Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Trinity 14 (September 13, 2009, rev. from 2005)
Luke 17:11-19 The Ten Lepers
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TITLE: “Lord Have Mercy”
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.
Here we have another familiar healing from Jesus’ travel ministry on the way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of the whole world. But like so many of the episodes in Jesus’ life, it is very easily misunderstood or misapplied. Let’s unpack this story and see if we can’t get to the kernel of the Gospel in the midst of it.
We can understand the plight of these ten lepers to a certain extent, although not as well as we might think. In our society today, if you have a terrible contagious disease, you are treated for it. Even the poorest in our country would receive medical care, and the politicians would fight later about who is going to pay for it. But it was not so in Jesus’ day. In Jesus’ day, these men had to wear black, and probably had to wear something that looked almost like a cowbell around their necks. They have to cry out unclean, unclean when others came near to them. So they are shunned by their family and friends alike. But perhaps the greatest pain and sorrow that these men had to endure is that they were shut off from the house of God. In our Introit for the day from Psalm 84, David cries out, How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord. There was a longing in Jesus’ day to be in the house of God. Maybe it come from the travel of the Israelites. Maybe it came from their years of Exile and wandering. But there was no question that in the piety of the people of Jesus’ day, to be in the house of God, well, that is as good as it gets.
Yet that is precisely where these lepers were left to fend for themselves. Because they were ritually unclean, they could not enter into God’s house, they could not be in the very presence of God in His Holy Temple. They longed for it. They knew that this is where the children of Israel belonged. But it was not to be so. Their disease prevented them from entering into God’s house.
Now before we move on to what Jesus does for them, we must ask ourselves this question: do I have this longing? When you think of the greatest place on earth, the spot where you would want to be more than anywhere else in the world, does church even pop into your head? If you are honest with yourself, you probably would have to admit that this is not high on your schedule of hot places you want to go to on a regular basis. Sure, there are times when we like going to church. We may even make it a part of what we do on a regular basis. But at the end of the day, we very often do not want what God has to give to us. It just isn’t that important to us.
That is what makes their cry to Jesus so important. They cry for mercy. Lord, have mercy. It is the cry of faith. It is the cry of the faithful. Lord, have mercy is the cry for those who have no place left to turn, and nowhere else to go. It was the cry of the lepers who had no hope outside of Jesus. It is your cry, too, when you recognize your true state of affairs.
For you see, you have a disease that is far worse than leprosy. Your disease is sin, and you inherited it from your parents, all the way back to Adam and Eve. This disease of sin does not simply affect your body, although that is certainly true. It delves into your very soul. This disease of sin is so sick that you often forget you even have it! And like the leper of Jesus day, you may well be the walking wounded, hurting and in pain, but you don’t know who to cry out to and what the cure is for all of your trials and troubles.
The cure is Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can heal you, body and soul. This is what David speaks of when he cries out, The Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold. Now think of that promise of God for a minute. No good thing will He withhold. Pretty incredible promise, isn’t it? God will give you every good thing. Everything. Now He doesn’t mean riches and stuff that is here today and gone tomorrow. No, he will bring true healing to you, body and soul alike.
It is for this very reason that Christians hold up the Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood in such high regard. What does Jesus give you from this Altar? The catechism answers it this way:
What is the benefit of this eating and drinking?
?These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” shows us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
When you receive Christ’s body and blood under bread and wine, you receive the forgiveness of sins. This disease of sin is cleansed from you. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is life. Real life. Eternal life. And where there is life, there, too, is salvation. Even the word salvation has this sense of eternal healing about it. The Sacrament of our Lord’s Body and Blood is the salve that heals the wound of sin from our body and soul.
Now we begin to understand why David would cry out, How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the Lord. In this house, this very tabernacle, God dwells with men, and gives us the gift of His own body and blood. And this is why we cry out with the the thankful one and God’s faithful of all the ages, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of power and might. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!
There it is, dear Christians. There is your salvation, here in this place, on your lips and in your heart for all eternity. Come, receive what only Jesus can give to you. Come, and be healed. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.