We can only define them by their malady (or friend’s malady) and location: The Deaf Man in Decapolis, 4 Friends on the Roof. Or sometimes by their profession or nationality: Centurion in Capernaum, Syro-Phonecian Woman in Tyre. The one thing we never know is their names.
I mislabeled this blog series when I started. These people aren’t nameless. They had given names and family relationship names like mother, husband, or cousin. They were people, just like me and you. In fact, Jesus may have called many of them by their names. But we don’t know those names. So they’re not “nameless.” They are “unnamed” or “anonymous.” Maybe I’ll go back and correct all the posts at some point.
After a fairly serious confrontation with the Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-20), Jesus “withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon” (Matthew 15:21), where he met an interesting woman (See Nameless: A Woman in Tyre). We don’t know how long he stayed there, but sometime later, He took a circuitous route back to the Sea of Galilee, wandering into the Decapolis (a loose collection of ten cities that stretched all the way up to Damascus). People recognized him there, too. What happened next is easy to miss when you’re reading through the Gospels.
One man, a leper, interrupted Jesus on the road, and Jesus returned him to his relationships (Luke 5:12-14, etc.). We saw that story last week. This week, we look at ten other nameless men with leprosy who approached Jesus in a different way, but only one of them chose to say “thank you.”
Jesus was already on his way to Jerusalem for the last time (Luke 13:22, On the Way to The Cross series), walking southeast, along the border between Galilee to the north, Samaria to the south, and heading toward the Jordan River valley. He stopped in some little village, which also remains nameless, along with the ten outcasts on its edge. The place isn’t important. The men’s names aren’t important. What matters? Jesus and His power.
Let me say up front, the muddy part is my imagination.
On two separate occasions, Jesus healed men with leprosy. Once, it was a single man, and the other time, it was ten men. We will spend some time with the former today and the latter next week. But first…
The New Testament term, leprosy, comes from a Greek word that refers to any type of skin disease. I worked in our backyard a couple of weeks ago, and as I write, I still have poison ivy on my arms. That’s one type of leprosy. The serious medical condition we typically associate with leprosy, however, is now called Hansen’s disease. It’s a bacterial infection that leads to nerve damage. The person doesn’t feel injuries to his/her extremities, resulting in disfigurement and sometimes death.
Here’s the CDC clarification:
The “leprosy” found in historical and religious texts described a variety of skin conditions from rashes and patchy skin to swelling. They were noted to be very contagious, which is not true for Hansen’s disease and also did not have some of the most obvious signs of Hansen’s disease, like disfigurement, blindness, and loss of pain sensation.
The Old Testament established regulations and purification rituals for those with leprosy (see Leviticus 13-14), which turned the priests into pseudo dermatologists. Glad I’m not them!
Now. Let’s get into the Scriptures.
A Muddy Man in the Road
Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-44, Luke 5:12-14.
Jesus’ reputation was getting huge! He’d grown too large for the coffee shop scene and even the small venue circuit (Mark 1:45). He needed arenas for His teaching and healing times, but you don’t see many of those in first-century backwaters of the Roman Empire—especially not ones available to an itinerant Jewish teacher. Sometimes word got out that Jesus was in someone’s home. These unintentional public appearances always overflowed their spaces. People crowded into the main room, leaned in the windows, and blocked the doors—all just to get close to Jesus.
That’s the situation four friends found when they brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Continue reading
Here’s the first study in our series about unnamed—but not unimportant—people in the Bible.
Jesus took off from Gennesaret, on the Sea of Galilee, after a confrontation with the Pharisees (Matthew 14:34-15:20), and He headed west, away from his normal stomping grounds. He probably traveled through the mountains of Upper Galilee, passing Gischala and Mt. Meron before he reached the coastal city of Tyre in Syrian Phoenicia. (Can you tell I just bought a Bible atlas? Yay!) His disciples must have wondered what He was doing. Continue reading
It was prayer time, and Peter and John were doing what they usually did.
It was prayer time, and the lame man was doing what he usually did.
They were going to pray. He was going to beg. No one expected anything out of the ordinary. Isn’t that how it often feels when God begins to work? Continue reading
I needed to heal. It took a long time, and sometimes I still feel like a broken arm that wasn’t reset before it healed. Things don’t line up exactly like they should…or at least like they used to.
My sister broke her arm when we were young. We took her to the hospital, of course, and they reset it beautifully. But to this day, she has a knot where the bone fused back together. That spot is stronger than any other part of the bone.
is what God uses.
We don’t want to be broken, and when we are broken, we try so hard to get back to wholeness. We want things to return to how they were before the traumatic experience or situation that broke us. We want to stop being broken. We rush to heal, thinking God can use us more effectively if we are whole, but the brokenness is what God uses. The brokenness eventually makes us stronger and, yes, better. Continue reading
Two desperate people. One famous, one infamous. Both loved by Jesus. Both restored.
Intimate Impurity, Stolen Salvation
Twelve years. Twelve years of shame and judgment. Twelve years without the touch of another person. Twelve years of poking, prodding doctors who lined their purses with her desperation.
News travels fast in a small town. Continue reading
News travels fast in a small town.
“Jesus is back,” the servant whispered in Jairus’ ear, hope fueling the boldness it took to disturb his distraught master. The girl, almost a woman actually, didn’t look any better than she had when Jairus sat down beside the bed hours earlier.
Jairus raised one eyebrow and sighed. Nothing else had worked. Continue reading