Some years ago I worked in central London with an organization that reached out to people living on the streets. For most, all we could offer was food, clean clothes and a listening ear, but every now and then we met someone who wanted to find a new life. We ran a halfway house with a simple rule of life where a few people at a time could relearn how to live indoors.
There are moments when you just know what’s coming next. No one has to confirm it for you; the feeling in your gut is confirmation enough. After I lay on the ultrasound table for two minutes, the technician left me alone while she went to find the radiologist. I knew I was in trouble. No one had biopsied anything. No one had uttered the word “cancer,” much less “lobular invasive carcinoma,” but I knew.
When I read this passage, I’d like to hear the inflection that Jesus gave to these words. “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they?” The inflection of the words makes a considerable impact on the meaning of the reading as heard, and would tell us much about Jesus’ reaction to the healing of the lepers.
Traditional Christian appropriation of the Hebrew scriptures often flattens them. Stories become precursors of later New Testament events rather than genuine events in themselves. Vivid multidimensional characters become mere prefigurations instead of figures in their own right, and complex narrative situations are reduced to a single theological point.