The rules in the Hebrew law about “leprosy” (which covered a wide variety of contagious diseases and not merely what we know today as “Hansen’s Disease”) were intended to be a crude public health measure. It was necessary to protect the whole village from such infection, so those whose faces were covered with skin lesions were exiled until the infection had passed.
In effect they were in quarantine. The local priest was the public health official who pronounced the quarantine over. Not all such diseases were permanent like what we know as leprosy today.
Since it was assumed that the lepers were being punished for their sins, their exile was all the more harsh. Small wonder that the cured lepers rushed home to their families and friends. Yet they were thoughtless. Jesus did not need their gratitude, though surely he would have liked it. But they needed to be grateful.
Once upon a time there was a man who was struck down in his early thirties who was diagnosed with brain cancer. He had a wife and young children and a promising career. Suddenly all of that was swept away from him. He could barely talk or walk. He was in constant agony. His friends and his family, except for his wife and mother, avoided him. The doctors shook their head. It was too bad. He was a nice man and deserved longer life. But there was nothing they could. At last he went to a very famous doctor who offered to operate on him, even though everyone else said the tumor was inoperable. The doctor warned the patient and his wife that he could very well die during the operation, though he (the doctor) was pretty sure that he would survive and return to health. They decided that they should take the risk.
After nine hours of surgery, the doctor came into the waiting room, grinned at the man’s wife and said, “Got it!” The man recovered and went on to a happy and successful life. Twenty years later the surgeon died. We should go to the wake, the patient’s wife said. I’d like to, her husband replied. But it’s on the weekend and I have an important golf tournament.
1 O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done
marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
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