21st Sunday after Pentecost

Luke 17:11-19

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and Redeemer. Amen.

Today’s story is filled with blessing for the ignored, neglected, outcast, and disregarded. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, a journey that began back in chapter 9, and he was crossing the region between Samaria and Galilee. We know Jesus to be someone who frequents the boundary places and he’s not only crossing a geographical boundary but is also about to cross a societal boundary as well.

Upon entering a village, he is noticed by a group of lepers and they call out to him. Leprosy in the Bible is not necessarily the same as what we know as Hansen’s Disease today. Leprosy was more of generic term describing a skin condition. The problem was though, that if you had one of these skin conditions, the Torah required you to live apart and keep a certain distance from everyone else. Now in an age when antibiotics and other treatments didn’t exist we can understand wanting to quarantine someone with a disease, but there was more to it than that.  Leprosy wasn’t just a medical condition it was also considered a sign of God’s judgment. Not only were people separated by the Law but they were also made to feel invisible.

It was not unusual for lepers to cry out to anyone passing by, they existed on the provision of those who took pity on them, but notice they call out to Jesus by name. They knew who he was. The story says that Jesus saw them and then gave them a command to go show themselves to the priest. Luke, the writer of this gospel, highlights over and over God’s care and concern for the outsider. He himself, being a Gentile, was an outsider, and so the fact that Jesus stopped and paid attention to those who were typically ignored, neglected, and disregarded, is not without significance.

When Jesus stops and speaks to these men, notice he doesn’t say, “You are healed now, go and show yourselves to the priest.” He skips the first part and tells them to go show themselves to the priest, as required in the Law, as if they were healed. It was only as they went and did what he told them, that they were healed. They had to have the faith and hope that if he was giving them this command, then in doing it they would have the thing they most wanted. That’s no small thing, to have the faith and courage to act as if the thing that hasn’t happened yet, is in fact a reality.

I can only imagine the jubilation when they realized in mid stride that they were healed. I’m sure there were shouts of joy and a quickening of their steps. But one of them stops, turns around and goes back to Jesus. He is still praising God at the top of his lungs but he does it in front of Jesus, lays himself out at his feet, and thanks him for the miracle that has happened.

It is only at this point that we find out that he was a Samaritan. Again this is part of Luke’s theme about God’s inclusion and acceptance because as we know, Samaritans were loathed by the Jews. Again it is significant that this Samaritan is the one who had the right response to Jesus, just as the Good Samaritan was the one who did the right thing by the man attacked and left for dead on the road. Clearly faith and good works are not always found in the expected places or people.

Here’s something to consider, although the Samaritan was the only one that came back, they were all healed of their disease. The others actually did nothing wrong. They obeyed Jesus and then fulfilled the requirement of the Law to present themselves to the priest, who would proclaim them fit to reenter society. They were all healed of their sickness and of their isolation, yet Jesus singles this foreigner out as an example for his listeners and as a recipient of further blessing.

And why is that? Was it simply because he had better manners and remembered to say thank you? Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of politeness and courtesy but I think there’s something more here for us. The Samaritan did something the others did not, he recognized the source of his healing. He didn’t come back to shake Jesus’ hand, he prostrated himself at his feet. That is a sign of reverence and humility. It is something you do before God or a king.

Look at what Jesus says to him, “Get up and go; your faith has healed you.” That is one translation. Other translations say, “your faith has made you whole,” and the Greek word can also be translated as “saved.” The 10 were healed and restored to society, but the Samaritan was made whole and saved. He recognized who Jesus was and what he had done and responded with praise and thanksgiving.

Being made whole implies much more than a sound body. The Samaritan, because he came back to Jesus, because he had a grateful heart, could experience that he was more than just a Samaritan, or leper, or healed leper. He was a child of God, healed, accepted, and beloved. Recognition was the key and through his response he was doubly blessed.

Today we have two precious ones who have recognized the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ and are responding by being baptized. Just as the Samaritan was so much more than a Samaritan and leper, these girls are so much more than children. They will be full and equal members of Christ’s Body. They will have a bond with God that is theirs alone and is, as the Prayer Book says, indissoluble. In Baptism we are set apart, not as an exclusive society, but to be instruments of the Spirit in calling all people into God’s family.

May we have the grace to recognize the Giver of all good gifts, and may we be blessed with hearts made large by gratitude, to receive God’s many blessings. Amen.