"Which stood afar off"
By Rev Victor Neill
‘And as He (Jesus) entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off ‘ (Luke 17 v 12)
In this Corona Virus lockdown some because of underlying conditions have had to shield and self isolate, as weeks have lengthened into months that has been very difficult. These ten lepers knew all about isolation. Because of the fear of passing on their leprosy to others, lepers had to isolate indefinitely and so were cut off from family, friends and society at large . We note that even when they met Jesus they did so at a distance ‘which stood afar off‘.
These ten men must have heard news of Jesus and of the wonderful miracles of healing that He had performed and now He was close at hand. Perhaps for the first time from when they were isolated they saw a glimmer of light in their dark situation. Of course they were right to have even a little optimism for the first time in their desperate situation for Jesus always brings light and hope in the most desperate of situations. ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us‘ (vs 13). Their cry did not go unheeded!
Interestingly Jesus did not touch the lepers and that was not because He was afraid of being infected, for in Mark 1 v 40&41 when a leper knelt before Him and said ‘if thou wilt you can make me clean'. We then read ‘And Jesus moved with compassion, put forth His hand and touched him and saith unto him, I will be thou clean'. Why then did He not touch the ten lepers and heal them immediately, instead of telling them to present themselves to the priests ’Go shew yourselves unto the priests (vs 14)?’ It was because they had to exercise faith in Him! The leper in Mark 1 expressed his faith, He did not doubt for one moment that Jesus had the power to heal him, but he accepted that it is not always God's will to heal: 'If you wilt (if it is your will) you can make me clean’. The ten lepers had not expressed faith in their request and hence they had to exercise faith by taking Jesus at His word and doing as He asked ‘And it came to pass that as they went, they were cleansed‘ (14b).
Whilst not making light of the consequences of Corona Virus, the reality is we have a greater problem – the problem of our sin which isolates us from God ‘your iniquities have separated between you and your God' (Is 59 v 2). It is the Lord Jesus Christ alone who can deal with our sin that separates and isolates us from God. We must exercise faith in Him, we must take Him at His word (as the ten lepers did) – acknowledging our need for forgiveness which He has purchased by His blood and then simply come to Him, relying upon His word.
‘Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out‘ (John 6 v 37)