"Blackie," as my grandsons and I called her, was the only Black Pearl pullet in a pen of 100. The other 99 were Golden Nuggets. Although all 100 pullets were hatched and raised together from day one, she really was "one in a 100," but not just because of her color and breeding. She also had a very different personality and responded and interacted with us differently than all the others.
Perhaps it was because she was "different" and was ostracized and harassed by all the other pullets. Perhaps it had something to do with her breeding, but she bonded and interacted with us differently. At every feeding as we scattered the feed, all the other pullets would scramble and fight for the pellets as we slung them out, but Blackie would only follow us, right at our feet, until we led her away and fed her out of our hand. I have raised a lot of chickens in my life, but I have never seen a chicken that seemed to show a sense of gratitude and a desire to show affection like Blackie did. Though she was surrounded by 99 others, it seemed she felt all alone and looked forward to spending time with us as she ate.
I recently read an account recorded in the Gospel of Luke that reminded me of Blackie. It is the story of 10 men with leprosy who shouted out to Jesus as He was walking along the road for his final journey into Jerusalem. These men were desperate and were crying out for Jesus to have mercy and to heal them:
"And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’" (Luke 17:13-19)
It is helpful to study a little bit of the background of this story to understand what was taking place. The symptoms of leprosy range from white patches on the skin to running sores to the loss of the fingers and toes. The physical distress and the emotional response to a future of disease and death were only part of the burden of the leper because people with leprosy cannot hide their disease. For the Hebrews, it was a dreaded malady which rendered its victims not only physically but also ceremonially unclean, unfit to worship God (Lev. 13:3). Anyone who came in contact with a leper was also considered unclean. Therefore, lepers were isolated from others so the "clean" members of the community could maintain their status as worshippers.
By Jesus’ time, it was evident that lepers were society’s despised outcasts. When a "normal" person approached, they had to shout a warning of "Unclean!" while keeping their mouth covered to prevent spreading the disease. This was a humiliating, lonely, painful and tragic way to spend and end your life. It would not be long before a person’s spirit would be broken, and his self image would deteriorate so that he considered himself unworthy of love or companionship.
Jewish law required those who had been declared "unclean" to present themselves to a priest for an examination to verify they were disease free before they could once again be declared "clean" both physically and religiously. Jesus gave these men nothing except a command to go show themselves to the priests. This must have really confused them. Under the law (Lev. 13), they were to go to the priests only after cleansing. At this point, the lepers were not clean and any presentation to the priests would be a waste of time.
Jesus had not yet healed them when He commanded them to go to the priest, but they trusted Him and went to present themselves. They were still covered with sores and had no feeling in their skin, yet they went and did what Jesus told them to do. He directed them to do what seemed absurd, yet they obeyed. "As they went, they were cleansed." First came obedience — then the miracle!
Note that only one of the men came back to give thanks and to worship Jesus. The story implies he returned as soon as he found himself cleansed — he "turned back" prior to making it to the priest. What did Jesus do? He took on the responsibility of the priest and, based upon the man’s faith, He ceremonially declared the man clean. It would no longer be necessary for the healed leper to go to the priest, because he had just been cleansed by The Priest! To the Samaritan, giving thanks to Jesus was more important than ritual. As a result, not only was he physically cleansed — he was spiritually cleansed. After his encounter with Jesus, he would return to his family and community — but not the same man he was when he left.
Being made whole by our faith in Jesus and what He has done for us is the greatest blessing and privilege we can receive, but with it comes the responsibility and the command to go into all the world and tell others of God’s mercy and grace. We can tell others what God has done for us, praising Him, thanking Him and giving Him the credit for what has happened in our lives.
Blackie was a different kind of bird. The Samaritan was a man different from the others, but both were distinguishable by their expressions of gratitude. Perhaps we too need to "turn back" to God, confessing and turning away from our sin, praising and thanking Him for His mercy and grace by giving Him our hearts and lives. Ten lepers were healed — but only one came back to Jesus and heard the words: "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well."