Trinity 14 – September 21st and 22nd, 2019 – Luke 17:11-19
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
So, how do we take the story of Jesus healing the Ten Lepers? What do we learn from it – because there is a lot to learn in this short little lesson. This is the lesson for Thanksgiving Day, so come November we'll look at it through the lens of thankfulness. And I know I have often taken this primarily as a text on worship – because the story ends with a guy coming back and worshiping Jesus. And of course, this is a healing, so you could easily focus on the fact that Jesus is true God who heals – there are lots of ways to take this text – I could write four vastly different sermons here with ease. But today, if you will bear with me, I want to go through this text with the idea of seeing, of seeing and understanding what is going on. So, let's dive into the text.
On the way to Jerusalem He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Alright – so remember how Leprosy was dealt with in the ancient world. It was the catch-all term for all sorts of skin diseases, and they knew that these diseases could spread. Quickly. So, if you were a leper, you were banished from town, and you couldn't approach anyone (well, other than other lepers) – and if your family liked you they'd leave out meals for you – but you always had to keep your distance. And so as Jesus enters this town, these lepers call out for Jesus. Why? They want Him to see them and take note of them. This is something that is a big thrust in society today – seeing people. Not just overlooking them, but seeing them. I have friends who will often write out, “I see you and I hear you” as a response to anyone's comment – which is perhaps a bit over the top – but when we are having a hardship or a difficulty, it's nice to be noticed. And these lepers are in a bad spot, and they call out to Jesus to notice them, to see them – and Jesus does.
When He saw them He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Two seeing words – Jesus saw them, and they are instructed to show themselves to the priests, let the priests look you over. Why? It was the priests who would declare them clean and fit to enter society – the pastor dealing with the sick and praying is nothing new, folks. So Jesus tells them to walk on ahead to Jerusalem. Except, did you notice what we don't see in the text? We don't see Jesus praying loudly for healing, or rubbing dirt all over them – nothing technicolor and amazing to see. In fact, when Jesus tells them to go, they can still see their sores. And as they went they were cleansed. I love this – marvel at it every time it comes up. They start heading to Jerusalem still sick, still unclean – but at Jesus' Word, they go. Puts me to shame every time I read it – that's faith right there. Go, cause Jesus says so.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice... Then, while they are walking, they see. They walk by faith, and then they see, they understand. And one of those who saw, turned and ran back to Jesus praising God. The others, we presume head on off to Jerusalem – good for them, all the quicker to get back home with family and friends, but the one fellow, when he sees, “... fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” One praises God and thanks Jesus – and Jesus sees this, and He asks a question. “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” So many who saw a miracle still didn't see the big picture – didn't see that the Messiah was there. So many who saw didn't see the full picture, and so they missed being in Jesus' presence, hearing Him say, “Rise and go your way, your faith has made you well.” Rise and Go – your faith was in the right place, your faith was in Me, and you have more blessings than you can comprehend – you are well and things are well and it is well, because Jesus.
That's the story, and there's a lot of seeing in it. And a lot of not seeing. A lot of fear about not being seen. So let me ask the question – what do you see? What do you see when you look around at the world, at your life, your things? What do you see? It's easy sometimes to see a lot of nasty, wretched stuff – because there is sin all over the place – in here in my heart and also out there in the hearts of everyone. But there still is utter blessing, overwhelming blessing. Fantastic gifts from God that we have around us all the time with nary a thought. Fantastic gifts from God that we grouse and complain about. Let me give an example. Every September and probably around April too, I will grouse in my head about the air conditioning in this room. It's a big room, and it's really hard to get the temperature right in here in fall and spring – don't turn the AC low enough and it becomes stuffy and muggy, but if you get it too high, it's an ice box, and frankly because of the size of the room it can be both too cold over here and too muggy over there at the same time. And I'll grumble and fret as I try to get things set up for service... and at that moment, am I seeing what a fantastic blessing our Air Conditioner is? Seriously – one of the greatest luxuries ever in the history of mankind... and I'm tempted to grouse about being a degree or two off one way or the other. This is a silly example, but that's what sin does. It keeps us from seeing the blessings around us, it makes us silly about them. It's so easy for us to take the wonderful blessings from God that He has given us and not even see them, not notice them – or if we do notice them it's to complain about them.
In fact, if you will allow me a moment of speculation to make a point – we look forward to the New Heavens and the New Earth – the life of the world to come. And often we talk about how it will be so much better then than it is now – and to a point that's right. It will be better – you won't have sin, you won't have things falling apart – but more than just stuff being better – we'll see things rightly. We will see everything for the blessing it is and rejoice rightly. As 1 John notes, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” The life of the world to come is about seeing rightly – we'll see rightly then, we will see and understand all that is rightly going on around us – all the right gifts of God.
Of course, you do realize I'm not just talking about physical blessings – what we call “first article” blessings – house and home, clothing and shoes, etc. I'm not talking just about daily bread stuff – there are the spiritual blessings, the blessings of life and salvation. Let's be honest – how many of you groaned about about getting to Church today? Again, more honesty time – there are times I groan about coming here especially [if there's a good college football game on/ if I'm tired, because even morning people don't always like getting up early.] And we in that moment don't see, we don't think about what a wondrous blessing this is. Go to Jersualem and show yourselves to the priests – go walk 60 miles. How many of you had to walk 60 miles to get here? So wondrously accessible – and then what goes on here – with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, join in and sing with heaven... meh. Even we the faithful don't see rightly, even we overlook what is going on. If we had a Time Machine and went and talked to Moses in the wilderness about this service, he'd be gobsmacked about how safe and easy and wondrous it is. Christ Jesus gives us Himself, over and over again – and that is wondrous.
Of course Jesus does – because Jesus doesn't overlook people, and Jesus doesn't overlook you, and He does what is needed to bring His salvation to you this day, even knowing that you don't get the full picture yet. That doesn't surprise or put off Jesus. Because Jesus is completely focused on your salvation – He is. And we are taught that in this text – did you hear it? Did you see it? On the way to Jerusalem Jesus.... This is actually a major theme in Luke's Gospel – over and over Luke points out that Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem – from Luke 10 on that is repeated over and over again, and even here today. Why? Because Jesus is going to Jerusalem to go to the Cross. Because Jesus will get to Jerusalem, and those very priests that He sent the lepers to see will conspire to have Jesus killed, will rouse the crowds to shout “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” And Jesus still goes. He'll heal and teach along the way, but He still goes to Jerusalem, His focus is there. And why?
You. For your good. He knows how sin has hounded you, hounded His creation, how sin has settled on your eyes, like a cataract of shame and vice, keeping you from rightly delighting in all His gifts to you. And so He will go to Jerusalem and die and rise to fix it. He will see you baptized, so that you are part of His family. He will see to it that you have a preacher here, proclaiming forgiveness. He will see you to His Supper to be forgiven and strengthened. Because Jesus loves you and will let nothing stop Him from showing you love. He sees clearly, and He is going to make you see clearly. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully know.” This is Christ's love for you, love that is overwhelmingly present at all times. Love He gives to you and makes you to know and see – in part now but in full come the last day and all eternity. Christ Jesus has done it for you. Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +