It was hard to leave his family, but he had no choice. It was clear he had the disease and there was no other option. Forced to abandon the house he had built, he was unable to live with his wife and children. His parents told him that he was no longer welcome in his childhood home. Without a hospital or care home, there was no safe place…so he lived on the streets.
Eventually, he met people like himself – people with the disease. It was safer when they all huddled together. Together, they hunted for scrapes of food and shelter from the elements. They couldn’t remain long in the same place. Entering the city was not allowed. They would hover outside the walls, keeping their distance from others. Sometimes, when they would get too close, a passerby would yell, “Unclean!”…yet for the most part, people ignored them, looked through them and pretended they weren’t there. He had not just been forced to leave his loved ones: he had been erased from existence.
Stories and rumors about the prophet had been circulating for some time. No one was sure whether or not they were all true. One morning, a young boy came into the city saying that the prophet was on his way. Sure enough, later that afternoon, he appeared in the distance with a small group of supporters. They couldn’t get very close, and since they had lost all dignity, they didn’t mind yelling out at the prophet, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” (Luke 16:11-19)
A plea for mercy. Perhaps, one might have thought they would have asked for healing. They did. They were asking not just for physical relief, but for help in restoring all that was lost. Their grief and sense of loss was great and beyond measure. They were astonished when Jesus simply said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
It was the priests who had cast them outside. It was the priests who could let them back in. To everyone’s surprise, the priests declared them all clean and welcomed them home. When he understood that everything lost had been restored, he ran back to Jesus and fell at this feet. The half-breed Samaritan – this broken man – had his life back. He wept and gave thanks.
He knew deep inside that he had done nothing to deserve such mercy. His life had been completely changed once again. Gratitude was the only reasonable worship he could offer Jesus – and so that’s what he did.