Two things are
important as we begin today’s lesson.
The first is the information that Jesus is headed toward the sacred
The second important thing is the biblical code word, “seeing.” In the lesson from Luke 17, in verse 15 it says, “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.” It says that only one saw. Whenever the gospels use words related to seeing or vision it is a code word for understanding, so, let us look at what we are here being asked to understand.
When the leper saw his healing he did more than celebrate his good fortune and then resume his life as it was before his leprosy. He returned to praise God at the feet of Jesus. He saw his healing as more than being put right, or back together or as a reversal of misfortune. This led him to gratitude, which might be the purest measure of our character and our spiritual condition. A lack of ability to be grateful reveals self-centeredness or the attitude that we deserve more than we get or have. The sense of entitlement is the opposite of being grateful.
The lesson for today is so typical. It does not really care very much about what is believed by any of the 10, it is not concerned with what we believe but rather what difference does it make in our lives that we believe. All 10 of the former lepers believed something about their healing. But we see faith only in the one whose belief made a difference in the way he acted. I think the other nine thought that they finally got what they deserved and then they resumed their lives. They went backward, they faded back into their families and into the sacrificial system of the temple.
because he was a Samaritan was still excluded and unwelcome, he could not go
home or to the temple. He could not go
back, he had to go forward. He was
doubly excluded. Once
for being a leper and again for being a Samaritan. This reminds me of Jesus saying: “Foxes have
holes, birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Jesus did not belong any place in the
The now healed
Samaritan leper saw that doing his sacred duty of showing himself to his
Samaritan priest was just a waste of time because he did not want to go
backward but forward. The
Samaritan leper choses Jesus as his priest. Jesus praises him because he has stepped out
of the faulty human based sacred system and he has stepped into the
Leprosy is a disease that excluded sufferers from being accepted in the temple. The sacred system of the temple was also a disease in and of itself, it was a disease that prevented its sufferers from seeing that God was in front of them in the person of Jesus. It hurts me to say this but the church itself often does this too. It gets in the way of Jesus and like a distorted lens it shows the world not Jesus as he is but something else. This is inevitable because everyone and every human institution is sick and in need of cleansing.
the one who would, by his death, expose the disease of the sacred system
itself, could make the pronouncement of the Samaritan leper’s second cleansing,
a pronouncement that effectively declares his having been rescued from the
system itself. Jesus would let himself
be judged unclean, in order that the veil in the
Jesus did not come into the world to effect a: “cleanup, fix up, paint up.” He came to expose the faulty human sacred sacrificial system and to offer us, as a replacement for our way of doing things, God’ way.
Having seen God’s way, the Samaritan leper had to return and praise God. He had to throw himself at Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving. The “had to” part is real. The experience is so life changing, so joyful, that it must be shared. Some things, if they are seen, simply have to be told. Our friend in today’s lesson did something more than use words, he showed to all that what he believed changed the way he lived.
1. What do you think about my distinction between the gospel (the preaching of Jesus) and the sacred (the established social and religious structures)?
2. If we were one of the nine lepers do you think that we would have just returned to our old lives accepted now because we were no longer unclean?
3. What do you think was the difference in the lives of the nine now healed lepers different from the life of the one that returned?