Posts Tagged "Luke 17:11-19"

Show Yourself to the Priest

September 13, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our mediation on this 14th Sunday after Trinity comes from our gospel text, especially where Luke records, “When [Jesus] saw [the lepers] 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’s feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” Here ends our text; my dear Christian friends …

We hear this pericope every Thanksgiving, regardless of which lectionary series we’re using. It’s also the reading every once in a while at other times during the Church year – like today – so we know it rather well. We are introduced to this small group of men plagued with leprosy, standing at a distance away from Jesus. Like others who had contracted this horrific dermatological disease, these ten men were forced to live amongst other lepers in colonies. They were barred from visiting non-infected family, from offering sacrifices at the temple, and from partaking in everyday life until they were cured of the disease and performed the proper rites and sacrifices and observances.

This is not a disease where one simply takes two pills and calls the doctor in the morning. Howsoever this disease would be known by modern medical standards, it was truly debilitating, affecting every aspect of one’s life, altering the body in a way that could not have been pleasant and was likely exceedingly painful. These men had lived this life for who-knows-how-long. They were literal outcasts, shunned by all who saw them. They were avoided at all costs by society at large, lest the healthy get too close and catch the dreaded disease. Lepers were alone. Surely, they’d have leapt at any chance to be rid of their ailment, so when they heard that Jesus the renowned miracle-worker was approaching, they figured they had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” they cry from a distance. No doubt, they’d heard the reports about another man, “full of leprosy, who fell on his face and begged [Jesus], ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean,’” and Jesus reaching out His hand to touch the man, saying, “I will; be clean.” These ten lepers clearly desire the same outcome. But this time … Jesus doesn’t reach out His hand. He doesn’t touch them and heal them instantaneously. Instead, He commands them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Unusual … unexpected … jarring, but nevertheless the ten lepers attempt to obey what Jesus commanded, and they begin journeying toward the temple and the priests that await them and their leprous flesh.

But we’re told that “… as they went … they were cleansed.” No details are given about the exact moment when one of them noticed that his leprosy was gone, but soon all beheld their new unblemished, disease-free skin, and this was undoubtedly the cause of jubilation that few people have experienced. They had their lives back! They could see their families once more! They could worship and offer sacrifices again! They could enter civil life once again! And one of their number “… when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’s feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.”

It’s about gratitude, right? Thankfulness for what God had done for him, yes? Well, that is part of what we’re supposed to take away from this passage – it’s not the gospel reading for Thanksgiving every year for nothing. And by no means is it a bad lesson to pull from our text, but there’s more here. Take another look at how Jesus responds to this foreigner returning to – rightly – worship Him and render his thanks and praise: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? … Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

At some point as he was going along, this Samaritan realized something that the other former-lepers did not. He had heard the same command from Jesus to show themselves to the priest. He knew the rituals that the Levitical code required and how daunting they were. Most of all, however, he knew that he had been healed … and he simply chose the best priest of all to present himself before.

Jesus’s words to this double-outcast (being both a leper and a Samaritan) tell us that this man, whether he fully understood what was going on or not, recognized Jesus for who He is. He didn’t ignore Jesus’s command to present himself to the priest; indeed, he believed that Jesus was and is the great High Priest … who was, incidentally, on His way to Jerusalem to make atonement for the sins of the whole world. He did not say, “Your thankfulness has made you well;” instead, Jesus told the Samaritan, “your faith has made you well.” By trusting Jesus as this great High Priest, believing His word to make him clean, Jesus declares that the Samaritan is exactly that: clean. Clean from his disease of leprosy and from his mortal sinful condition.

The beautiful thing is that we share much in common with this Samaritan former-leper. No, not in terms of any dermatological diseases we may have. Not even in terms of the present pandemic that has caused us all to assume a rather leper-oriented mindset. No, the great High Priest that we come before week in and week out has seen your affliction as well. He knows your sin. He sees your harmful actions and hears your unkind words. He sees the brokenness in your bodies and your minds and your spirits.

Here, we come before Him – not at a distance, but drawing very near – and we raise to Him our own cry, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! Forgive us our sins, and lead us to everlasting life!” Here, He speaks His life-giving absolution to you, saying, “I will; be clean and forgiven!” Here, you taste His forgiveness as you eat and drink His very body and blood given and shed for you. Here, we see that the Lord is, indeed, good, and we render to Him our thanks and praise for His great and precious gifts! Here, His benediction sends you on your way out to wherever you’re going, for your faith in His word of forgiveness “has made you well.” Thanks be to God that we don’t have leprosy, and thanks be to God that He does have control over all creation, including diseases. But more than all this, thanks be to God that He has sent His Son, that same great High Priest, to sacrifice Himself on our behalf and rise again! Thanks be to God that He has bestowed upon us the faith which trusts His word when He says, “In the waters of baptism, you are washed clean, your sins are forgiven, and I am with you always.” Render to Him your thanks! He is, after all, our great atoning High Priest.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Mercifully Restored

October 13, 2019
By Rev. David French

Outcasts - every culture has them - people who are not allowed to participate fully in society. Sometimes people are looked at as outcasts for reasons beyond their control. The physically deformed and handicapped are among those who many today shy away from. Certainly, mental illness has been a hot topic lately. Then, there are others who seek attention by becoming outcasts. Instead of dressing for success, they dress for shock value. They use language and behave in ways that offend people around them. It’s their goal to make people around them uncomfortable.

In his last sermon to Israel, for sins highlighted earlier in Deuteronomy, God directed Moses to declare; no Ammonite or Moabite may enter the Promised Land; that is, both were outcast. Lepers were also on the list of outcasts. We read in Leviticus (13:45-46), “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.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

Our Old Testament reading for today is the opening words from the book of Ruth. If you’ve never read it, you really should. It’s only four chapters long and it gives us insight into the culture of the time, into family life, financial dealings, and courtship rituals. Finally, by constantly referring to Boaz as the kinsman redeemer, it gives us good reason to compare the love between Boaz and Ruth and the love between Christ and His bride, the Church. The thing is, Ruth was a Moabite. And so, looking at the big picture of the book of Ruth, we see how God mercifully brings outcasts into His family.

In today’s gospel lesson, we read about Jesus and the ten lepers. Certainly, of all the diseases mentioned in the Bible, I would guess none is a better metaphor for sin than leprosy. Easton’s Bible Dictionary describes the disease this way: This disease is a bacterial disease that “… begins with specks on the eyelids and on the palms, gradually spreading over the body, bleaching the hair white wherever they appear, crusting the affected parts with white scales, and causing terrible sores and swellings. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, (eventually) rotting the whole body ….”

I suppose most lepers at some point became used to people turning away in horror or running away in terror. They probably came to appreciate being outside the camp or the community. The life of those affected with this disease must have truly been a lonely and wretched life to live. Through no fault of their own, they became infected and were labeled as outcasts who were no longer permitted to take part in the activities of daily life. In today’s gospel lesson, we see how the Son of God mercifully restores outcasts into His family.

Now, it’s true that Ruth and the lepers were outcasts for different reasons. It’s also true that they, along with us, are outcasts from God’s kingdom for the same reason. You see, from the time Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, Ruth, the Ten Lepers, you, me, all of humanity - we are all born outcasts, separated from God because we are all conceived in and born of sin. And being sinners from birth, we do throughout our earthly lives the only thing we can do - we daily add to our guilt.

And remember, one of the really devious things about our sinful nature is that it often uses what we call good to disguise our sin. Ruth knew that she was an outcast because of where she was born. The lepers knew they were outcasts because every day they could compare themselves to healthy people. Sinners don’t have that advantage.

Everyone is born a sinner, so we have only sinners to compare ourselves to. This world has no sinless standard for us to use as a measure of our own depravity. It’s the nature of our sinful pride to believe that we live in a perfectly healthy and normal world. The truth is, when we judge others by the twisted standards of the world around us, as opposed to God’s standards as revealed in the Scriptures, we can easily develop a feeling that, in some ways, we really are better than some of those around us. We fail to see that we are also fellow outcasts in a sick and dying world.

It’s not until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and minds and hearts to God’s Word, beginning with the law, that we begin to see that we don’t just say it, we really are miserable sinners. When we see our reflection in the mirror of God’s law, we can clearly see that we have a serious disease and a real problem. Apart from God, even as we live and grow stronger physically, our spirits, dead from sin, are rotting within us.

Just as a leper was a dead man walking, so also a sinner apart from God is a damned man walking. Only when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes and shows us the truth through God’s Law do we see that we are indeed still sinners, spiritual lepers, outcasts in need of forgiveness. And since outcasts are not allowed to enter the city of God, the law does the only thing it can do. It condemns us to hell.

But, thanks be to God. After the Holy Spirit opens our eyes through the law, and we begin to feel the guilt we have so richly earned, He mercifully opens our hearts and minds to the truth of His Gospel. Remember, as Jesus healed those ten lepers physically, he was already on His way to Jerusalem to take their spiritual leprosy to the cross, but not theirs alone.

From the time Christ’s blood was shed at the temple seven days after His birth until the day His blood was shed on the cross, Jesus carried the spiritual leprosy, the sin that affects us all, on Himself. In Jerusalem He would offer His perfect life on the cross as payment for the cure of this worldwide, all-consuming disease called sin. And with His resurrection, Jesus began to freely offer that cure to all who are born of sin.

It was after He died that Jesus showed how different He really is. Every living thing that dies soon begins to decay. Eventually, that decay returns every dead thing to dust. As God promised, Jesus didn’t see decay because Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven that He might fill all things in heaven and on earth. So, in a way, we believe by faith but can never truly understand that He is here with us right now. Jesus is here to keep His promise to come to you through His Word and in, with, and under the bread and wine of His Holy Supper. He comes bearing gifts of forgiveness and life for you and for all who meet with Him again this day.

My friends, you had a disease that was much worse than you knew, but by grace through faith in Christ, you have been healed. True, we will all one day die and our bodies will decay, but it’s also true that the day will come when Jesus will raise our bodies to new life. He will take us to our heavenly home where you and I and all who trusted in His promise will live with Him forever. You see, while all of us are born outcasts, you and all who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins have graciously been sought, found, and mercifully restored to the family of God.

In His name, Amen.

Whom to Thank

November 21, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text that we meditate upon this evening before Thanksgiving Day is from our Gospel lesson, specifically where Luke records Jesus’s answer to the Samaritan’s thanks and praise, “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.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

 “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.”

“And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy. The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. And the rest of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord. The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.”

In case you didn’t know, that’s the process prescribed by God in Leviticus 14 for the cleansing of a leper in the nation of Israel. It’s long, it’s arduous, it’s exhausting – just reading all of that was kinda tiresome! This was the process that was awaiting 10 lepers as they trudged on their way to do as Jesus had told them. Undoubtedly, some of them were thinking to themselves, “Well, this is going to be pointless. Jesus didn’t actually clean us; He just told us to go show ourselves to the priests. When we show up, still clearly with leprosy, they’re just gonna turn us around to go back to the leper colony…”

Now we’re not told precisely when these lepers were cleansed, but at some point, on their journey, they were rid of their horrible, disfiguring, highly contagious disease. We’re also not told at what point the others noticed that they were healed and cleansed, but we are told that, when he noticed that he was healed and cleaned, only one of the ten of them returned to Jesus, giving Him praise and thanks in a loud voice.

Only one of them.  Jesus had given these men their lives back – not just healing them in body, but also in mind and spirit! They were able to rejoin society, see their family and friends again! Have normal relationships once more without the pall of disease hanging about them! No longer would they be shunned. No longer would mothers hide their children’s faces from their deformities and sickliness. No longer would they be banned from bringing their sacrifices and praises and thanksgivings to God! So, the question becomes … why didn’t they all return to thank God – that is, God incarnate? They had all asked for mercy, for healing, for cleansing, and Jesus gave it. And only one – a Samaritan, by the way, a foreigner, not belonging to the people of Israel – returned to thank Him.

Why? Well, the answer is, at the same time, simple and complicated. It’s complicated because, obviously, our text doesn’t give us any clue into the inner workings of these lepers’ minds. We have no idea if they were preoccupied with the aforementioned labor-intensive and costly rituals prescribed in Leviticus. We don’t know if they were simply so caught up in their leprous frame-of-mind, that they wouldn’t notice until much later that they were clean. We don’t know if they were angry that Jesus hadn’t healed them in that moment. We simply don’t know what was going through their minds … and yet, in a way, we do.

We do know because, while we may not have one of the myriad dermatological diseases that fall under the umbrella of “leprosy,” we nevertheless are all ill. Deathly ill, in fact. We all share a disease – in fact, the same exact disease that the 10 lepers also had … as well as the disciples, and the Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans, Greeks, Germans, Japanese, Mexicans, Africans, Americans, and every other human being on this planet. We all share the same genetic predisposition, the same inherited disease … sin.

But no code in Leviticus can fully cure that ill. No priestly prescription can cleanse from that disease. “Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain…” No, I don’t care how many bulls or lambs or birds you buy and slaughter; they will not be able to wipe away that stain or cure us of our warring madness. “But Christ the heav’nly Lamb takes all our sins away – a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they!” Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem at the time the ten lepers cry out to Him for mercy. He’s got His eyes set upon Golgotha, knowing what must happen to Him there, how He will be beaten, flogged, spat upon, cursed, crucified, and killed. Knowing how He will take the full measure of all sin from all time into Himself, and how He will endure the full and just wrath of God, in order to spare us from enduring the same punishment. How He will do all of this … only out of His holy and perfect love for us, His sinful and imperfect creatures. There, upon a cross lifted up as a bridge between heaven and earth, the sinless Lamb of God, who became sin for us, will be sacrificed to cleanse us fully, once and for all, from the damning and damned disease of sin.

That’s the greater context of our Gospel lesson, and such love, such selflessness is so wholly foreign to us, that perhaps we think that it’s too good to be true. Perhaps that’s the reason why the nine lepers did not return to Jesus; Lord knows this is one reason, among many, that people reject the proclamation of the Gospel today. But as those whom God has called, who are the recipients of His great and precious promises, we know just Who it is that we are to thank: Jesus. He has cut us off from the bitter sting of death, and promised to us life everlasting. My friends, knowing this … knowing how He has healed us in body, mind, and spirit, how can we help but, with the Samaritan leper, turn back, praising God with loud voices and hymns of praise? How can we help but fall down on our faces at Jesus’s pierced feet, knowing all He has done for us, and render to Him our humble and genuine thanks? The Spirit of the living God has given us the faith that makes us well, that will raise us on the Last Day to live forever with Him! How can we help but praise and thank Christ our Lord for all He has done for us? May God help us both to will and to give Him the praise and thanks that are due Him.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Eternal Thanks

November 22, 2017
By Rev. David French

Since tomorrow is a national holiday and that in only seven countries in the world and not all on the same day and certainly not the commemoration of a specific event or teaching of the Bible, there’s a wide range of readings to choose for this day. Over the years however, the account of the Ten Lepers has become one of the traditional readings for our national day of Thanksgiving.

The facts of the miracle are clear enough. Jesus was still in Galilee, but heading to Jerusalem with His disciples. As they traveled, they encountered ten lepers. Jesus instructed the lepers to present themselves to the priests in Jerusalem according to the Law of Moses. While they were on the way they noticed that the leprosy was gone. One of the lepers returned to worship Jesus in thanksgiving. The Holy Spirit inspired Luke to emphasize the fact that the leper who returned was a Samaritan and that Jesus asked about what happened to the other nine who were also healed.

Luke tells us that Jesus and His disciples were traveling along the border between Galilee and Samaria. Although there was a much more direct route straight south through Samaria, Passover Pilgrims would never go that way because well the Samaritans and the Jews hated one another, and the Samaritans simply refused passage to anyone who was headed to Jerusalem. If it weren’t for the Roman occupation, Samaria and Judea would probably be at war, but because of the Romans, the Samaritans had to be satisfied with this token gesture of their hatred.

In practical terms that hatred meant that Passover Pilgrims like Jesus and His disciples had to go around Samaria to get south to Jerusalem. Jesus had traveled south in Galilee until He reached the border with Samaria. Then He would have traveled along the border with Samaria until He arrived at the Jordan River and the eastern border of Samaria. There He would travel south until He arrived at the border of Judea where He would turn back toward the west and head for Jerusalem.

And yet Jesus healed this Samaritan. We see this as a lesson about salvation in Christ being not just for Jews, but for all people. And that show of grace through Christ for all is indeed a wonderful Gospel truth found in this lesson but there is more.

As we listen to Jesus’s response about the other nine who did not return, it’s true He seemed disappointed but He didn’t take back their healing. They were unthankful but Jesus doesn’t take back His gifts just because we’re not as thankful as we should be. This too is a great comfort for Christians because I know I’m not always as thankful as I should be and I’m sure you aren’t either.

The Scriptures don’t tell us what happened to those nine healed lepers. I imagine they went and showed themselves to the priests just like Jesus told them to. We just don’t know … but we do know about the Samaritan.

The Samaritan returned and fell at Jesus feet with his face to the ground. That is, he came and worshipped Him. By returning to glorify God, and thank Jesus we see what he believed that is he confessed that Jesus was the Lord. He confessed that, as he looked at Jesus, he was looking at the Son of God. The one who had been dying not only in his leprosy but more so his sin was by grace made alive in Jesus. The Holy Spirit had worked in him the gift of faith, and as Jesus said … your faith has made you well. (Luke 17:19)

Now there are some scholars who wonder if the Holy Spirit led this Samaritan to go his way by remaining with Jesus and His disciples. And it certainly is possible that the Holy Spirit led this man to join the other Passover Pilgrims walking with the Eternal High Priest. The Scriptures just don’t say. If he did walk with Jesus to Jerusalem, he would have seen a very different high priest than the other nine who were healed.

I mean Jesus is the High Priest who not only offered up the sacrifice, but offered Himself as the sacrifice. The priests in Jerusalem offered lambs, goats, and other animals for the forgiveness of sins as they were commanded. But these were all but shadows that pointed forward to the sacrifice of the Lamb of God that is His Only Begotten Son. If this Samaritan did walk with Jesus, he would have been a witness to his great high priest being lifted up from the earth on a cross and left there to die.

And there, whether the Samaritan understood it or not Jesus performed a miracle far greater than the healing of his leprosy. For on that cross Jesus offered Himself as the cup to be filled with the full measure of God’s wrath against sin. And with the giving up of His Spirit Jesus satisfied God’s justice so that this Samaritan could also be cleansed of his sin.

And not him alone, as we read in 1 John: He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) which of course includes you and me.

And you and I do need this cleansing not from leprosy of course, truth is we suffer from a much worse condition, that is we are full of sin. Our bodies may be clean and we all smell nice but still we all do need daily to be cleansed of our sin. One look in the mirror of the law confirms it, we all need the gifts that Jesus earned for us with His suffering and death on the cross.

And with His resurrection Jesus in His mercy has promised us a much greater cleansing than the healing of leprosy. He who has conquered death has promised that there will come a day when He will raise all the dead. Some of those who sleep in death will awaken to shame and everlasting condemnation, but you and I and all who believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin will awaken to everlasting life.

We are gathered here this evening because the leaders of our nation have declared tomorrow to be a national day of thanksgiving. But the truth is only we, who believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, can truly be thankful. We can give thanks to God for the physical blessings He has generously poured out upon us who live in this blessed nation, but even more for the forgiveness, life, and salvation that we receive by faith in Jesus Christ.

It’s true, Christians are the only ones who can truly give thanks because only Christians give thanks to the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thanks for life today with all its blessing, and thanks for life eternal from Him who exceeds all our expectations.

In His Name, Amen

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