Becoming the One Who Was Grateful
Indianapolis First Friends
Pastor Bob Henry
November 19, 2017
Let us begin this morning by taking a moment to “Center Down” – to calm our hearts, our minds, our lives. To help you focus on more “happy thoughts” – what I would like for you to do is think about the following query.
Who are you the most grateful/thankful for, today? Why?
So take some time to allow your mind and life to settle, then ask yourself this query. We will close this centering time by having Dan Rains read our scripture for this morning.
Luke 17:11-19 (VOICE)
11 Jesus was still pressing toward Jerusalem, taking a road that went along the border between Samaria (considered undesirable territory) and Galilee. 12 On the outskirts of a border town along this road, He was greeted from a distance by a group of 10 people who were under quarantine because of an ugly and disgusting skin disease known as leprosy.
Lepers (shouting across the distance): 13 Jesus, Master, show mercy to us!
Jesus: 14 Go now and present yourselves to the priests for inspection of your disease.
They went, and before they reached the priests, their skin disease was healed, leaving no trace of the disease that scarred them and separated them from the community.
15 One of them, the instant he realized he had been healed, turned and ran back to Jesus, shouting praises to God. 16 He prostrated himself facedown at Jesus’ feet.
Leper: Thank You! Thank You!
Now this fellow happened to be, not a Jew, but a Samaritan.
Jesus: 17 Didn’t all ten receive the same healing this fellow did? Where are the other nine? 18 Was the only one who came back to give God praise an outsider? 19 (to the Samaritan man) Get up, and go your way. Your faith has made you healthy again.
Our text for this morning is a familiar story from the Gospels. It is often considered the “Healing of the Lepers” but this morning – I would like to focus less on the miraculous healing and more on the gratitude/thankfulness of the one leper – as I believe it has a great lesson for us today – and our world.
First, let me give us some background. Lepers were known to congregate together outside the city gates. They were considered social and religious outcasts because of their disease. Their only company and help was from each other. Thus, they created what we still call “Leper Colonies.” This is important to place Jesus geographically.
When speaking of lepers and the outcast meant immediately that Jesus was probably on a border. Actually, our text says that Jesus was on the border of Galilee and Samaria. This is very important to this story.
Dick Harfield on his blog “Answers” explains this, he says,
The Samaritans, or Samarians, came from the province of Samaria, formerly the Hebrew kingdom of Israel before its destruction in 722 BCE. The Samaritans would have been of mixed race, descendants of the original Israelites and the immigrants whom the Assyrians brought in to replace the Israelites who had been deported. They shared a common Hebrew heritage with the Jews.
Samaritans were related to the Jewish bloodlines. You could call them "cousins," as it were, of the Jews. Geographically, they were neighbors of the Jews. However, they did not follow the Jewish teachings, so they were viewed by the Jews as apostates. That is why the Jews did not associate with Samaritans.
Remember Jesus was a Jew from Galilee. So his family would have raised him with a racist bias against the Samaritans. Just ponder that a moment.
Yet, it is Jesus, who wherever possible, shows us a sensitivity toward racial justice as it relates to the Samaritans – which would have been unheard of and actually problematic for him.
The Jews and the Samaritans were involved in an internal family war – violence, hatred, horrific discrimination, had been dividing factors among these two people groups for quite some time.
And then comes Jesus across the borders from Galilee to Samaria. Which it says in the Bible he did on several occasions, sometimes to the displeasure of the disciples and those watching him. Folks, it is historically documented that by the time Jesus was on the face of the earth, the Jews and the Samaritans had hated each other for at least 200 years.
With all we know of this non-existent relationship between the groups, Jesus has the audacity to often mention Samaritans, talk to Samaritans, and even heal Samaritans.
This would be unacceptable by the Jewish leaders of his time. This might have actually caused Jesus more trouble than blasphemy or healing on the Sabbath. Because to associate with a Samaritan – was beyond ok – it would mean you too were unclean.
Yet Jesus would tell a parable where the Samaritan was the hero (we title it “The Good Samaratin”) – and the Samaritan is received as a man of good faith. Completely unacceptable to the Religious Leaders.
Jesus would go out of his way to spend time with a Samaritan woman at the city well. Completely unacceptable on many accounts to the Religious Leaders (a Samaritan, and a woman, and in PUBLIC).
And in our text today, we find out that Jesus heals the lepers – all of those gathered – but it is a Samaritan who would come back overwhelmed with gratitude. Oh no! What would the Religious Leaders think?
That is what makes this entire story so fascinating. So much more is going on than just a miraculous healing.
First, the Lepers were desperate. Most likely they had heard of Jesus and his healing powers. So when they cry out, “Jesus, Master, show mercy to us.” I am sure they were hoping for a miracle.
But instead, Jesus had them following the law. He had heard them and already had begun the healing process. But to re-enter community…they had some rules to follow. Chuck Smith in his Commentary on Luke 11points out that...
1. The priest had to inspect the skin to determine if the leprosy was truly gone.
2. There were then certain prescribed sacrifices that had to be made.
3. They had to perform certain rituals such as shaving off all their hair, and ceremonial bathings.
4. After all of this, they could then return to their tent within the camp.
The only way the Religious Leaders would believe Jesus was for Jesus to follow their laws and do the healing within their world and beliefs.
The interesting thing about the story is that we don’t even know if the other 9 made it to the priests. All that scripture decides to tell us is about the one who stopped in his tracks, and ran back to Jesus with gratitude and thanks.
● No priest needed to tell him he was healed.
● No religious body that had rejected him and made him an outcast needed to approve.
● No ceremony was necessary, accept laying prostrate at Jesus’ feet and thanking Jesus profusely.
And then Luke tells us, “oh, and by the way, this man happened to not be a Jew, but a Samaritan.”
Yet again! The Samaritan!
Just listen again to the rest of what Jesus says…
17 Didn’t all ten receive the same healing this fellow did? Where are the other nine? 18 Was the only one who came back to give God praise an outsider? 19 (to the Samaritan man) Get up, and go your way. Your faith has made you healthy again.
It was the outsider…hmmm… Jesus points out once again the racial injustice of his own people toward the Samaritans.
Now, we could take away some great nuggets from this teaching already, but I want to take it one step further. As I was preparing for this sermon, I came across the following on a blog called, “Nothing for Granted” – the post was titled, “Am I the Samaritan Leper or One of the Nine?”
To close this sermon this morning, I would like to read the final part of this blog to you, I hope we will be able to identify with the Samaritan even more.
And so we hear this Gospel proclaimed and we sit back and complacently reflect upon the conviction that we are part of a relatively new and enlightened tradition that recognizes every single person as being a child of God. Apparently there is not much here of interest to us.
Perhaps but let's take a closer look. This is, after all, a story of God’s mercy but it is also about us, at our best and at our worst.
It is the story of nine people who failed to thank Jesus for his intercession and of one person who did thank him knowing that he had nowhere else to go but back to Jesus. He had nowhere else to go because the nine, in the name of God, of society and of propriety would have nothing further to do with him. Associating with him was o.k. for as long as they were all fellow outcasts but now things had changed.
Think about it. Jesus had cured them all...a cure that became very evident after they had set out, in accordance with his instructions to find a priest whose role was to attest to their lack of infection. The nine Jews continued on to complete the ritual...a ritual from which the Samaritan was automatically barred.
Did Jesus then set him up for this process of rejection? First by his former fellow sufferers and then by the priest?
I suppose you could say that he did. Jesus certainly knew that once re- integrated into society, the nine would reject the Samaritan simply because that is what society would demand...and he also knew that for the Samaritan to present himself to a Jewish priest would invite further rejection.
But, as always, Jesus knew exactly what he was doing. The Samaritan, in his humility, wanted to express his thanks but, at the same time, he knew that in returning to the Jewish holy man and identifying himself he was risking an even more painful rejection. He probably anticipated Jesus saying something like, "Hold it right there! I didn't know that you were one of those damned Samaritans...I'm not so sure that I want you to be healed!"
But what he said was, "You are welcome, I accept your thanks...it is your faith, a faith of which you are barely aware, that has saved you….continue on your way with my blessing."
And so the Samaritan and now former leper healed and filled with new hope continued to make his way in a society wherein the majority would still look upon him with disdain. He would go on living in a world where clean and unclean...liberal and conservative...cool and uncool...would continue to be operative distinctions.
Down through the centuries he would go, the son of many parents, loved by God and yet frequently dismissed or worse by proud, ungrateful people who had, in their complacency, forgotten that in the final analysis all they are, all that they have and all they can hope for is the undeserved gift of God.
He would become the patient victim of overly officious officials, condescending professionals, bigoted landlords, arrogant employers, contemptuous employees and woefully insecure neighbours.
Do you know him, this ex-leper, this Samaritan?
I do. Sometimes he is me...sometimes you or your child or the person next to you. But she is most often the marginal, the disenfranchised. The easiest of whom to take advantage and the least likely to fight back.
The Samaritan is the next person that you or I avoid in a crowded room...disregard at a meeting or ignore as we hurriedly leave this church.
Yes, thanks be to God, I am the Samaritan...but God forgive me, I am also one of the nine.