The Thankful Foreigner (Healing of the 10 Lepers)

Study Text Luke Chapter 17 vs.11 – vs.19 ESV

vs.11 On the way to Jerusalem, he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. vs.12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers,1)Luke 17:12 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13 who stood at a distance vs.13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. vs.14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. vs.15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; vs.16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. vs.17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? vs.18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? vs.19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.2)Luke 17:19 Or has saved you

Luke 17:11-19 ESV

Introduction

As we have gone through Luke’s stories about Jesus we have seen that its people on the margins who experience God’s overwhelming grace in Christ; there was the Gentile centurion of faith greater than the people of Israel and who’s servant was healed at a distance, the “sinful woman” overwhelmed by forgiving love in the house of the cold unmoved Pharisee, and the younger sister experiencing the presence of the Lord whilst her older responsible sister was preoccupied with pots and pans. Today’s story challenges once again the prevailing assumption in Jesus’ time that Jewish people had a head start with God. this is a story about a Samaritan.

The Samaritans were a hybrid people formed through intermarriage between the Israelites left after the Assyrian conquest in the eight century BC and Gentile tribes relocated to that area.

They worshipped the God of Israel, believed that the first five books of the Old Testament only were scripture, and set up their own temple and priesthood in their own territory in opposition to worship in Jerusalem. The Jews thought Samaritans were “mongrel heretics” outside of God’s favour and mercy. But the kingdom of Jesus turns everything upside down (cf. Acts 17:6-7 ESV).

Exposition

vs.11On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. vs.12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance vs.13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

There was a lot of heat between Samaritans and Jews. Earlier in Luke (Luke 9:51-56 ESV), a village of Samaritans refused Jesus hospitality merely because he was headed to Jerusalem.

Now travelling along the border of hostile territory Jesus encounters a party of lepers.

In the Bible, “leprosy” pretty much includes any serious skin condition and lepers were required by Moses’ Law to stay away from healthy people3)See Biblical References Lev 13:46 ESV; Num 5:2-3 ESV.

Lepers were regarded as ritually unclean living under a divine curse.

They were written off by most people as untouchables, as Samaritans were, and beyond help.

Is anyone beyond God’s redeeming power…?

I was listening; this week to a live broadcast of people shouting at George Pell when he came out of court, “freak… monster… rot in hell”. Can the blood of Christ heal paedophiles…can it cleanses; whatever darkness is in you?

The lepers cry out as one, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 

Their calling Christ, “Master”, a word found only on the lips of disciples in Luke4)See Biblical References Luke 5:5 ESV; Luke 8:24, 45 ESV; Luke 9:33, 49 ESV prepares us for something special to come in this story.

In placing themselves under the authority of the Lordship of Christ they are crying out for a miracle from God5)See Biblical References Ex 34:6 ESV; Deut 4:31 ESV; 2 Chron 30:9 ESV; Psalm 86:15 ESV; Dan 9:9 ESV; Jonah 4:2 ESV. And they were not disappointed.

vs.14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.

Priests in Israel functioned as purity inspectors to restore or exclude people from everyday community life6)See Biblical References Lev 13:2 – 14:32 ESV.

Since a sacrifice was to be offered when a leper was declared cleansed, Jesus was sending them off to the temple in Jerusalem.

Jesus tests the faith of the men by telling them to go to the priests before there’s any sign of healing. “And as they went they were cleansed.”  In obeying the Lord’s word they were healed.

This must have been a powerful resurrection-like experience for them all as putrid, smelly flesh wreaking of death was made new and alive by the power of Christ. Then the story takes an unexpected turn.

vs.15 .. one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; vs.16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

All saw they were healed but only one saw beyond the physical into the spiritual realm. In the religious thinking of the day, a Samaritan and a leper was a twice rejected person beyond the blessings of God.

That the man was “praising God” shows something deeper than external healing had taken place, through a face to face encounter with Jesus this man has a new relationship with God, in a biblical language he has “born again(Matt 12:34 ESV).

I’m not reading too much into this story, for whilst praise for healing is common in Luke7)See Biblical References Luke 2:20 ESV; Luke 5:25 ESV; Luke 7:16-17 ESV; Luke 13:13 ESV; Luke 23:47 ESV falling at Jesus’ feet in thankfulness is extraordinary act of reverent submission (Luke 5:12 ESV etc.).

The centre of attention has turned from the healing to Jesus.

Totally released from any sense of being under a divine or human curse spontaneous gratitude at God’s mercy pours out his innermost being. He knows that God is worthy of praise and the place to offer such praise is at the feet of Jesus.

Have you ever felt moved like this to pour out praise at the feet of Jesus?

I remember when the Lord touched me as a young man so powerfully that I couldn’t stop praising him on my knees for hours. It was just so wonderful (cf. Acts 3:8 ESV).

Overcome by the presence of Jesus the Samaritan looked beyond the ritualistic ceremonial formal religion of temples (Samaritan or Jewish) to Christ himself as the place where God’s might merciful power can be experienced, and true worship is to be offered.

Most of us, however, have become side-tracked from a face to face encounter with Jesus. This is why we are way too timid when it comes to praising the Lord.

vs.17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? vs.18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?

Since grace is always surprising even the Lord was surprised in seeing the unexpected breadth of the Father’s mercy at work in the Samaritan.

In Christ asking three questions in succession the focus is turned away from physical healing to the man’s attitude healed.

The word Jesus uses in calling the Samaritan a “foreigner” appears only here in the New Testament.

It means someone born from the wrong family and in this case someone outside the divinely blessed family of Abraham (Gen 12:1-3 ESV).

Not long ago archaeologists uncovered a sign from the Jerusalem temple of Jesus’ time; “No foreigner (same Greek word as above) may enter within the balustrade around the sanctuary and the enclosure.

Whoever is caught, on himself shall he put the blame for the death which will ensue.”  Try to get close to our temple’s God and we will kill you was the clear message (cf. illegal for non-Muslims to enter Mecca), but in meeting God in Jesus this previously wretched Samaritan has encountered only blessing.

When Jesus exclaims aloud “Were not ten cleansed?”, is he speaking to himself, to his disciples, to the villagers, is he speaking to us?

All 10 were physically restored and returned to normal social life but only one praised the Lord.

Has anything changed?

Many more pray than praise, many more understand church ritual better than they understand Jesus.

The great Baptist preacher Spurgeon rightly said, “If Christ has saved you, and your heart is right, you will say, “I must praise him…”

You will not be kept back by the chilly state of nine out of ten of your old companions, nor by the worldliness of your family, nor by the coldness of the church.” how many of us today are kept back from fully following Jesus?

vs.19 And Jesus said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.

Those who bless the Lord with thanks receive the greatest blessing. It was only the Samaritan who heard from the lips of Jesus, “your faith has made you whole.8)See Biblical References cf. Luke 7:50 ESV; Luke 8:48 ESV; Luke 18:42 ESV. All ten used the language of discipleship in calling Jesus “Master”, but only one acted like a disciple and entered the kingdom of God.

CONCLUSION

This Samaritan is a challenge to us in ways we might not recognise.

When it became known he was now a follower of a Jewish rabbi would he have a home amongst Samaritans…?

Would the Jews of the day now accept him…?

Unless Jesus was God’s King who had brought him into a new family of faith freed from the old religious divisions of the day, he was condemned to deeper isolation than he had ever known before. Since Christ is Lord and God, he did have a new family. It’s not easy for us to follow Jesus in the way the Samaritan did.

In general, Australians pride themselves in being religiously restrained people. A friend sent me a definition of a fanatic this week; ‘a fanatic is someone who believes in Jesus more than you do’.

We live in a nation that refuses to thank God. Our national anthem happily extols “nature’s gifts of beauty rich and rare” but there is no recognition of a Creator (Rom 1:21 ESV).

Most Christian people take the gifts of God for granted.  

But is faith without thanksgiving real faith at all?

But it would not be right to finish a sermon with a focus on our faith.

Jesus is still the God of the marginalised, of gentile soldiers, sinful women, younger sisters and detested Samaritans.

Today’s reading is an encouragement for anyone who in any way feels distant from God, those on the margins of social life or church life or in any other way to come to Jesus and find in him all the barriers between you and the healing power of God have been taken away.

MESSAGE, DELIVERED: Date 20th March 2019 Location: St Marks

Author: Dr. John Yates

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References   [ + ]

1. Luke 17:12 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
2. Luke 17:19 Or has saved you
3. See Biblical References Lev 13:46 ESV; Num 5:2-3 ESV
4. See Biblical References Luke 5:5 ESV; Luke 8:24, 45 ESV; Luke 9:33, 49 ESV
5. See Biblical References Ex 34:6 ESV; Deut 4:31 ESV; 2 Chron 30:9 ESV; Psalm 86:15 ESV; Dan 9:9 ESV; Jonah 4:2 ESV
6. See Biblical References Lev 13:2 – 14:32 ESV
7. See Biblical References Luke 2:20 ESV; Luke 5:25 ESV; Luke 7:16-17 ESV; Luke 13:13 ESV; Luke 23:47 ESV
8. See Biblical References cf. Luke 7:50 ESV; Luke 8:48 ESV; Luke 18:42 ESV

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