‘Ho Hum’ It’s Easter

I saw an article recently about a visitor to Australia who had been diagnosed with leprosy and it reminded me that this terrible disease is still around today in various parts of the world. This was true even more so in Jesus’ time, and for Jews was serious in a way that went far beyond the disease’s terrible physical effects. For a Jew to be a leper meant that they were excluded from their community, something brilliantly demonstrated in the movie Ben Hur, where Ben Hur’s leprous mother and sister have to live in caves outside the city. This physical expulsion was only part of the issue however, because being so diseased meant that the victims were excluded from the worshipping community as well, for they were considered to be ‘ritually unclean’ according to the Law of Moses. They weren’t even allowed to ‘go to church’ if you like. Jesus himself frequently encountered lepers as we see in the story in Luke 17:11-19, a story I discussed recently with a group of people from overseas. This story, in which Jesus meets ten lepers, brought to mind the symbolic connection between leprosy and the Easter event we celebrate next weekend. The ten lepers stood at a distance from Jesus (because they were not allowed to get close to healthy people) and cried out to him for mercy (healing). Jesus’ response was to tell them to go to the Jewish priests to whom the Law gave the job of checking people for ritual uncleaness. On their way they discovered that they had been healed (cleansed) of their leprosy. However, and this is the point, only one of them, a Samaritan, went back to Jesus to give thanks to him. The others, Jews and members of God’s chosen people, seemed to have a casual ‘ho hum, thanks a lot Jesus’ attitude to what He had done for them and then just got on with life. Why was this? Was their attitude to the enormous blessing Jesus had given them, healing them not just physically but also spiritually, and so restoring their relationship with God, so ‘Ho Hum’ that they couldn’t even be bothered to go back and give thanks. The Samaritan was a member of a people who were sworn enemies of the Jews who looked down on them as inferior, spiritually unclean beings cursed by God, doubly cursed in his case due to the man’s leprosy. Yet it seems only he realized the enormity of what Jesus had done for him, and was overcome with thanksgiving. This raises questions of course for us. How much have we truly grasped the magnitude of what Jesus has done for us at that first Easter. If we are a Christian, do we truly understand that in our pre-Christian life we were under God’s curse, and excluded from God’s kingdom because of our ‘spiritual leprosy’ i.e. our sin? Have we fully grasped the fact that we were spiritual lepers in God’s sight who could not be allowed to come close to Him. Indeed, even if we had done so we would have been destroyed by His holiness. It was in part an act of God’s amazing grace that He drove the sin-stained Adam and Eve from His presence in the Garden of Eden to protect them from their destruction. God has healed us of our spiritual leprosy in that so terrible, awful, grotesque event of the Cross, so do we treat Easter like those Jewish lepers as just a ‘Ho Hum’ thing? Is our attitude to Easter a quick ‘Thanks Jesus’ and then just see the Easter weekend as an opportunity for a few days off? For Christians Easter is not a holiday, but should be a Holy-day (the meaning of the word). It ought to be a time we spend with the body of Christ (our fellowship), together giving thanks to God for His indescribable grace to us in Christ, grace that has rescued us from eternal and irreversible damnation. So what is our attitude to Easter? Will we be ‘Ho Hum’ Christians and basically just use it as an excuse for a few days off for R and R with a bit of religion thrown in? Or will we spend it as a time of overwhelming thankfulness to the One who heals spiritual lepers like you and me. Maybe we can use our BBQ or social gathering not just as a social occasion for ourselves and friends, but to also invite and talk with those who need to hear what Easter is really about? Christ is Risen!

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