What Makes a Man a Disciple
Luke 12:29 - Luke 16:13
This post comes from tomorrow's reading...Luke 17
I will never forget the Thanksgiving that I visited the Detention Center in Salt Lake City.
This facility is a temporary home for boys and girls ranging in age from eight to 17.
Most are there because they have committed a crime. Some have been affiliated with gangs. Their days consist of school and meals; their nights are spent in a cell.
I was asked to speak to them about gratitude on the night before Thanksgiving.
It was one of the hardest talks I have ever prepared.
I watched the kids file into the room silently; each group following a counselor to make sure they behaved. They were not allowed to talk or make any signals with their hands.
As I looked at their faces, I noticed that each seemed set in stone as if they were determined not to show any emotion. I wondered what kind of life they had left behind. How many of them had come from homes that were empty of love or affection? How many of them had become addicted to a drug they had received from a parent? What chance for success could they possibly have?
I had prepared a talk that focused on gifts that we could all be grateful for such as joy, wisdom, and strength, but as I watched each of them walk in the room I realized I had prepared the wrong lesson.
Under the circumstances I expected my heart to fail from fear, but instead I felt the spirit wash over me as I suddenly realized that the Lord had prepared His own message. I felt prompted to open my scriptures to Luke 17, the story of the ten lepers.
I keep a small print of the ten lepers in this chapter of my scriptures. As I began to speak I took it out and held it up so that all of the kids could see it.
The picture portrays the healed lepers running, with pure unbelief at their good fortune. Inexplicable joy is written all over their faces as, in absolute celebration, they rush to be declared clean by the priests and to inform family and friends of the miracle that had changed their life.
At the back of the group, one man is standing still in awe.
Reflecting on the fact that he has been made whole, he looks over his shoulder to where the Savior must have been standing. The scriptures tell us that this man turned back, and “fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.”(Luke 17:16)
Alfred Edersheim, a favorite Bible Scholar of mine, relates how Christ may have viewed this event. He talks of how the Savior must have watched them turn to go, “he may have followed them with His eyes, as, but a few steps on their road of faith, health overtook them.” Then he talks of the grateful Samaritan, who, “with voice of loud thanksgiving, hastened back to his healer…and in humblest reverence fell on his face at the Feet of Him to Whom he gave thanks. This Samaritan had received more than new bodily life and health: he had found spiritual healing.” Edersheim explains that it was one thing to apply to Jesus for healing, “but it was far different to turn back and to fall down at His Feet in lowly worship and thanksgiving. That made a man a disciple.” (AE 330)
I shared the story of the ten lepers with the kids as I walked up and down each row and watched their faces soften as they quickly related to the story. Just like the lepers who lived outside the village, completely isolated from society, each of them had been brought to this place alone, without friends, family or anything familiar. Their life was different now.
This was a story they could relate to.
Then I spoke to them of the unexpected opportunity the lepers had been given to change.
For a leper, becoming clean was a change that was so incomprehensible that it was deemed impossible. There was only one who could make it happen, and that was Jesus Christ.
We talked about those times in life when we find ourselves in a situation that we might not know how to get out of. Unable to solve the problem on our own, we become isolated. Distancing ourselves from what is familiar, we wonder if we can ever return.
During times of reflection we need to remember that there is always a way back. We are given the opportunity, anytime we choose, to make a life-change. That opportunity comes from Christ through the atonement. If we turn to the Savior and seek His counsel, we too can be healed and given the chance to live again. This healing requires giving our whole heart to follow the counsel of the Lord.
As I talked with the kids at the detention center, I watched them pondering that thought as they carefully studied the picture. I wondered if they could really give up that with which they were bound. Their challenges seemed so unfair, could they make the change? How many would have the strength it would take to choose Christ?
I couldn’t refrain from asking them as they searched the picture intently, “Look at these ten lepers. Of all of them, which one do you think loved Jesus the most?”
Out of the silence one boy raised his eyes to meet mine.
He pointed to the one who stood still and whispered confidently, “That one.”
One had realized the full magnitude of the moment.
It was more than celebrating the gift ––it was recognizing The Giver.