Death is a fearful thing, but to be dead and alive at the same time is surely worse. He had always thought so, and now his experience confirmed it. To be a leper was to be dead to your family, your friends; your place in society and the trade you had lived by. You were dead to the Law of Moses and the worship of God. There was no place for you in home or synagogue or temple. Even here in Samaria, where some rules were far less strict than Jerusalem, that remained a constant. The horror ascribed to leprosy was universal You were an outcast from everything that made life sweet and good, condemned to have no fellowship with anyone except your fellow outcasts, and they, living in a world without hope or kindness or any rule of law except the one that demanded that they name themselves “unclean”, were not always generous or caring. And the while, even as you endured these things, your body rotted away inch by inch, and your self-loathing grew in proportion. You were feared and despised by all, and all joy was fled from life.
But, even among lepers, rumours travel and news is shared, especially news of a man who worked miracles of healing. When you have no other hope such a possibility, however remote, is potentially the most exciting prospect in the world. Of course, not for everyone. Some had turned their backs on hope, preferring a cynical pragmatism to protect themselves from further disappointment. But he had not yet fallen so far, and nor had some others. So, when they heard that this Jesus was travelling in the border lands between Samaria and Galilee, well, why not give it a try?
They waited in hope by the roadside, and there were ten of them. And strangely, as he waited, the hope of healing tore his heart wide open. All the suppressed pain and longing rose up inside him, and he discovered that his leprous eyes could still cry. He kept his face averted, ashamed of his emotions.
They heard the sound of people coming, and gazed anxiously down the road as a group approached. The lepers did not dare to come close, so they stood at a distance and cried out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”
“Go and show yourselves to the priests,” he replied, and somehow his bare word was enough for them. They knew the law, they knew that only a priest had the authority to declare them free from leprosy and allow them to re-enter the community . So, obediently they set off, hardly daring to think about it.