There have always been diseases and conditions that become the defining feature of a person’s existence. No longer a man or woman, you have become something else—a leper.
What other ways have we taken symptoms and characteristics and used them to define people as something less than what we are?
Jesus often travels along borders of human division. If you want to see where Jesus is at work, look for human borders that separate people from one another. The separation between Samaria and Galilee was marked by a huge gulf in understanding and respect.
The ten men on the outskirts of town were all given the same name—Leper. Any other defining characteristic was lost or losing ground. It may be that 9 of them were Jewish and 1 was Samaritan. The religious distinctions were buried by the disease identity. Their names, family connections and occupations were quickly becoming memories.
In suffering, they become each other’s companions. Former distinctions were less important to them now that they were truly alone. There are some labels that supersede everything else that you are or were. Is it any wonder that they cry to Jesus for mercy? Who else was there to listen to them? The gatekeepers of society ensured that they were kept away in the name of public safety.
In the absence of a healthy community connection, the exiles formed community among the sick. Sometimes the sick take care of the sick, better than the healthy do. Other times, they lack the strength and resource to make any difference for their companions and misery is met with misery.