Pentecost 21, Bunker Hill, Luke 17:11-19
The text begins, “On the way.” Becky and I have had a few incidents while on the way traveling; A New Year’s Day when the dash board started to emit smoke at the Missouri – Iowa border; a broken spring on a camper trailer in western Ontario on the way to Thunder Bay; a blown transmission in our PT Cruiser at the Pennsylvania – Maryland border. A lot happens to us on the way through life, not only when we travel, but in regard to health, family, school, work, and our faith.
When we encounter Jesus this morning he is on the way to Jerusalem, where people were plotting to kill him; where Judas will betray him; where his disciples will abandon him; where Peter will deny him; where he will be condemned for blasphemy; where he will be lifted up on the cross; where he will die and be buried; where on the first day of the week at early dawn two men will declare, “He is not here, but has risen.” Yes, Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem, the city of peace, where he would find no peace. He was on the way in order that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” All peoples would find the peace that surpasses all understanding which keeps our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, we are here this morning to “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead” that trusting in “God’s unbound word” …we may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” Yes, much happens to us on the way between our baptism and our dying and resurrection. Remember those vows we make at confirmation to renounce the devil, his works and ways? To live according to the word of God in faith, word and deed even to death? Or at the altar to the one we plan to spend the rest of days with to have and hold, for better or worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health, to love and cherish and all of it in faithfulness. We make those promises without a realistic idea of what will happen as we go on our way through life. Promises of faithfulness may be broken leading to broken lives and broken families. Yet, through the strengthening that we have “by the grace that is in Christ Jesus…if we endure (in Christ, in faith) we will also reign with him.” On the way, it is as we said in the words of our Introit, “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers then out of all their troubles.”
We meet Jesus this morning on the border between right and wrong. That is, he was on the border between the territory of the Jews in Galilee who regarded themselves as clean and upright before God and land of the Samaritans who were automatically regarded as unclean and on the wrong side of everything godly. Jesus was entering a village. Is this village on the right side or wrong side of the border? Ten lepers approached him, yet maintained their distance. Being lepers they were unclean and were cut off from other people. Children did not run to greet them. Wives do not wrap loving arms around them. Friends did not rush to speak to them in the marketplace. Leprosy rendered them unclean and unapproachable. When lepers walked the roads, people crossed to the other side to avoid contact. These men felt the sting of rejection everywhere they went.
But in their distress and separation from family and a normal life; they loudly cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” They are like the people who come to our church door on Sunday morning, disheveled and smelling of alcohol. They disturb the orderliness of our morning. What are we supposed to do, for them? What should we do? What will Jesus do for the ten lepers?
But the Gospel is for those who cry out. They cry out, “Jesus Master.” Only the disciples have called him that. The lepers pray. They pray for mercy. Not just pity. But mercy. Do they have faith? Jesus had just told his disciples, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say, to this mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it would obey.” Do they have a mustard seed of faith that Jesus is able to help them? They are expecting more than a donation so they can buy supper, but a miracle.
Without any fanfare, Jesus sends them off to see the priests. So they must have trusted Jesus at least a mustard seed’s worth. On the way, the lepers noticed their white blotches began to leave them and they knew they were being healed. They were clean. They were elated. Ecstatic. Free. Off they ran as fast as they could go. To see a husband, a wife, that they hadn’t seen for weeks. To see a son or daughter, a father or mother, a grandfather, a grandmother they hadn’t seen for months. Off they ran to see their field, their fishing boat, their store, their garden, their oxen that they hadn’t seen for who knows, how long. As fast as they could go, they were so happy to be well after all this time. A painting out of Africa shows the lepers throwing their crutches in air as they celebrate.
But…one when he saw he had been healed, that mustard seed of faith began to grow. He remembered. Now we have the second instance of loud shouting. But this time it’s not a cry for help but, “alleluia, alleluia” to God. He ran back Jesus, fell at Jesus feet, worshipped him, “thank you, thank you.” Then Luke drops a bombshell on us. “And he was a Samaritan.” Affliction had broken down the barriers between Jew and Samaritan. They were all “one of those lepers.” But for the Samaritan, now though he was healed, though he was clean, he would still be regarded as “one of those unclean and worthless Samaritans,” by the upright and godly on the right side of the border.
And Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine? Were not ten healed? And only you, a Samaritan, a foreigner, someone born on the wrong side of the border, a stranger, are you the only one to has returned to say thank you, to give praise to God?”
Then Jesus said, “Rise, go your way, your faith has made you well.” However, that translation, ‘Your faith has made you well” is not what the Greek says. The Greek reads, “Your faith has saved you.” Your faith has brought you salvation.
You see, the other nine was cleansed. That is, they could now return to their normal life with their families in their villages. They were healed – the leprosy had been cured and their skin cleared. And they were undoubtedly thankful, but to whom? Like many in our world today. They trusted in Jesus to make their life better. Jesus was the master dispenser. But they did not praise God by giving thanks to Jesus. They did not recognize the presence of God’s kingdom in Jesus.
Thus Jesus asked, “Was no one found to return except this foreigner, this one from another tribe, this one not from one of tribes of Israel?”
And Jesus says to him, “Rise,” for the wellness which he has received from Christ will lead to his rising again on the last day and to join with us eternal life in the presence our Lord in eternal glory. Jesus said, “Go your way. “Your faith has made you well.” He is well all over. As was the woman with the 12 – year hemorrhage, and the blind man who recovered his sight. And so for us too. Our faith in Christ has made us well all over, saved. Thus we with the woman, the Samaritan and the blind man have the peace which passes all understanding, which will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
As we go on our way this week may we also, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.”