Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Trinity 14 (August 24, 2008)
Luke 17:11-19 The Ten Lepers
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TITLE: â€œFaith Made Wellâ€
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is from the Gospel lesson just read from Luke chapter 17, the words of the lepers, Your faith has made you well.
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. Now like a good Jew, he is skirting the edge of Galilee and Samaria, on his way down to the Jordan river and Jericho before coming up the Kidron Valley into Jerusalem. Salvation is for everyone, but all things have their proper time. In Godâ€™s divine order, salvation first went to the Jews, the chosen people. Then it went to Samaria, and from there it was to go out to the uttermost parts of the earth. Even Kenosha.
But in this text it seems as though even God isnâ€™t always patient with His own plans. While Jesus is traveling through a certain village, ten leprous men stood at a distance and cried out to Him, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! Jesus then, being a good Jew as well as the Son of God, instructs them to do as the Law commands: Go, show yourselves to the priests, he tells them. He tells them this in fulfillment of Godâ€™s Law. If a man or woman suffered from leprosy, they were highly contagious. The whole community could be at risk of disease and death. So simply telling people you werenâ€™t sick any more wasnâ€™t enough; someone had to vouch for you. And that someone was a priest. So Jesus, in a sense, invites them to go on the journey together with Him. After all, where do you find priests? In Jerusalem. They are doing what Jesus asked, and are probably on their way to Jerusalem to see the priests.
While they are on the way, they are cleansed of their leprosy. Wonder of wonders! Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to gain eternal life that he must be born again. Well, these men now look like they did go back through their motherâ€™s womb and came out whole on the other side! Itâ€™s hard to imagine for us what kind of joy that must have brought.
So of the ten, one of them puts it all together. One of them recognizes that it was Jesus who healed them. Maybe the others recognized it, too. Maybe they are on their way to the priests because that is, after all, what Jesus told them to do. But one of them seems to have a greater understanding of what has happened. That one is a Samaritan.
This Samaritan is doubly cursed. The lepers were cast off from the community. They could not associate with others who werenâ€™t sick, and so they formed sort of a sick club, only those who were truly sick could get in. But one of them was doubly cast off. This Samaritan was shunned because he was a leper, but also because he was a Samaritan! Remember from last week how despised the Samaritans were? Imagine now having one with a highly contagious, incurable disease. There could hardly be a more sad or pathetic person alive.
And this is who Jesus heals. The Samaritan connects the dots. He recognizes that Jesus not only healed him, but that Jesus is the true priest. Jesus is the true priest of Israel, who intercedes on behalf of the people before God, healing their diseases and taking on their infirmities. The Samaritan came back and gave thanks to God, to Jesus, for what he had done. That word for give thanks, eucharisto, is the same word that we have for Eucharist, one of the most ancient names for the Lordâ€™s Supper.
So now letâ€™s get at the heart of this text. This text is usually held up as a thankfulness and ingratitude text. There were ten who were healed, but only one of the ten returned and give thanks. The message should be obvious: do what your mother told you, and thank people when they give you something. Well, you should listen to your mother, but that isnâ€™t the point of the text.
Jesus tells us the point of the text at the end, when He says, â€œRise and go your way; your faith has made you well.â€ (Luke 17:19 ESV) This text, dear friends, is about faith. Faith and itâ€™s cousin, worship, is about receiving what God has given to you. The Large Catechism puts it this way:
â€œTrue worship and service of God takes place when your heart directs all its trust and confidence only toward God and does not let itself be torn away from Him. It consists in risking everything on earth for Him and abandoning it all for His sake.â€ (Large Catechism)
That gives us an insight into what Jesus is getting at here. Faith and trust involve risk, dear friends. Faith means that you wonâ€™t trust yourself and your own devices to gain heaven and eternal life. Faith means that your life is in Godâ€™s hands, and furthermore, that you know it.
Jesus held up the faith of the Samaritan, and this day He gives that same faith to you. In His Holy Supper He heals you of all your sicknesses and diseases. Oh, you may not be able to tell yet. Your body will probably ache and hurt as much before and after. But make no mistake about it. Jesus has healed you. He has healed your soul, refreshed your heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh. Jesus has redeemed you with His blood. All of this will be yours, in His time and in His way.
Trust in our Lordâ€™s promises this day. He will not disappoint you. His mercy extends to all, and that means to you. As you journey to Jerusalem and Godâ€™s mighty city, believe that He will be with you on the way, will pick you up, will heal, and will deliver you home to be with our heavenly Father. Believe it for Jesusâ€™ sake. Amen
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.