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Jesus - A blending of the New Testament - Ch. 18 - Lepers are healed
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Ten lepers are healed  -  the coming of the kingdom  -  the parable of the importunate widow  -  the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax-collector  -  Jesus' teaching on divorce  -  he blesses the children  -  the rich young ruler  -  the parable of the workers in the vineyard  -  James and John seek preeminence  -  blind Bartimaeus is healed  -  Zachaeus meets Jesus  -  the parable of the useof God's gifts.


Jesus and his disciples set out for Jerusalem, following the border between Samaria and Galilee. As they came to the outskirts of a village, ten lepers standing off at a distance began to shout, "Sir! Have pity on us."

Jesus shouted back at them, "Go show yourselves to the priest."

The lepers started off for the town. On the way, they realized they had been healed. One of them turned back and, praising God at the top of his voice, ran to Jesus and fell down in front of him.

"Thank you! Thank you!" he cried.

"I thought I healed ten," Jesus said. "Where are the others? Does only this stranger, this Samaritan, thank God for what he's done?" He spoke to the Samaritan. "Get up man, and go on your way. Your faith has healed you."

A Pharisee standing near asked Jesus a question, "When will the kingdom of heaven come?"

"If you mean in a visible form," he replied, "the answer is, never. You won't hear people say, 'Here it is,' or, 'There it is,' because the kingdom of heaven is within you."

He spoke to the disciples.

"The day is coming," he said, "when you'll long for one of the days of the son of man but it won't be possible. People will come to you and tell you that the son of man is in this place or that, but don't go with them. When the day of the son of man does come, it will come like a bolt of lightning, lighting the sky from horizon to horizon." He paused and then said quietly: "But before that happens, he must go through much suffering and be rejected by the people.

"When his day comes, things will be much as they were in Noah's time. In those days, they took meals, they drank, they got married and so on, right up to the day Noah went into the ark. Then came the flood, and they were all drowned. It was the same in Lot's day. They, too, ate and drank, did business, farmed, and built buildings. But on the day lot left Sodom, fire and brimstone fell from the sky and they all died. It will be like that on the day the son of man is revealed."

He wanted to impress upon the disciples that they should be faithful in their praying and not grow discouraged, so he told them a story:

"There was once a judge who neither feared God nor favored men. In the same city there was a widow who came to him time and again asking him to right a wrong that had been done her. At first he refused, but after some time he said to himself, 'I may neither fear God nor favor man, but this woman is driving me crazy! I'd better see that she gets justice or she'll wear me out with her unending appeals.'"

Jesus emphasized the point: "Notice the judge's reaction," he said. "If he did that, don't you think God will vindicate his chosen ones who entreat him night and day? Will he delay very long? You can be assured, he'll respond quickly." Then he added, "For all that, when the son of man returns, will he find any who've remained faithful?"

He told another parable to a group of people who were smug about their virtues and looked down on others.

"Two men went to the temple to pray. One was a respected Pharisee and the other was a despised tax-collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself. 'God,'he said, 'how grateful I am to you that I'm not like other mortals - greedy, unprincipled, and immoral - like that tax-collector over there, for example. Twice a week I fast, and of every penny I earn, I give one tenth to the temple.' Off in the shadows, feeling himself unworthy even to raise his eyes heavenward, the tax-collector smote his chest and groaned, 'God, have mercy on me. I am a sinful man.'

"Be sure of this," Jesus conclude, "when they left the temple it was the tax-collector and not the Pharisee who went home justified. Every man who sets himself on a pedestal is going to be put down, while the humble will be honored."

Jesus and the disciples left Galilee and crossed the Jordan to the border area of Judea. Great crowds followed as they went and, as was his custom, Jesus taught them and healed the sick.

Some Pharisees arrived with a question designed to trap him.

"Are there any grounds on which a man may divorce his wife?" they asked

"What does Moses' Law say?"

"He says it's permitted so long as he gives her a divorce certificate."

"The only reason Moses allowed that was because you are so unloving," he said. "Think back to the creation story: it says that God made man and woman and commanded that, For this reason a man shall leave his parents and stay with his wife, and the two of them shall be as one person. A married couple is a unit, and no one should separate what God has joined."

Later, when they were indoors, the disciples returned to the subject.

"If what you said to the Pharisees is true, then why did Moses say that a man could simply give his wife a divorce certificate and leave her ?"

"As I said, because of expedience - because of man's lack of love. But that isn't the way it was laid down in the beginning. What I'm telling you is this : any man who divorces his wife for any reason other than because she has been unfaithful,8and marries again, becomes an adulterer. And anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Or if a woman divorces her husband and marries again, she commits adultery."

"If that's how it is, it doesn't make sense to get married.

"Not everyone can accept the teaching," he said. "It takes a special man. There are men who are eunuchs because they were born so, others have been made so, and there are some men who are deliberately continent for the sake of the kingdom. If you can live with what I say, do so."

Some women came to him with their children, wanting him to touch them and to pray over them. The disciples tried to put a stop to it. He saw what they were doing and was angry.

"Let the children come," he said. "How dare you stop them. They're what the kingdom of heaven is all about. The truth is that anyone who doesn't accept the kingdom with the simplicity of a child won't get in." He took the children in his arms, put his hands on them, and gave them his blessing.

As Jesus and the disciples turned to leave, a young man, a ruler in the Jewish community, ran up and knelt down in front of Jesus.

"Good Teacher," he said. "What must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"Why do you call me good?" he asked. "No one is good but God. However, you know the commandments, keep them. Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your parents, and have as much regard for your neighbor as you do for yourself."

"But I've done that, ever since I was a boy. What else must I do?"

Jesus looked at him affectionately. "You lack only one thing," he said. "If you want to be perfect, go sell everything you own, give the money to the poor - which will give you wealth in heaven - then come and join me."

The young man's face fell - he was very wealthy. He got to his feet and went away, a picture of dejection. Jesus watched him go. Then he looked into the faces of the disciples.

"How difficult it is, if you are rich, to enter the kingdom," he said.

The disciples looked at him, astonishment on their faces, so he continued: "Listen my children; it is exceedingly hard for a man who normally puts his confidence in money to go into the kingdom.  Indeed, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle."

The disciples were stunned by this. "If that's so," they said, "who's going to be saved?"

"Humanly speaking, it's impossible," he said. "But God can do anything."

"And what of us?" Peter asked. "We left our homes and everything we owned to follow you."

"Let me assure you," he said, "when I sit on my throne of glory in the world to come, you'll be seated on twelve thrones as the judges of the twelve tribes of Israel. Anyone who turns his back on home and family and possessions for me, and for the sake of the good news of the kingdom, is going to receive - along with persecutions - a hundred times what he gave up. In the world to come, he'll receive eternal life. Many who are important now won't be then, and those who are insignificant now will be first then.

"Let me explain something to you about the kingdom of heaven," he went on. "It's like a farmer who, first thing in the morning, hires some men to work in his vineyard. He agrees with them on a day's pay and sends them off to the vineyard. At about nine the same morning, the farmer is in town and sees some men standing about idly in the market place. He tells them to go work in his vineyard and promises to pay them a fair wage. He does the same at about noon, at about three in the afternoon, and again at about five. At nightfall, he tells his foreman to call in all the men and pay them off - from the last hired to the first - and to pay them all the same wage. The men who had worked from early morning complain: 'Some of these fellows worked no more than an hour. We worked right through - including the hot period of the day - yet you've paid us all the same. 'The farmer says to one of them, 'But friend, have I treated you wrongly? We agreed on a wage and I've paid it. It so happens that I have decided to pay the sane money to the others. Are you looking daggers at me because I'm generous to them? Is there a law that says I can't do what I want with my own money? Take your pay and go.' In the same way," Jesus said, "the last shall be first and the first, last."

They continued on toward Jerusalem. As they went, Jesus walked on ahead, by himself. This surprised and troubled the disciples so he called the Twelve to one side to warn them again of what lay ahead.

"We're going to Jerusalem, "he said," and all the prediction made about me by the prophets are going to come true. I shall be arrested and handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They'll condemn me to death and hand me over to the Romans who'll make sport of me, spit on me, flog me and crucify me. Then, on the third day, I shall rise from the grave."

For all his explanation, they could not accept what he was saying - actually, it was hidden from then so they might not see the ugly reality too clearly.

James and John, with their mother, came to speak to him privately. She knelt before him.

"Teacher, will you do us any favor we ask?"

"What favor do you want?"

"Give the order that when you've ascended to your throne these sons of mine may sit on either side of you."

"You have no idea what you're asking," he said. "You, James, and you, John, are you prepared to face what I must face?"

"We are."

"And indeed you shall," he said. "But as to granting you the authority to sit on my right and on my left, that's not mine to give. My Father will decide that. The honor will go to those for whom he's prepared it."

When the other apostles heard what James and John had done they were highly indignant. Jesus called them all together.

"You've seen the Gentile officials: the way they lord it over the people, the way exercise their authority. It must not be like that with you. If you want to be important in our group, be the servant of all the others. Follow my example in this: I didn't come to be served but to serve. I came to give up my life, to use it as ransom to set others free."

As they approached the outskirts of Jericho, they passed two blind beggars sitting by the side of the road. One of them, whose name was Bartimaeus, heard the commotion and asked the reason for it.

"Jesus of Nazareth is passing by," they told him.

Immediately, he began to shout at top of his voice, "Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!"

"Hold your peace," they told him. "Be quiet."

The rebuke seemed only to increase his shouting. "Son of David!" he howled. "Jesus, have pity on us."

Jesus halted. "Bring them to me," he said.

They went to the beggars. "Come on, men. And cheer up, he wants to see you."

Bartimaeus leaped to his feet, threw off his cloak, and stumbled toward Jesus. The other beggar followed.

"What do you want me to do ?" Jesus asked.

"Please, Master. Give us our sight."

Jesus' face mirrored the compassion he felt for them. "Go your way," he said, "and go seeing. Your faith has saved you."

At that moment, they saw - and as Jesus walked on, they followed him, praising God.

As Jesus entered Jericho, a man by the name of Zacchaeus - a chief tax-collector and a very wealthy man - stood in the street trying to get a look at him. Zacchaeus was quite short and couldn't get a good view. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree, seeking a vantage-point. As Jesus passed he looked up into the tree and said, "Hurry down Zacchaeus. I want to stay at your place today."

Zacchaeus scrambled down, welcomed him cordially and they went to his home.

Many of the spectators were shocked and grumbled among themselves, "Imagine, he's going to stay the night with that scoundrel."

Later, Zacchaeus the host stood up.

"Teacher," he said, "I've decided to give half of everything I own to the poor, and if I have defrauded any taxpayer, I'll refund the amount four times over."

"Salvation has come to this house today." Jesus said. "My reason for coming was to seek out and save the lost. Zacchaeus is a son of Abraham, too."

While they were digesting what he had just said, Jesus - knowing full well that they were expecting the kingdom of heaven to be set up when they arrived in Jerusalem - told them a parable:

"A certain nobleman was scheduled to visit a distant country to be given a kingdom. Before leaving he called in ten of his servants and gave each of them a sum of money. 'While I'm away,' he said, 'invest this for me.' He was an unpopular ruler and shortly after he had gone, a group of citizens sent an envoy with the message, 'We don't want this man to rule over us.' Nevertheless, he was granted the kingdom and returned home. He summoned the ten servants to give an accounting of what they'd done with the money. The first came in and said, 'Sir, your money has earned ten times its value.' 'Verygood, 'he said. 'You're an excellent servant. Now that you've shown you can handle a relatively simple task, I'm going to put you in charge of ten cities.' The second servant stepped forward. 'Your money has earned five times its value,' he said. 'You'll be in charge of five cities,' he was told. In came another servant. 'Here's your money back, sir,' he said. 'I know that you're an austere man who takes what he pleases as he pleases and benefits from the toil of others. So, because I was frightened, I took particular care to keep your money safe, hidden here in this handkerchief.' 'You wretched servant, ' he said, 'I'm going to judge you out of your own mouth. If as you say you knew the kind of man I am, why didn't you put the money in the bank where at least it would have made interest?' He ordered some men standing nearby to take the money from the man and to give it to the first servant. 'But he already has lots of money,' they said. 'I know that,' the ruler said. 'But I say that those who already have are going to receive more, and those who have nothing are going to lose even that nothing. And now, to deal with those enemies of mine who don't want me to rule over them: bring them here and kill them in front of me.'"

When he finished the story, Jesus turned and walked on ahead of them, on the road to Jerusalem.

(8)   In the gospel according to Mark (10:11-12), the exception is not included.

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