Our Pages

Walking by the promise

Walking by the promise
Posted on November 10, 2019  - By Winston Hottman

On the way to Jerusalem, He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. Luke 17:11-14

The manner of Jesus’ healing is meant to elicit our attention. This is not the first time He has been confronted by a leprous person in Luke’s gospel. Twelve chapters earlier, a leper fell on his face before Him, begging to be made clean. But in that case, Jesus’ healing was instantaneous, achieved with the efficiency of an outstretched hand and a simple declaration: “I will; be clean.” Not so here.

But why? It’s obvious from Jesus’ healing in Chapter 5 that the delay in Chapter 17 is not due to any insufficiency on His part. Nor is there any indication of faithlessness among the 10 lepers. Why then the delay?

An answer begins to emerge when we consider Jesus’ unusual response: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” This command — the same issued to the leper in Chapter 5 — recalls the Mosaic regulations for the cleansing and restoration of lepers. In Leviticus 13-14, we find that the Levitical priests (sons of Aaron) were ultimately responsible for both declaring a person leprous and declaring a former leper clean. Now, the healing in Luke 5 follows the pattern we would expect from these requirements: first the healing, then the command to show one’s self to the priest. But in Luke 17, the pattern is reversed. The command first, then the healing.

It’s obvious from Jesus’ healing in Chapter 5 that the delay in this chapter is not due to any insufficiency on His part

Faith before sight

Two points about this reversal bear mentioning. First, it is not merely a delayed healing but a proleptic healing. It is important to note that Jesus’ command to the 10 lepers to show themselves to the priests presents the healing as if it has already occurred. Jesus’ intentions are not ambiguous or uncertain. The command assumes that the healing is as good as done. Indeed, the command is nonsensical unless the healing is assured.

Second, Jesus’ method of healing requires the 10 lepers to exercise the faith that brought them to Him in the first place. Whereas the leper in Chapter 5 was healed as soon as he fell at Jesus’ feet, the 10 must learn to wait on Jesus; not passively, but actively through obedience. They must walk by the promise implicit in Jesus’ command even though their healing has not yet been revealed. And in this, they are granted an opportunity not afforded to the other leper.

It is not a stretch to see this healing as a paradigm of our own experience as followers of Jesus. We too have come to Him seeking healing, from our sins and its effects in our lives. We too have been given the assurance of a healing that has not been fully realised. We too have been called to obedience, entrusting ourselves to Jesus as we follow His commands. We too have been granted a proleptic healing.

But the purpose of our state of affairs is not that we might live in uncertainty but that we might testify to the sureness of the promise we have been given, exhibiting the faith that is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We wait on Jesus not that we might doubt His mercies, but that we might come to cherish His commands, learning that the “tested genuineness of [our] faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). As it turns out, Jesus’ “delay” is actually part of our healing.

Winston Hottman

About Winston Hottman

A Ph.D. student in theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Winston Hottman is also co-founder of the Center for Baptist Renewal. Currently, he serves as Director of Institutional Effectiveness at Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, where he lives with his wife and three children.



Get a notification in your Inbox

A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.