Posted on Mon, Oct 14, 2013
October 13, 2013
21st Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Luke 17:11-19 - “We NEED to Praise”
Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers
11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ 14 When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’
In the Gospels, we find story after story about Jesus breaking boundaries, shattering stereotypes and proclaiming the power of Truth, Mercy and Love. Real good comes from Truth, Mercy and Love. That is why the four specific books about Jesus culminating in his death and resurrection are called, GOSPELS! The books truly about Good News! The Gospels show us what God can do, in spite of the thankless and arrogant actions people and even kings… reread our Old Testament lesson… The question for the followers of Jesus is, after hearing this Good News directed right at each one of us, is to whether we will allow our faith to change our own hearts so that we can let the command of Jesus to love, forgive, and serve be our command, be our guide. Will we allow God to free us up to be a people reborn out of a promise of forgiveness, mercy and love? Will we allow the promise of Baptism, and the new identity we receive through the water and the word, allow us to be free from the bondage of bringing each other down, and free to be truly God’s own children? Will we allow our faith to well up with thankfulness in every situation, as this is the Will of God?
Jesus has been up north, even as far north as southern Lebanon teaching, healing and proclaiming the “Coming of the Kingdom of God;” now, he has ‘turned his face’ to Jerusalem, focused on fulfilling his mission and to give his life on the cross for our salvation.
Luke seems to be intentionally ambiguous as to Jesus’ exact location, but Jesus is traveling through the regions of Galilee and then to Samaria when a group of ten lepers cry out to Jesus, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ We don’t know much about these ten individuals, but we can make some assumptions because of the words Luke gives to us. It is clear that they know about Jesus or at least they recognize him as a Jewish ‘teacher’ or ‘rabbi.’ By now, in those parts of Palestine, Jesus has become rather famous with his healings, feeding events, teaching and I’m sure a few people raised from the dead caught the ears of a few people.
Notice that Luke states that Jesus enters, “a village.” This not a normal village, this is a village of lepers, a place where only lepers could live after they were diagnosed by the priests that had this terrible disease and they were forced to live.
Even though Jesus has approached them, they keep their distance out of respect and basically the law. They call him “Master,” but ask Jesus to have “mercy” on them. By calling Jesus, “master” rather than “lord,” Luke could be telling us that some of them are Gentiles, and because Luke keeps the location between Galilee and Samaria unclear, we can assume that this is a group of Jews, Samaritans and even Gentiles brought together out of a common tragedy and illness.
But then they make the request to Jesus, “Jesus, Master, have MERCY on us!” The word, “mercy” is a word founded on the understanding of ‘faith,’ and the fact that faith is from God and has power! It is a faith word like, joy, love, hope etc. Only words that describe something God can provide.
The concept of ‘mercy’ for these ten is rooted in an understanding that ‘having mercy’ includes the element of ‘paying what is owed because of our debts, or sins;’ even the sins or depts. of past ancestors. Asking someone to “have mercy” on them is a request to make them whole again in the context of being Pono again, or “being healed so that they are in Shalom/Balance” with the world once again.
Why have they been struck down with this terrible disease? Is it because of their sins, or the sins of their ancestors? In their day, this would be a common assumption. If you are sick or have been born with “challenges” because of the sins of your ancestors. In our minds, we would say of course not, but in their minds, this was the most probable explanation. “We don’t know why we have this terrible disease that eats away at our bodies and causes us to be separated from our families! We certainly didn’t do anything to deserve this! It must have been grandpa!”
“Jesus, please pay the debts of our sins, or the sins of our ancestors!” is essentially what they are crying out.
To say, “have mercy” instead of “heal us,” means that they first and foremost that they believed that Jesus had the power to heal them!
And this means, asking for mercy is also a proclamation of faith!
And what is Jesus doing? According to Luke, Jesus has ‘set his face to Jerusalem’ in order to give his life as a ransom for all people. He is going to fulfill God’s promise to HAVE MERCY ON ALL PEOPLE AND forgive the sins of all people, reconcile our relationship with God, and give us the power to be UNITED WITH GOD THROUGH THE GIVING OF HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR ALL PEOPLE! NO LONGER SEPARATED FROM GOD OR FROM EACH OTHER!
What happens next, Jesus, in accordance with the Law and customs, simply tells them to go and show themselves to the priests. They have obeyed Jesus’ call, “To go!” and therefore at that moment, they were healed; they were forgiven, all according to their faith!
What do you think happened when they went to show themselves to the priests? First of all, I am sure the priests were very nervous to see the ten ‘lepers’ walking towards him in the priests house or area of worship! Remember it was the priest’s job to banish them to a place outside of their village! But the ten, I’m sure, went on and on about how it was Jesus of Nazareth who healed them!!!
But there is one key point that Luke has for us and for our church, only one of the ten, came back to Jesus to give thanks… and this was the Samaritan.
The Jews hated the Samaritans! If you saw a Samaritan and a Jewish person of the day praying and worshiping at the same time, you would see little or no difference… they used the same scriptures, the same language, they even looked similar, the only real difference was that the Samaritans did not respect the ‘rule’ or ‘law’ put down by King David that they were to offer the sacrifice and prayer ONLY in the temple in Jerusalem.
The point is that there was real hate between the Jews and the Samaritans… but in Jesus’ eyes, they were equally the object of God’s love, mercy and salvation! Their human hate/disdain for each other did not, and would not stop God from ‘having mercy’ on anyone. Their hate for each other did nothing to deter God from loving them!!! And Luke is telling the Jewish people reading this text, that their God of Abraham is the God of all people, including their enemies.
And what is the message Luke has for the church? LOOK AND SEE HOW GOD SEES ALL PEOPLE AS OBJECTS OF GOD’S LOVE AND WORTHY OF FORGIVENESS, MERCY AND LOVE.
What is our proper response? It is to give thanks for ALL PEOPLE have been redeemed and made pono/complete with God through the Cross of Christ. We need to give thanks, we need to sing, dance, pray, forgive and then live joyfully in that mercy that is showered upon us like a waterfall after a downpour.
Rejoice, and be glad, for you have been healed! Amen.
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