May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be always acceptable in your sight, Oh
Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
The Gospel of Luke is full of stories of personal encounters between Jesus and
Sometimes with his followers,
Sometimes his opponents,
And sometimes strangers.
There are crowds of curious and hopeful individuals:
A tax collector,
A grieving mother,
A sinful woman,
A man inflicted with demons.
As Luke relates these stories,
He shows Jesus responding with love and grace,
Using the occasions to teach the values of God,
While challenging the contrasting and distorted ways of the world.
We find Luke telling a story about Jesus,
And 10 lepers begging for mercy.
These lepers most likely suffered from what we now call Hanson’s disease.
This illness, known among humans for thousands of years,
Went untreated in biblical times and caused permanent damage,
To skin, nerves, limbs, and even compromised the immune system,
It hastened death.
Though it is now known to be only mildly infectious,
The ancients considered it highly contagious,
And forced lepers to stay away from others,
Identifying their condition by announcing,
“Unclean, Unclean,” when approached.
As a result,
These people were excluded from the general society and forced to make their
Not unlike leper colonies that still exist in some parts of the world.
They became dead men walking--
At the mercy of others,
Ostracized, alienated from family life, and the comfort of communal religious
Like others, the lepers in today’s gospel were outcasts,
Who bound themselves to one another out of necessity and because no one else
would touch them.
All that mattered was their disease.
We know this,
Because among these lepers, was a Samaritan:
Who would have been a hated and shunned foreigner in mainline society.
But because he’s a leper. That’s all he is.
This band of 10 lepers had nothing to offer others,
Nothing to offer Jesus when they saw him coming.
But they recognized him:
Perhaps by his reputation as a holy man,
And approached within shouting distance the one they knew by name.
They cried out,
“Jesus! Master! Have mercy on us.”
Possessing enough inspiration,
Or maybe just a sense of desperation,
They reached out to Jesus with an appeal for healing that went beyond all
Jesus did not hesitate in his response.
He did not back off or require the lepers to confess faith in God.
He did not inquire about whether they were worthy.
He did not ask anything of them.
Jesus saw them and said simply,
“Go and show yourselves to the priests.”
Now, according to the Jewish law,
A cured leper had to appear before the priests,
Who would conduct a series of elaborate ritual actions in order to declare them
The lepers, who had hoped in Jesus,
Now displayed enough faith to obey him.
They immediately left his presence to go to the priests as required and to begin
the new lives that Jesus made possible.
What Jesus did for them, of course, bore remarkable significance.
Not only were they cured of a horrendous, disabling disease,
But the cleansing also enabled them to overcome what was perhaps the greater
Now they could return to the community,
To become a part of the body that had cast them out.
Now they could participate fully,
Restored physical and socially,
and surely experiencing the beginnings of emotional healing.
Yet we might ask,
Did they gain everything Jesus hoped for?
Did they achieve spiritual healing as well?
We will never know about all of them,
But we have assurance that one did--
The Samaritan who returned to give thanks.
If we wonder what led to his distinguishing himself by praising God and falling at
Jesus’ feet in gratitude,
We might speculate that it was easier for him--
As a double outcast--
Leper and Samaritan--
To see clearly the remarkable nature of what had happened.
More likely, however,
It was due to his greater maturity and deeper strength of character.
Whatever the reason, Jesus was saddened that he was the only one who turned
And he used the one and the nine to teach his disciples another lesson about the
values of God.
He was clearly disappointed by the behavior of the nine,
And in earshot of his followers,
He said to the now-cleansed Samaritan leper,
“Your faith has made you well.”
In place of the word “well,”
Some translations use “made whole” or “Saved”
There is ambiguity about the Greek meaning,
But its use by Jesus surely implies more than simply being cured from a disease.
“Your faith has made you whole,”
Seems to be closer to the way Jesus used this episode to provide a new teaching.
The Samaritan was not simply cured like the others,
But experienced something more important.
His response to being cleansed demonstrated that his view of God,
Was closer to what Jesus came to reveal.
He acted not out of selfishness to gain certification of his cure,
Not rushing to the priests without reflection,
But paused to put his cleansing in a wider perspective,
Seeing God as the center of the personal miracle he was experiencing.
Before anything else, the Samaritan gave thanks for the chance to renew his life.
This was the beginning of his transformation,
And it provided a fitting model for Jesus to honor.
He was not only cured physically,
But he also gained spiritual wholeness.
For us, there are several “take aways” from this story:
Community, inclusivity, and wholeness in the life of the world.
Think about the Eucharist this morning:
The moment we experience among our fellow worshipers today,
As we come forward to receive at the table together.
It’s a moment of unity in its purest form.
Receiving the sacrament of bread and wine,
The body and blood of Christ,
We are at one with God and one another:
In a sublime moment of grace.
Or: think about the moments we’ll have next week:
When we celebrate confirmation:
And pray with and for our two confirmands:
And rejoice with them.
In moments like these: just like the Samaritan Leper, we are made whole.
Even if we lose this reality as we go out the door or back to our pews,
We know it as a deep truth on which to draw on our journeys of faith.
In that moment,
We know that everyone is like the Samaritan,
Freed from alienation and separation from others in a realm of God that is a circle
of universal inclusion.
Luke’s story of this encounter between Jesus and the lepers allows him to teach
us about the disappointment Jesus felt because the nine failed to give thanks,
That the nine who failed to give thanks:
Still remained healed.
Jesus didn’t take that away, even though he was disappointed.
And at the same time, This story teaches us of the joy he experienced in
discovering that the Samaritan recognized some of the deeper truths of God.
Through this story: Jesus speaks to us, as well as to the disciples:
Today we are reminded of the sadness of our Lord when we,
Like the nine,
Fail to follow him and recognize all that he has done for us.
But we are also led to emulate the Samaritan.
We can take joy in committing ourselves anew to respond in love and gratitude to
the grace, forgiveness, and wholeness of God that we ALL can have: and that God
will never take away from us.
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