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Posts Tagged ‘thanks’

updated 5/24/19

The literary structure of Luke 17:11-19

We are looking at the story of the ten lepers from Luke 17:11-19. I have always liked this story, and I want us to see what we can learn from it this morning.

Luke 17:11-19 – “On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’”

Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem

Verse 11 says – “On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.”  The idea of Jesus traveling up to Jerusalem one final time is a real theme in the gospel of Luke, beginning in Luke 9:51. This says – “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” We also have several other notices of Jesus’ final trip to Jerusalem – (e.g. – Luke 9:53, 13:22)  So in our passage we are once again reminded that Jesus is taking his last fateful trip to Jerusalem.

Here we encounter him “between Samaria and Galilee.” It was normal for Jews to travel south from Galilee to Jerusalem and not go through Samaria, but to skirt around in on the border.

Verses 12-14 recount the . . .

Healing miracle

 . . . that is at the center of this story. Verse 12 says, “And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance.” Now leprosy in the Bible is not just what we call leprosy, or, Hansen’s disease. It referred to various kinds of diseases that affect the skin; that make it inflamed, scaly or splotchy. This would include things like psoriasis or eczema. Perhaps some of us would qualify as lepers according to the law of Moses because of our skin ailments!

So the problem is not necessarily that it’s life threatening, rather it’s a matter of ritual uncleanness according to the law of Moses. Leviticus 13:45-46 lays out some of the rules for lepers – “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ . . . His dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

This last phrase explains why they “stood at a distance.”

  • Because they were unclean, lepers were social outcasts, who lived in small groups or colonies. (This would be similar today to the mentally ill or drug addicted who are homeless and live in camps or shelters apart from others.)
  • Although they were outcasts they stayed near enough to roadways to ask for alms (donations) which is why they see Jesus about to enter the village.

Verse 13 says – “and (the ten lepers) lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’”  They apparently had heard about Jesus. They knew his name and called him “Master” – a title of respect. They most likely knew of him as a miracle worker.

Although lepers did call out for mercy for alms – here, when they say – “have mercy” it’s a call for healing. Have mercy on us by healing our leprosy.

Verse 14 says, “When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.” The phrase – “Show yourselves to priests” – refers to what Moses commanded when someone’s leprosy went away. They go to the priest, who certifies that they are clean and takes them through the rituals necessary to re-enter society (Leviticus 14). This certainly confirms to us that Jesus honored the Mosaic law in his ministry to Jews. He told them to do what Moses commanded.

But what is really interesting, in terms of the healing, is that Jesus tells them to go before they are healed. You are supposed to go after the skin condition is gone, and the priest certifies this. But he tells them to act as if it is already done!And amazingly, they did what Jesus said. They acted in faith. Simply based on the word of Jesus, they go to find a priest.

And then it says, “as they went they were cleansed.” As they acted in faith, God granted their request. For a leper to be cleansed is to be healed (v. 15). They are “made well” or literally saved from their condition (v. 19).

Healing a leper was a significant event. In Jesus’ day it was held that only a miracle from God could cure a leper. It was like raising someone from the dead (2 Kings 5:7). Here Jesus heals ten at once.

And again, this is not just a physical malady. It’s a social one. They are able to be a part of society again; to be with family; to work; to have dignity and honor.

The thankful Samaritan

Verses 15-16 say, “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” Here we learn that one of the now healed lepers is a Samaritan. From a Jewish point of view he was a double outcast – a leper and a Samaritan, since the Samaritans were viewed as enemies and heretics, which is why most Jews avoided going through Samaria.

Well, he’s the only one who, when he notices his healing, turns back to praise God and fall at Jesus’ feet to thank him. What a twist in the story! The good guy is the Samaritan, and not the other, presumably Jewish lepers.

He recognized that Jesus was the key; the means of his healing. (This is the only place in the gospels where you have thanks given to Jesus.)

Jesus’ response

Verses 17-18 say, “Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ “ He told them to go to the priests! So this seems kind of odd that he is criticizing the nine. But, of course, this didn’t preclude them from stopping and giving thanks once their healing was apparent.

Jesus is saying, the nine should have also given thanks to God and specifically to him for his role in giving them God’s mercy.

Verse 19 says, “And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’” The last phrase can be translated “you faith has saved you.” And because of this some think that the Samaritan is given something more than the nine – true salvation or a true healing. But it’s really just Jesus’ way of saying, “yes, you’re healed, now you can go live your life.” He does this in other places as well. (See also Luke 7:50; 8:48; 18:42.)

3 lessons from this story

1. Jesus loves to give God’s grace to outcasts – whether it be sinners, tax collectors or prostitutes. We see this all the time in the gospels. And here it is a Samaritan and a leper.

Are you an outcast? Are you excluded and put down? There is good news in the Gospels – Jesus loves you and wants to bless you with God’s grace.

But this raises the question for us as followers of Jesus from the other end. “How are we when we encounter outcasts?”  How do we respond to those our society considers unclean – the homeless, the drug addicted, prostitutes, those in same-sex relationships?

Do we minister God’ grace to bring healing and restoration? Or do we avoid them, put them down, hate and exclude them?

Jesus loved outcasts. And it’s a good thing because we are all simply sinners and outcasts, whom Jesus has had mercy on. And we are to pass this mercy on to others as well.

2. We need to act in faith. They had tremendous faith in Jesus. They acted before they saw the reality, just based on Jesus’ command. They still had their leprosy!

But isn’t this the essence of faith? As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” They believed that if they did what Jesus said, they would be healed.

This is an example to us. When we ask God for something and God responds by telling us to do something, do we sit back and wait? Do we wait for some results first, some evidence that we can see? Or do we move forward according to what God tells us to do, expecting God to be faithful?

3. We need to give thanks for what God has done in our lives. Specifically, it is always appropriate to stop and give thanks to God and our Lord Jesus.

We can be so focused on duty, doing what God has told us to do (like the nine) that we don’t realize and acknowledge what God has done for us.

So, don’t be one of the nine. Yes, they had faith and were blessed. But don’t be like them! Be like the one who was blessed and also showed gratitude.

So many people ask God for things, “God help me with this problem!” “Fix this crisis!” But how many, when God has mercy, turn and give thanks? Be one of the few who give back thanks to God and his Son, for his great mercy in our lives.

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