Why did Jesus give this instruction?
Why did Jesus instruct the ten men with leprosy to "show themselves to the priests"?
This instruction by Jesus indicates one of Jesus' teachings that sectarian institutions have been covering up for centuries. What is it?
The teaching of Jesus to make offerings to God.
Here is the situation leading up to Jesus' statement:
As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. (Luke 17:12-15)So we find that ten men who had leprosy appealed to Jesus to cure them. Jesus tells them to "show themselves" to the priests.
What does "show themselves" mean?
Jesus is not speaking of the men simply putting themselves on display. Was Jesus wanting them to enter a fashion show or something?
Don't be ridiculous. This is quite simply a mistranslation* of Jesus' instruction.
The ancient Greek phrase, πορευθέντες ἐπιδείξατε ἑαυτοὺς is not speaking of showing themselves. The Greek word ἐπιδείκνυμι (epideiknymi) can mean to show or bring forth to view, but also, according to Thayer's lexicon, "to display something belonging to one's self."
Furthermore, the Greek word πορεύω (poreuō) means to "transfer" or "carry over" something, and "to follow one, that is: become his adherent."
So Jesus isn't instructing the ten men swaggering over to the priests and "showing themselves" like they would be put on display. Who would want to see ten men with leprosy anyway?
Rather, Jesus is instructing the men to submit themselves. And with this, he is instructing them to bring an offering before the Altar of God.
How do we know this?
Because the type of priests that Jesus was referring to wasn't the typical ecclesiastical priests Jesus criticized often. The type of priests Jesus is referring to are Temple priests who make offerings before the Altar of God. This is communicated with the Greek word, ἱερεύς (hiereus). According to Thayer's lexicon, this word means, "a priest, one who offers sacrifices and in general in busied with sacred rites."
The "sacrifices" and "sacred rites" of Jesus' time were very specific. Jesus was a follower of the Prophets such as Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and others - as he often quoted their teachings. And making offerings to God was a central part of the teachings of the Prophets, through which God instructed followers to make offerings to God at the Altar of God:
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for Me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give." (Exodus 25:1-2)God is instructing Moses to teach his followers to make offerings to God. (Note that "Israelites" were not a "nation" as supposed by sectarian institutions. Rather, Israel was the name given to Jacob, and those who were followers of Jacob were thus called "Israelites.")
And because they were followers of Israel (Jacob), they would also be Moses' followers, since Jacob was God's representative, and Moses was God's representative and a student of Jacob's students.
Offering to God is a central theme of the Old Testament
Furthermore, we find that making offerings to God was a central theme from the earliest part of the Book of Genesis (Cain and Abel) as well as Abraham, Jacob and Moses - and continued through the succession of Prophets over the centuries.
The reality of Jesus' time in Jewish society is that when a person was instructed to submit themselves to the priests at the Altar of God, it was assumed this meant making an offering. Remember that God instructed Moses to accept peoples' offerings on behalf of God. This tradition was continued over the centuries into Jesus' time. When someone went to the priest who was at the Altar of God, they were expected to bring an offering for God.
Why is offering so important?
One might compare this to a young man wanting to pick up his date for the prom. Does he walk up to the house empty-handed? Certainly not. He brings some flowers or a corsage for his date. Why? Because it is not only customary: It is an expression of his care for the girl.
Further to this analogy about the prom date, when the father tells the boy to go pick up the girl for the prom, does he tell him, 'go give a corsage to your date.' No. He just says, 'go pick up your date.' Bringing the corsage is expected. It is assumed. Otherwise, the boy might think that he could just have the corsage delivered to the girl if that's all the father was speaking of.
In the same way, Jesus was instructing them to submit themselves to the priests at the Altar. It is assumed by Jewish custom that the men would bring something to offer. They wouldn't be going empty-handed. This means they could pick a flower or bring a cup of water or something.
This is because the offering in itself isn't the issue. The issue is submitting oneself to God. Bringing something to offer to Him is simply a further extension of ones' devotion to God. This is why God instructed Moses to:
"You are to receive the offering for Me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give."The phrase, "whose heart prompts them to give" means that making an offering to God is a voluntary act of devotion. An act of love. Love and devotion cannot be forced. This is why Jesus instructed them to submit themselves, indirectly indicating they bring something. He was basically telling them that they should show up at the Altar of God and become devoted to God - which would include bringing an offering.
Jesus taught making offerings elsewhere
This is not the only time Jesus instructed the importance of making offerings to God:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you..." (Matt. 5:23)What is the "gift" Jesus mentions? It is most certainly, an offering - from the Greek word, δῶρον (dōron), which more literally means "offering."
"... leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift." (Matt. 5:24)
"You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?" (Matt. 23:19)
In Luke 17:14 above, if Jesus just wanted to prove to others that he could cure leprosy, why didn't he just say, "you are cured," and they were cured? Because this wasn't Jesus' mission. Jesus' mission was to introduce us to the Supreme Being, and show us how we can submit ourselves to God, devote ourselves to Him, and come to know and love Him.
This process of coming to know and love the Supreme Being is not like show and tell. It is not like Jesus would get up in front of people and point out God in the sky and say, "This is God."
The Supreme Being is not a mountain or a statue. He is not a 'thing.' You can't love and serve a thing anyway.
The Supreme Being is a person. He is the Supreme Person. God is someone we can come to know and love. He is our Best Friend. He is the Perfect Person - the 'soul mate' that we search for with futility among the human population.
Yet God is also gracious. He doesn't force Himself upon us. He also doesn't show Himself to us just because we demand it.
We are here because we rejected God
You see, each of us is here in the physical world because we rejected God at some point. So being gracious, the Supreme Being has hidden Himself from the view of the physical world and the physical senses.
However, the Supreme Being will show Himself to those who become devoted to Him. Those who commit their lives to Him will see Him from within their hearts. This is spiritual vision - not to be compared to seeing some physical manifestation or vision. Most people want to see God appear before their physical eyes, so He will prove His existence to them. But this isn't the Supreme Being. He has no need to prove Himself.
Jesus illustrated that he was seeing God while he walked the earth. Jesus stated:
"The One who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” (John 8:29)Thus we see that Jesus' vision of God was connected with his service to God. Loving and serving God in devotion allows one to perceive the Supreme Being and come to know Him. Such vision is spiritual - not physical.
Their cure was related to their leaving for the Altar
And we can see that Jesus' mission with regard to these ten men with leprosy was that they come to devote themselves to the Supreme Being. Simply the act of heading over to the Altar priest and preparing to submit themselves and make an offering cured them.
They were prepared to make an offering through the priest because this is the function of those Altar priests - to receive people's offerings and place those offerings before the Altar - according to the Scriptures.
But Jesus also illustrated to his students that they could make offerings to God anywhere and anytime. They did not need to go to the Altar. Jesus made offerings to God multiple times in the Gospels - including the last supper and among the two miracles of loaves and fish. Unfortunately, due to a lack of knowledge by sectarian translators, the Greek word εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō) has been translated to "gave thanks" by most sectarian translations. A few translations have used the word "blessed."
Actually, the word εὐχαριστέω (eucharisteō) means, "to consecrate a thing." according to the lexicon. So how does a person "consecrate a thing" according to the teachings of the Prophets - which Jesus also followed? They made offerings to God, "whose heart prompts them to give."
This is a matter of consciousness. To simply "give thanks" is nice, but this renders a relationship where one expects God to do all the giving and all we do is get stuff from Him and thank Him.
This was not Jesus' consciousness, nor his teachings, nor the teachings of the Prophets. Jesus saw himself as God's servant, and wanted those around him to chose to become God's loving servants. Such a consciousness means that we learn to serve Him by making offerings. And doing so helps develop our relationship with God. Just as bringing a flower to a date helps further their relationship, making offerings to God also brings us closer to our Best Friend and Soul Mate.
Yes, everything is already owned by God. But still, we see that He will accept offerings to Him when we give from the heart. As the saying goes, 'it is the thought that counts.'
Making offerings to God helps us rekindle our natural relationship with God: One of His loving servants. As Jesus stated:
"Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)
*Here is the translation of this event from the Gospels of Jesus:
Then, as he entered a village, ten men with leprosy were standing at a distance. They cried out, saying, “Jesus, healer! Be merciful to us!” Seeing this, he said to them, “Go and make an offering at the sacred Altar.” Then as they were leaving, they were cleansed. Then one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. (Luke 17:12-15)