I have preached on this passage earlier, with a different title but many of the same thoughts, so I'm re-posting the same manuscript. The original can be found here.
We spend a lot of time talking about how Christians should and shouldn’t
act. We should tithe. We shouldn’t lie. We should help others. We
shouldn’t hurt people. We should read our Bibles. We shouldn’t…etc.,
When I look at how much of that we sometimes focus on, I can
understand why some non-Christians folks don’t have much interest in
our faith. Of course, our faith in Christ should have consequences in
how we live our lives. We claim to be different people, changed into
something new by the grace of God. But if the new people act just like
the old people, what’s the difference?
On the other hand, we’ve
compiled an impressive list of thou-shalt-nots for people whose religion
was founded on the concept of removing barriers between people and God.
We have met the Pharisees, and sometimes they are us.
pointed out in one conversation what the law boiled down to, and we call
the greatest commandment. We’re to love God with all we have, and then
as a corollary, we’re to love our neighbors as ourselves.
story of the ten lepers, we see Jesus boiling down the right
relationship between God and human beings to its essentials. Later, the
Apostle Paul will flesh this idea out in the first chapters of Romans,
but Luke tells us a story of Jesus that gives us the essence.
meets ten lepers before he enters a village. They stay far away, like
the law required them to do. People with leprosy couldn’t live with
others, and often grouped together in bands of outcasts like this. Their
former lives are meaningless, as we’ll see.
They call out to
Jesus for mercy, and he directs them to go to show the priest they are
clean. Even while they head back to town, their disease disappears. One
man, a Samaritan who would ordinarily never have been with a group of
Jews, runs back to Jesus when he sees his disease vanish. He praises God
and falls to his knees.
Jesus notes that only one of the ten he
healed offer thanksgiving for the mercy they sought, and tells him, “Go
on your way. Your faith has made you well.”
Now this is
interesting. “Your faith has made you well.” Do the other nine lose
their cure? Probably not. The word translated “clean” in v. 14 is not
the same as the word translated “well” in v. 19. So Jesus doesn’t say
the man is cured because of his faith. He’s already been cured, and
that’s because Jesus did what the men asked: He had mercy on them and
What did the man’s faith do, then? It made him
return to his healer and thank God for his healing. And that, Jesus
said, made him well. The other men may have been cured, but at this
time, at least, they haven’t been made well. Think of it like someone
with a cold who takes a cough drop – the cough is gone for awhile, but
the cold remains.
What is it that makes the man well and truly
whole? Praise to God for what amounts to a brand new-life, a return from
the dead. People wrote lepers off, families often acted like they were
dead and gone. But these men have been reborn, and the one foreigner
knows who to thank for it (God) and what to do about it (thank him).
will spend a lot of time telling us that everyone everywhere can know
God is our creator by watching his creation. And God only wants us to
respond to that knowledge properly with our praise, thanksgiving,
respect and obedience. Because we haven’t, God has brought Christ into
the world to re-shape us so we can.
The Samaritan leper does just
that. He has asked for new life, in the form of a cure. He now has new
life, and so he shows his praise and respect to the one who have it to
him by thanking him. He is now well.
And this is what God calls
us to do as well. God offers us a new life in Christ, a life with the
possibility of real change. People in despair over what seems to be a
broken life can find healing. People cut off from those around them by
pride and arrogance can find humility and a community.
Samaritan’s cure came about through the grace and mercy of Christ, just
as ours does. Neither he nor we earned it. We ask. Because God loves us,
But then comes the part where the changed life
really shows up. Do we offer our praise and gratitude to God for the
change? Do we decide to live our lives knowing we are changed people,
even though we might not see much evidence right away? If we don’t,
we’re just cleaned up for a little while.
But if we do, then we too are made well by the good news of Jesus Christ.