self-centered and proud that we forget to thank Him.
“And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:14 ESV)
Daniel describes his vision of the exalted Lord just as John described in Revelation 1. This vision is designed to comfort as it occurs in the midst of visions of ghastly and violent beasts. These beasts are frightening and troubling images. They should serve to warn us not to trust in any human kingdom for all, ultimately, are beasts, tools of Satan, enemies of God’s kingdom. In addition, these beasts depict spiritual realities, spiritual truth: they show us the forces of Satan active on the earth driving earthly Kingdoms to do evil and earthly religions to promote immorality and idolatry. In addition, these images show the real ugliness of sin.
In contrast the vision of the Lord is clear and uplifting. It is a vision of triumphant glory that reminds us of the beauty and splendor of the Lord and His heavenly Kingdom. The forces of evil cannot touch or change Him. Of course, they can and do trouble us while we live on earth. We fall prey to the temptations of the flesh and the devil. We are victims of unmerciful and violent people and kingdoms. Yet as members of the heavenly Kingdom we rejoice to know that God is in control. He has won the victory over sin and death and has given us eternal life. The end is not in doubt. The Lord will set all things right.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8 ESV)
As we ponder the opening words the Book of Revelation the first thing we must note is that it is a revelation of Jesus, a document that attests to His glory and love. As such, it reveals Him: Jesus is the subject and focus of the book. This is why we see Him here as the Alpha and the Omega. He is the totality of all existence, the creator of all that is. Because He is we would be wise to heed all He has to say because it will encourage and help us as we live out our lives for Him.
What Jesus says is in the form of a letter written by the Apostle John around 90 AD, and addressed specifically to 7 churches in eastern Asia Minor, but in reality to the whole Church. The message conveyed by the images and figurative language was of particular and primary relevance to believers in those early churches and so it is presented in terms that they could understand easily. The message reveals what God is about to do in their situation and time. Yet, as with Scripture, this message is also meant to edify and encourage all Christians down through the centuries including the present day. Those first century Christians lived in the Roman Empire. They were undergoing severe persecution, yet despite what they were experiencing, the Lord God was with them. Jesus was in control of all that was going on then and what has taken place throughout all history and even in our present day. The end of all things is not in doubt. He has already won the final victory. This message would comfort them as they endured suffering, pain and even martyrdom for the Lord revealed that their reward is in heaven not on his earth. It should comfort us as well.
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”(Hebrews 10:12-14, ESV)
The author continues to expound upon the inferior nature of the Old Covenant and its ritual offerings. The very fact that they had to be offered over and over again shows how inadequate they were. They could never take away guilt or sin or its consequences or even hold them in check. On the other hand, Jesus had to offer only one sacrifice to satisfy the demands of God’s Law and His justice. When the author says Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father, he means that the work of atonement was finished. He had completely obeyed the will of the Father. There is no need for further offerings: they are useless and ineffective. In fact, any further offerings are a denial of the efficacy of what Jesus did and an insult to the Father. Those who accept the offering of Christ, however, find that He no longer remembers their sins. They have been dealt with at cross and He will never bring them up again.
When I first read this passage when I was in my early twenties, I was stunned. It was the first time that I heard that Christ had to be offered only once for all sin. It was the first time I heard that God had dispensed grace, forgiveness and mercy unto all those who accepted His offering for sin, Jesus. Yet in the Roman Catholic Church in which I was raised, Christ was sacrificed daily (in the form of bread and wine) as a means of obtaining grace. In addition, I had always been taught that I had to earn God’s grace and mercy by performing good works. Maybe if I earned enough I could make it to heaven. Yet here we see clearly that it is by Christ’s work, His obedience unto death that we are made holy.
“And Jesus began to say to them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray.’” (Mark 13:5-6 ESV)
Here Mark records several prophetic teachings of Jesus. We often hear these teachings in reference to end time events, things that will happen in the future. We often forget that, although some of these prophecies may have future significance, they have already been fulfilled. What Jesus prophesied concerned the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD by the Romans. What Jesus was foretelling was unbelievable, a calamitous event of epic proportions that would change the world forever. Jerusalem and God’s Holy Temple would be destroyed and the sacrificial system would cease. Many Jews would be slaughtered, while the rest would either be enslaved or dispersed throughout the world.
When the destruction actually occurred, it was as if the world ended. The surviving Jews would have felt something like many Americans initially felt on 9/11. Most people were confused, dazed and filled with terror. Many turned to God and felt the initial pangs of repentance. This revival was short-lived., as people soon began to forget these feelings to return to their old habits of selfishness and self-destruction.
God allows suffering and all calamitous events and catastrophes for His own reasons, reasons which we do not always know. Yet we do know that He uses calamity to lead people to Him to repent. Yet it is politically incorrect to say this let alone think it so not even most Christians will even began to admit this as a possibility. However, when Jerusalem was destroyed the Christians knew without a doubt that God’s judgment had fallen. They knew that the reason for this was because the Jews had crucified Jesus. Christians were kept safe from the destruction because they heeded the words of Jesus’ prophecy.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
In light of the fact that Jesus has made it possible for believers to enter the very presence of God Almighty, the author of Hebrews exhorts his audience to do so. We do not have to fear that He will reject us or cast us aside. We have an assurance that those who put themselves under the Law and the Old Covenant do not possess. We do not have to go through a priest or another person or “saint” such as is common in many Christian circles; we can go directly to Jesus.
Therefore we can make our prayers and petitions directly to Him knowing that He will provide us with forgiveness as well as all the strength and encouragement we need to persevere through suffering and tribulations. One of the ways in which the Lord does provide strength and encouragement is by means of the church, our fellow believers. We need the mutual encouragement of our brethren so we may inspire and support one another to persevere. We encourage our believers by just showing up for fellowship but also by setting an example of good works, humility, love, sacrificial living and faithful perseverance.