Saturday, October 13, 2007

Where Are the Nine?

The Gospel for Sunday, October 14 is the story of Jesus' cleansing of ten lepers in the region between Galilee and Samaria (Luke 17:11-19) On his way to Jerusalem - and the Cross - Jesus was met by ten lepers outside a village. The lepers kept there distance, as was required by the Law, but instead of simply warning Jesus that they were there by shouting,"Unclean!" the lepers shouted, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" They recognized in Jesus the possibility of an end to the disease and to the isolation that was caused by the disease. Jesus, rather than telling them that they were healed, sent them to the priests, to the very people who had declared them to be unclean but could now certify that they were cleansed of the disease and able to enter society again.

What happened next is, I think, remarkable - the lepers went and it was only as they went, as they obeyed Jesus, that they were cleansed. Somehow they were willing to face the possibility that they would arrive at the priests and be declared unclean again. Somehow they trusted Jesus enough to risk that disappointment.

But then something even more remarkable happened. One of them, who was a Samaritan, seeing that he was cleansed, decided to ignore Jesus' instructions and to turn back and find Jesus. As he turned back, he praised God in just as loud a voice as he had used when he begged Jesus for mercy. And finding Jesus again, he fell at his feet and thanked him.

And that act of praise and thanksgiving must have surprised Jesus, as he said "Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."

All ten were cleansed of the disease, all ten had had faith enough to go when Jesus told them to go to the priests, but only one responded to his cleansing with praise to God and thanks to Jesus. And only one was told that his faith had made him well. Now the word that is translated as "made...well" is the same Greek word that is often translated as "saved." I think that in returning to Jesus, in recognizing in some way that Jesus was the One in whom God was acting to bring healing and new life, the Samaritan received an even greater gift than his cleansing, the gift of new life in a relationship of trust and faith in Jesus.

Do we trust God enough to seek daily to know and do God's will for us, especially in those situations where doing God's will is so contrary to the way the world wants us to live? Are we able to say, in the words of one of my favorite hymns, "All my hope on God is founded"? And do we receive the many gifts that God pours into our laps with praise and thanksgiving?

No comments: