The Walking Dead: Lepers

October 13, 2013

Well, here we are “The Walking Dead”.  Some folks have been looking forward to this
series with anticipation, others with dread and some with confusion.
So why “The Walking Dead”?
The title and theme come from a Television series of the same title that
will begin its fourth season tonight. The show has won numerous awards
including a Golden Globe for best television drama.  The TV series had its roots in a comic book,
excuse me, Graphic novel series by the same name.
The series revolves around a sheriff’s deputy by the name of
Rick Grimes, who is wounded in a shootout with armed criminals, he awakens from
a coma weeks later in a deserted and badly damaged hospital.  When he gets outside he discovers the world
as he knew it no longer exists, instead he is in post-apocalyptic world that
now includes Zombies, or walkers as they are often called in the series.
Grimes eventually hooks up with a small band of survivors
which includes his wife, son and former partner and best friend, Shane.  And for three seasons the survivors have been
seeking answers for what has happened and have been battling the walkers.  There is drama, romance, intrigue betrayal,
in other words it is a soap opera with Zombies.
Personally I’m on the side that it’s all a dream, that someday
Rick will wake up in a clean, fully staffed hospital and  declare “You’ll never believe the nightmare I
just had.”  But that’s just me.
As a nod to the geekiness of this series, each week I shall
wear a different Zombie T-shirt.  This
week’s T-Shirt simply states that I am a member of the Zombie Apocalypse
Response team.
For those who are concerned about the dark connotations of
this show, these aren’t your parent’s zombies.
People who don’t watch the show often confuse the “Walkers” from the
Walking Dead with Zombies from the horror flicks from the 30’s and 40s, White
Zombie was the first zombie film ever released in 1932 with Béla Lugosi as the
evil protagonist who turned a man into a zombie, in 1943 “I walked with a
Zombie” told the story of a Canadian Nurse who encountered a female Zombie on
the Caribbean Island of  St.
Sebastian.  These Zombies had overtones
of Voodoo and black magic.
It was in 1968 that George Romero made his cult classic, “Night
of the Living Dead” which introduced us to the idea of some type of biological
disaster that resulted in “the living or walking dead.”  Romero’s original concept for Night of the
Living dead was that it would be a comedy, guess that didn’t work out.  It spawned five sequels, was selected by the
Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry as a film
deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
Different time obviously but the film was made in 1968 and
the lead man and hero, Ben, was played by Duane Jones and there was a little
bit of controversy because it was the first time a black man was the hero in a
horror flick.
So that being said, the “Walking Dead” are not some part of
a Voodoo conspiracy, weren’t animated with witchcraft or black magic and aren’t
involved in Devil worship, just victims of some strange post-apocalypse plague.
But what does that have to do with church?  Well, for the next seven weeks we are going
to look at examples from the Bible where people died and came back to life, or
in the case of this morning’s message people who were considered, “the Living
Dead”
For those of you who think that Zombies are too frivolous of
a topic to discuss in church, may I direct you to this video.  (Parliament on Zombie Apocalypse)
He was without friends, family or future.  He lived a life of tragedy without a home and
without a hope.  Have you ever heard
someone say “They treated me like a leper” or “they acted like I had
leprosy?”  Back in the eighties when AIDS
was just surfacing and  society and science
still didn’t have a grip on how it was spread or who would contract it you
would often hear those who had acquired AIDS make that statement, “I feel like
a leper.”  And while I wouldn’t want to
minimize the hurt that people feel when they ostracized by others it is
doubtful that anyone in this time could ever fully comprehend what life as a
leper was like 2000 years ago.
Leprosy was probably the most feared disease of the time,
and that wasn’t just then either, we don’t think of leprosy as a modern disease
but the world health organization estimates that there were 232,857 new cases
diagnosed in 2012.
We forget that the rest of the world doesn’t have the health
care that we have.  And while we gripe
about a half-hour wait for the doctor or a three-hour wait in outpatients there
are many places in the world where the closest hospital is a day journey away,
and drugs are almost impossible to acquire for the common person.  As a matter of fact it’s not a far stretch to
say that this group of people would be considerably smaller if we lived in a
third world country, because some of you would not have survived without the
medical care that you have obtained in Canada.
But back to the subject at hand: Leprosy isn’t the term we
use, today we call it Hansen’s disease.   It was named after Gerhard Hansen the Norwegian
doctor who discovered it’s cause in 1869.
But before 1869 the scientific term was leprosy.  The disease began with lethargy and pain in
the joints.  Little brown patches would
appear over the body and nodules would form on them especially in the folds of
the face, around the nose, eyes and mouth.
Ulceration of the vocal cords would result in the victim talking in a
hoarse rasp and before the disease had run its course the person would be
unrecognizable.  You can imagine, someone
shuffling along in pain, their voice hardly understandable.
Sometimes it progressed and the nerve ends were also
affected and the infected area would begin to lose all sensation and feeling,
often without the person knowing until they scalded themselves or broke
something without the warning that pain brings.
Pain’s not always a bad thing.  As
the disease progresses the muscles waste away until the hands are contracted
into claws and the feet curl up.  At this
stage the sufferer would sometimes lose their extremities, fingers and toes,
ears and noses because of infection caused by untreated injuries.
It was a horrible disfiguring disease that was contagious
and incurable.  Today through the marvels
of modern sciences leprosy can be contained and in many cases cured, it the
funds are available, but 2000 years ago or even 100 years ago the diagnosis of
leprosy was a death sentence, not a quick death but a slow and painful death,
these men and women were truly the walking dead.
And people were terrified of leprosy as you can well imagine
and so at any sign of a skin disease the person was examined by the Priest and
put into quarantine, if the symptoms disappeared the person was considered
cured however if it became apparent that the disease was or could be leprosy
the consequences were actually quite dire.
But if the physical affects of leprosy were horrible there
was something even worse.  The leper had
to bear the mental anguish and heart break of being totally cut off from the
people he loved, being banished from society and shunned by everyone.
The book of Leviticus contained the law for the people of Israel
and this is what it said Leviticus 13:45-46 “Those
who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear their clothing and leave their
hair uncombed. They must cover their mouth and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As
long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must
live in isolation in their place outside the camp.  Nice huh?
The person with leprosy was not allowed to mingle with
anyone who didn’t have the disease, they weren’t allowed to live in the village
or the city they had to move into the wilderness living in caves and hovels,
their only companions other victims.  The
closest they could come to a person without the disease was six foot which
would have made for a tough time keeping your marriage intimate, but that didn’t
matter because once you were diagnosed with leprosy you were considered dead
and your spouse could remarry and your estate was divided up amongst your
heirs.
And so while you were still alive, you were considered dead,
it was almost as if you were the Undead, the Living Dead or the Walking
Dead.
There has never been a disease that has so separated people
from the rest of humanity like leprosy, not even AIDS.
And so as we pick up the story
in Luke 17 Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, Luke
17:12-13
As he entered a village there, ten
lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”   Remember all they symptoms of leprosy,
their movements are stiff, some are missing extremities, because of the damage
to their vocal cords their voices are almost growls, and they are contagious.  Remember what Leviticus said, they weren’t to
comb their hair and they had to tear their clothes.  Frightening thought isn’t it?
We don’t know how they knew about Jesus, or more mysterious
how they knew Jesus was coming, but in him they saw their only hope.
And so they asked for the one thing that they wanted more than
life itself, to be healed.  That their
disfigured faces would once again be looked upon with love instead of
revulsion, that twisted limbs would become straight and that life, life would
return to normal.
And the thing that they wanted
more than anything was given to them.   Listen to the very next verse, Luke 17:14 He looked at
them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were
cleansed of their leprosy.
There are two miracles here; the first was that they
believed, the second was that they were healed.
Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests and they went,
didn’t question, didn’t ask “what if we get there and there’s no change?”   And the story says And
as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.  If they hadn’t gone, do you think they
would have been cleansed? If they had of chosen to go see their families first,
or gone back to work.   I don’t know,
what I do know is that as they obeyed the miracle happened.  And image as they are walking along the
conversation that took place if they looked at one another and began to see the
changes, “Hey Fred, your nose just grew back, and Bill you’re not shuffling
anymore.  I can feel my fingers again,
and I feel like singing.”
And this is where the analogy with the Undead, the Living
Dead or the Walking Dead breaks down, because once you are a walker you can’t
be healed you can only be killed real good.
But here we see the lepers being given a new life and a new
beginning.  And I believe that Jesus
could heal Zombies as well.
I wonder what it felt like as the nodules disappeared and
skin was made smooth again, as twisted limbs became straight and strong.  I wonder if they had lost appendages to the
disease and what it felt like as fingers and toes grew back.
So let’s go back to the
story.  Luke
17:15-16
One of them, when he saw that he
was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground
at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.   Ten are healed, one came back.  Here is a pop quiz, how many were
thankful?  Probably all ten.  They just didn’t express their thanks.
And there are a pile of life lessons that we can learn from the
nine that didn’t come back.
We see how they realized that their only hope was Christ; we
can see how they approached Jesus within the law, from a distance without
demanding that their request be met.  We
could talk about their obedience, how they immediately did as they were
commanded.
And we should marvel at their faith, how without question they
believed what Christ offered them, why else would they go to the priest?
But what I marvel at is that nine of them didn’t come back
to say “Thank you.”  Think about it, their
lives were radically changed, their lives were literally given back to them, so
why was there no acknowledgment?  Even
Jesus marvelled.  Luke 17:17 Jesus asked,
“Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine?
So how come they didn’t come back?
Perhaps They Were Overwhelmed with what
happened.  Sometimes what happens is so
incredible that we can’t find words to acknowledge what has happened.  And maybe that’s what happened, it wasn’t
that they were ungrateful it was just that so much more was happening in their
lives that they simply didn’t get around to saying thank you.  Kind of like those thank you notes that
you’ve always intended to write.
For whatever reason it is sometimes harder to show gratitude
for the big things then for the little things.
It’s easier to thank someone for saving our place in line then for
saving our life.   Benjamin Franklin said “Most people return small favours,
acknowledge medium ones and repay greater ones — with ingratitude.”
And so in the haste to get their lives back, they forgot the
one who had given them their lives back.
Very few of us will be physically in that situation, although there are
some who owe a doctor or paramedic their very lives.  But what about the spiritual gift of salvation?
Are we so overwhelmed with the gift of eternal life that we haven’t taken the
time to thank the giver?
Or maybe They Were Underwhelmed.  Oh sure they had been given their health
back, they had been healed from this horrible disease, but it wasn’t
enough.  You’re probably wondering what
more could they possibly want?  They had
probably thought about this day for a long time, and imagined what it would be
like.  But sometimes our imaginations are
greater than reality.  Have you ever
talked to someone whose life has changed radically, a windfall of money, or a
healing or a better job and yet they still aren’t happy.  They still haven’t found what they are
looking for.
Perhaps they thought that life would be like it had been
before the disease only to discover that their spouses had remarried, their
property had been divided between their children, and their jobs had been filled
by another people.
Perhaps they realized that they had lost the freedom they
had as a leper.  Confusing, maybe but as
a leper they had no social responsibilities, no moral responsibilities, they
didn’t have to provide for others they didn’t have to worry about disciplining
the kids or doing a good job at work.
All they had to do was stay alive.
Mark Twain made this statement: “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he
will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man.”
Some people become Christians and then are disappointed
because they don’t become more popular, they don’t get a better job, or make
new friends, or they aren’t healed.  They
are disappointed because they are still human and life still goes on.
Epicurus said “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
but remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped
for.”
Or perhaps They Took It For Granted. You know what
I’m getting at here.  They thought “Well
of course Jesus healed us that’s what he’s supposed to do.”  Kind of the difference between a dog and a
cat.  You feed a dog and they think you
are the most wonderful person in the world, you feed a cat and they wonder what
took you so long.  Somebody said that when you take care of your dog the dog thinks you must be a
god, when you take care of your cat the cat thinks it must be a god.
We don’t thank the Doctors who make us better physically
because that’s what they are supposed to do, we don’t thank the teachers who
make us better intellectually because that’s what they are supposed to do, and
we don’t thank the pastors who help us grow spiritually because, well let’s not
go there it’s too self-serving.
Too often people view God as some genie in the air who is
there only to take care of our wish list and we never acknowledge the debt
because we don’t really acknowledge the gift.
Most prayer lists have a lot more items on the “I want” side than on the
“Thank you side.”  When our prayers are
answered how often is it written off as a coincidence?  Or do we think “Well of course God answered
my prayers, he’s God that’s what he’s supposed to do.”
Don’t take God for granted! He doesn’t have to answer your
prayer, after all he’s God.
Today is Thanksgiving Sunday,
so it’s only fitting that we talk about being thankful.  These men were literally the Walking Dead,
they were still here, but for all intents and purposes they were dead.  And they were given new life.  One acknowledge his debt and nine
didn’t.  What does that have to do with
us?
As Christ followers how often
do we acknowledge the debt we owe to Jesus?
At some point every one of us was like the lepers, we were in need of a
new life, a life that we could not obtain on our own, let’s go back to the
scripture we started with in the intro video 1
Corinthians 15:21-22
So you see, just as
death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has
begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam,
everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.
If you have never received the
new life that is promised to us it is available for the asking, it is a gift
and a gift cannot be earned, or it wouldn’t be a gift.  But while you can’t earn a gift you have to
accept it.
Have you accepted the gift of
grace?  The gift of Salvation?  The gift of eternal life?  If not than why not today?

Comments

  1. Kevin Osborne - February 3, 2015 at 6:42 am - Reply

    I am blessed by your post, thank you 🙂 we are all dead in trespass and sin


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