Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 30, 2018
11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
— Luke 17:11-19, ESV
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
What is the “double cure” spoken of by this familiar hymn? Theologians refer to it as double imputation. It is the two-fold application of grace given to us by God when we are justified by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. On one hand, my sins are given over to the Messiah, who satisfied the wrath of God against those sins on the cross. On the other hand, Jesus’ perfect righteousness is put on my account to “make me pure” before a holy and righteous God.
The ongoing result in the doubly cured child of God is a hatred for sin and a hunger for righteousness. Apart from such holy affections, no one can claim assurance of salvation (ref. Hebrews 12:14). Such confidence seems missing in the majority of people involved in this miracle of Jesus, just as the sacred “double cure” of salvation seems strikingly absent from most modern professions of faith today.
For most there is no cure.
There was no medical cure for leprosy in Jesus’ day. As a matter of fact, up until our own era, leprosy was simply a slow, sickening, and sorrowful way to die. The leprae bacteria revealed itself in a skin rash, which moved down into the nervous system, created sores and left behind numbness, which led to infections and toxins, until vital organs were attacked and death followed. Since it was contagious, victims were left to die in the company of other lepers at best, or in lonely isolation at worst.
Many in biblical history contracted it and almost all of them died from it. Occasionally a misdiagnosis or unexplained remission could be verified by a priest (ref. Leviticus 13-14), and on one occasion a foreigner named Naaman was introduced to a miraculous cure by the prophet Elisha (ref. 2 Kings 5). But for most people in the ancient world, there was no cure.
This brings us to this story told only by Luke which tells of this miracle performed by Jesus, a miracle which cured a few men from leprosy. We must also note it was a miracle that most lepers never received, for relatively few encountered the Savior during His public ministry, and fewer still received miracles.
All of Jesus’ parables are about the miracle of salvation, and all of His physical miracles are gospel parables. The miracle over leprosy is about Jesus’ power to heal and forgive sin. Sin is spread through contact with someone else’s blood, as we inherit it from our parents, who inherited it from theirs, and so on and so forth. It is not only contagious, it is addictive and we soon learn to love it. It seeps steadily into our souls and eventually causes death, eternal death, eternal separation from God and all that is holy. That is, unless we experience the miracle of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Like most lepers in Jesus’ day, most modern sinners never meet God, they are not looking for God, and they do not want God in their lives. They cling to their leprosy and live it up in leper colonies until they day they die. Sadly, most lost people in the world never meet the cure.
For some there is a single cure.
While those with no cure are outside the periphery of this pericope, the single cure makes its way to ten men in the middle who cried out for “mercy.” In war there are no atheists in foxholes, and in ancient times there were none in leper colonies. These men were waiting to die, with no help from priest or physician. Jesus, walking to Jerusalem for the last time, had earned a reputation as an actual faith healer, even over leprosy. So, the dying men thought, why not give it a shot?
And, it worked! Hallelujah! Ten out of ten received the cure for their severe medical problem. They called upon the name of the Lord and they were healed, at least physically. Then, nine out of ten took off, presumably never to take a second look at the Lord Jesus Christ. They got what they wanted, forgiveness from leprosy, but never considered the weightier matter of the Lordship of Christ.
Remember this miracle is also a parable. Leprosy stands for sin. Sin does not bother most people in our world, but occasionally someone can be made to feel guilty about it. This usually happens in childhood or youth, especially connected with the evangelistic ministry of a church. Forgiveness of sins is promised for those who will walk an aisle, pray a prayer, complete a pledge card, or otherwise make a desperate decision in vacation Bible school, youth camp, or at the end of a church service. Then, nine out of ten run off and never take a second look at discipleship, responsible church membership, witness and service to others, and the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
People made aware of their sin do want to be rid of it, of course. But they want the single cure. But they do not want the double cure, which includes the righteousness of Christ and the righteous requirements that go along with it. The double cure of true salvation is as free as the single cure, but it demands respect, obedience, and love for the righteous rules of the Christian life. Only one character displays this kind of devotion in this story.
For a few there is the double cure.
In this record there is only one out of ten who receives the double cure, and ironically he is a double outcast. He is a leper and He is a Samaritan. I won’t make too much of the latter, except to point out Luke’s affinity for showing Christ’s love for the lesser castes of society in His day, the children, the women, and the half-breed Jews. The double cure indeed reaches out to all people without discrimination.
This one out of ten, who truly represents the one out of tens of thousands, caught the double cure thrown to Him by the Lord Jesus Christ. He was healed of his leprosy and he became a devout follower of the Messiah. Jesus told him, and only him, “Your faith has made you well.”
The evidence of the single cure is the physical absence of leprosy. The evidences of the double cure are more complex, spiritual, but nonetheless visible. Take a long look at this one leper.
Like many sinners, he cried out for “mercy,” the withholding of death due to his disease. The healing of his body and soul came with many tangible proofs. This man was marked by the fact that he “turned back,” or made a “return” to God, a beautiful illustration of repentance. He witnessed for Christ, “Praising God with a loud voice.” “He fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks,” which was the first of many services of public worship. And, “Rise” he did, at the command of Christ, in absolute justification, ongoing sanctification, with the promise of glorification.
There is no forgiveness of sins for the mere asking. If that were true, almost everyone would go to Heaven. The miracle of forgiveness and salvation, the double imputation or “double cure,” is given only to those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of sin and selfishness, and with the Spirit’s urging strive to worship and obey God. Only the double cured will “rise” on the last day, take their stand in the new heaven and new earth, forever in fellowship with the Rock of Ages Himself.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labors of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law's demands;
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone;
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
— Augustus Toplady
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