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By George MacDonald
Used with the permission of Johannesen Printing & Publishing.
I COME now to the second group of miracles, those granted to the prayers of the sufferers...

I take now the cure of the ten lepers, done apparently in a village of Galilee towards Samaria. They stood afar off in a group, probably afraid of offending him by any nearer approach, and cried aloud, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." Instead of at once uttering their cure, he desired them to go and show themselves to the priests. This may have been partly for the sake of the priests, partly perhaps for the justification of his own mission, but more certainly for the sake of the men themselves, that he might, in accordance with his frequent practice, give them something wherein to be obedient. It served also, as the sequel shows, to individualize their relation to him. The relation as a group was not sufficient for the men. Between him and them it must be the relation of man to man. Individual faith must, as it were, break up the group-to favour a far deeper reunion. Its bond was now a common suffering; it must be changed to a common faith in the healer of it. His intention wrought in them-at first with but small apparent result. They obeyed, and went to go to the priests, probably wondering whether they would be healed or not, for the beginnings of faith are so small that they can hardly be recognized as such. Going, they found themselves cured. Nine of them held on their way, obedient; while the tenth, forgetting for the moment in his gratitude the word of the Master, turned back and fell at his feet. A moral martinet, a scribe, or a Pharisee, might have said "The nine were right, the tenth was wrong: he ought to have kept to the letter of the command." Not so the Master: he accepted the gratitude as the germ of an infinite obedience. Real love is obedience and all things beside. The Lord's own devotion was that which burns up the letter with the consuming fire of love, fulfilling and setting it aside. High love needs no letter to guide it. Doubtless the letter is all that weak faith is capable of, and it is well for those who keep it! But it is ill for those who do not outgrow and forget it! Forget it, I say, by outgrowing it. The Lord cared little for the letter of his own commands; he cared all for the spirit, for that was life. 
This man was a stranger, as the Jews called him, a Samaritan. Therefore the Lord praised him to his followers. It was as if he had said, "See, Jews, who think yourselves the great praisers of God! here are ten lepers cleansed: where are the nine? One comes back to glorify God-a Samaritan!" To the man himself he says, "Arise, go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole." Again this commending of individual faith! "Was it not the faith of the others too that had healed them?" Doubtless. If they had had enough to bring them back, he would have told them that their faith had saved them. But they were content to be healed, and until their love, which is the deeper faith, brought them to the Master's feet, their faith was not ripe for praise. But it was not for their blame, it was for the Samaritan's praise that he spoke. Probably this man's faith had caused the cry of all the ten; probably he was the salt of the little group of outcasts-the tenth, the righteous man. Hence they were contented, for the time, with their cure: he forgot the cure itself in his gratitude. A moment more, and with obedient feet he would overtake them on their way to the priest. 
I may not find a better place for remarking on the variety of our Lord's treatment of those whom he cured; that is, the variety of the form in which he conveyed the cure. In the record I do not think we find two cases treated in the same manner. There is no massing of the people with him. In his behaviour to men, just as in their relation to his Father, every man is alone with him. In this case of the ten, as I have said, I think he sent them away, partly, that this individuality might have an opportunity of asserting itself. They had stood afar off, therefore he could not lay the hand of love on each. But now one left the group and brought his gratitude to the Master's feet, and with a loud voice glorified God the Healer. 
In reflecting then on the details of the various cures we must seek the causes of their diversity mainly in the individual differences of the persons cured, not forgetting, at the same time, that all the accounts are brief, and that our capacity is poor for the task. The whole divine treatment of man is that of a father to his children-only a father infinitely more a father than any man can be. Before him stands each, as much an individual child as if there were no one but him. The relation is awful in its singleness. Even when God deals with a nation as a nation, it is only as by this dealing the individual is aroused to a sense of his own wrong, that he can understand how the nation has sinned, or can turn himself to work a change. The nation cannot change save as its members change; and the few who begin the change are the elect of that nation. Ten righteous individuals would have been just enough to restore life to the festering masses of Sodom-festering masses because individual life had ceased, and the nation or community was nowhere. Even nine could not do it: Sodom must perish. The individuals must perish now; the nation had perished long since. All communities are for the divine sake of individual life, for the sake of the love and truth that is in each heart, and is not cumulative-cannot be in two as one result. But all that is precious in the individual heart depends for existence on the relation the individual bears to other individuals: alone-how can he love? alone-where is his truth? It is for and by the individuals that the individual lives. A community is the true development of individual relations. Its very possibility lies in the conscience of its men and women. No setting right can be done in the mass. There are no masses save in corruption. Vital organizations result alone from individualities and consequent necessities, which fitting the one into the other, and working for each other, make combination not only possible but unavoidable. Then the truth which has informed in the community reacts on the individual to perfect his individuality. In a word, the man, in virtue of standing alone in God, stands with his fellows, and receives from them divine influences without which he cannot be made perfect. It is in virtue of the living consciences of its individuals that a common conscience is possible to a nation. 
I cannot work this out here, but I would avoid being misunderstood. Although I say, every man stands alone in God, I yet say two or many can meet in God as they cannot meet save in God; nay, that only in God can two or many truly meet; only as they recognize their oneness with God can they become one with each other. 
In the variety then of his individual treatment of the sick, Jesus did the works of his Father as his Father does them. For the Spirit of God speaks to the spirit of the man, and the Providence of God arranges everything for the best good of the individual-counting the very hairs of his head. Every man had a cure of his own; every woman had a cure of her own-all one and the same in principle, each individual in the application of the principle. This was the foundation of the true church. And yet the members of that church will try to separate upon individual and unavoidable differences! 
But once more the question recurs: Why say so often that this and that one's faith had saved him? Was it not enough that he had saved them?-Our Lord would knit the bond between him and each man by arousing the man's individuality, which is, in deepest fact, his conscience. The cure of a man depended upon no uncertain or arbitrary movement of the feelings of Jesus. He was always ready to heal. No one was ever refused who asked him. It rested with the man: the healing could not have its way and enter in, save the man would open his door. It was there for him if he would take it, or rather when he would allow him to bestow it. Hence the question and the praise of the patient's faith. There was no danger then of that diseased self-consciousness which nowadays is always asking, "Have I faith? Have I faith?" searching, in fact, for grounds of self-confidence, and turning away the eyes in the search from the only source whence confidence can flow-the natal home of power and love. How shall faith be born but of the beholding of the faithful? This diseased self-contemplation was not indeed a Jewish complaint at all, nor possible in the bodily presence of the Master. Hence the praise given to a man's faith could not hurt him; it only made him glad and more faithful still. This disease itself is in more need of his curing hand than all the leprosies of Judæa and Samaria.