When Jesus cleansed the ten lepers, there was no hesitation. Luke sets the story up by telling us that Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. This was a “no zone” for Jews who were not from Samaria. They typically would not enter into Samaria, and wouldn’t even associate with Samaritans. But Jesus was probably en route to Jerusalem and did not have any plans to enter Samaria.
As he entered a village, ten lepers met him but stood at a distance. This was most likely because they didn’t want to get near the Rabbi and make him unclean. Luke says they lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13 ESV). Jesus answered, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (vs. 14). Unlike other instances where Jesus touches unclean people, here he chooses not to call them closer. There’s no indication he had any intention of touching them and he did not tell them they would be healed.
They did as Jesus commanded and began walking away. As they did, they were healed. One of the ten, 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” (vs. 13, 14). The man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked him where the nine were. Jesus asked, “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (vs. 18). Jesus then told him to go his way and that his faith made him well.
There are so many lessons that come from this story. But the main point is that it is ultimately God who heals, but our faith is important. It’s also vital to give praise to God when God blesses us. Too many people are like the nine who failed to return to Jesus to give praise.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” This passage is in the bigger context of Jesus being our high priest. This passage is important because we should be able to come to God with confidence (the word used here means to be able to speak freely and unhindered).
One of the biggest things that trips up Christians is the lack of belief in ourselves because of our sins or shortcomings. Earlier, this passage says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (vs. 15). This is vital because, oftentimes, our sin leaves us feeling guilty and unequipped to carry out the works of God’s kingdom.
Our lack of confidence leads to a downward spiral, where we feel like even God isn’t on our side. It’s vital, as the church, to have confidence in approaching God’s throne of grace. Without grace we will always flounder and hesitate to do good works. However, when we have confidence we won’t hesitate to do what’s right in the eyes of God, because we know that we have already received his grace. Hesitation turns into procrastination, and procrastination leads to stagnation.
Proverbs 11:24-25 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Generosity is always encouraged in the Bible. Our giving is to be done discreetly: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4 ESV).
Jesus tells us to lay up our treasures in heaven, for the things here on earth will be consumed by moths and will rust. Jesus said that “you cannot serve God and money” (vs. 24). Over and over Jesus gave example after example of helping people and being generous with both time and money. The reason we give is to help people who are in need, thereby reducing the amount of needs people have.
Paul says that giving should not be under compulsion: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Giving should be a joy, it should be generous, and it should never be motivated by guilt or compulsion. Remember, God loves the cheerful giver!
Paul told the church in Corinth that “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve” (1 Cor. 15:3-5 ESV). Paul lays out, in no uncertain terms, the reason why it’s so important: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (vs. 13-14).
Christ’s resurrection had to take place in order for our resurrection to take place. This is why we celebrate! The resurrection means that we will be given a new heavenly body, and “the glory of the heavenly is one of a kind” (vs. 39). Living in the reality of the resurrection means that we no longer fear death. This is why Paul quotes Hosea: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (vs. 55).
As Christians, we don’t hide from death. We embrace it as part of a new life with Christ. Paul says that nothing can grow unless there is first death. He likens our body to seeds that are sown in a field. Nothing can take root and grow up until it dies and is sown into the ground. In light of the resurrection, Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (vs. 58).
As Easter fast approaches, we cannot ignore the significance of the triumphal entry Jesus had as he approached Jerusalem. Jesus sent his disciples ahead and told them to find a donkey and a colt. This was to fulfil the prophecy in Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 ESV).
Jesus was clearly fulfilling the prophecy that was spoken in Zechariah. The desperate people gave him a red carpet treatment as he rode by placing their cloaks and palm branches on the road. Matthew said the crowds were shouting: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 ESV).
Immediately after the entry, Jesus clears the Temple, overturning tables and driving out the money-changers. Matthew is alluding to the Temple being torn down and by Jesus’ doing this, he demonstrates that the Temple is not the safe haven Jews think that it is. While still in the Temple, the blind and lame came to him and he began to heal these “outcasts.”
Finally, Jesus curses the fig tree that had leaves but no figs. This was another way of showing that Israel was barren and the barrenness was not going to be tolerated. There is judgment on people who claim to love God but are barren in the fruits of their faith. All these things point to salvation that comes through Christ alone.
Many Christians around the world are celebrating Lent, a period of 40 days of fasting to reflect upon Jesus’ 40 days he spent in the wilderness. This always happens leading up to Easter Sunday. Whether we celebrate Lent or not, it’s important for Christians to understand, reflect upon, and practice denying self. Denying self was one of the core practices Jesus gave for people to be followers of him. He said that anyone would would be his disciple must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Jesus.
Paul understood what it meant to deny himself for the sake of Christ. The letter to the Philippians was possibly the last words penned by Paul before he died. Many believe that Paul knew his end was near when he wrote the letter. Paul said that, prior to becoming a Christian, his righteousness under the law was blameless. But he considered it all a loss for the sake of Christ.
Paul went on: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order than I may gain Christ and be found in him. . . ” (Philippians 3:7, 8 ESV). The word for rubbish was a harsh slang term in Greek that literally would translate to “crap” (or really, a slang word harsher than that). The word is intentionally offensive, and it’s only used here in the entire Bible. Paul uses it to drive his point home that everything we think we value is actually all crap. Our righteousness doesn’t come from the law or flesh, but fully depends on our faith. Everything else does not matter!
Paul made an appeal to the church in Corinth to be reconciled to God: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV). Paul prefaces this by saying that this ministry was given by God himself: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (vs. 18).
Paul says that in Christ God was reconciling the world to him, not counting their sins against them. This is certainly not a human mindset, as we all struggle not to hold sins against others. But God has the power to not hold our sins against us, thereby reconciling us back to him. Paul says that anyone in Christ is a new creation where the old has passed away.
This is the very reason God sent his son to Earth. Christ came to reconcile us to God “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (vs. 21). Paul implores the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain. Paul is not even hinting at cheap grace. The grace of God comes at a very steep cost. It cost Christ his life. Therefore, we are urged to live according to this grace that we receive when we put Christ on in baptism.