Summary: The account of the ten lepers: Grace was extended equally to all ten, but in only one did that grace bring a response of faith. With wild abandon, and gratitude, and excitement, he turned from going through the motions and fell at Jesus’ feet.
Some texts are just too obvious.
Ten lepers were cleansed. One came back and said thanks. Nine did not. The one was commended. The nine were scolded in absentia.
Ah...it’s important to write thank-you notes. My mama, your mama, and Miss Manners would be pleased. End of sermon.
Hmmm...sometimes too obvious really is too obvious.
It’s certainly biblical for us to be thankful for all the blessings and gifts that God showers
But you know the gospels are jam-packed with stories of Jesus healing people, and I can’t remember a single other time that Jesus seemed worried about whether or not the newly-healed person was properly grateful.
Maybe we should start over.
Maybe it isn’t that obvious after all.
Maybe we should read more slowly.
Maybe we should ask questions of the text.
Maybe we should let the text ask questions of us.
Vs. 11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
...the border between Samaria and Galilee. Galilee -- a land populated mostly by Jews. Samaria -- a land populated by people not pure enough to be considered among the chosen people of God but not unrelated enough to be simply discounted like ordinary pagans.
I went to seminary with a woman who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. None of her brothers and sisters made a lot of money and most never even went to college. All of their cousins, on the other hand, went to fancy schools, had highfalutin’ jobs, and lived in big houses. Most people not of their class they simply ignored. But not their poor cousins. They couldn’t be ignored. They were too much of an embarrassment. Too much of a blight on the family name. My classmate explained that she and her brothers and sisters were the embarrassing branch of the family.
That’s pretty much how it was between Jews and Samaritans. Samaritans were too much of an embarrassment to be ignored. Too much of a blight on the family name. Samaritans were the embarrassing branch of the descendants of Isaiah. Not necessarily because they were poor, but because they were half-breeds and heretics.
Usually, when Samaria gets mentioned in the gospels, it’s because Jesus is turning things upside down again. Usually, when Samaria gets mentioned in the gospels, it’s because Jesus has something to say about the special place for outsiders in God’s kingdom and the temptations to blindness and self-righteousness that endanger insiders.
In the parable of the good Samaritan, for example, it is the Samaritan -- the outsider -- who models what it means to love one’s neighbor, and it’s the priest and the Levite -- the ultimate insiders -- who don’t have a clue.
The story of the ten lepers takes place on the border between Samaria and Galilee.
If you are an outsider -- if you haven’t seen the inside of a church since last century, or maybe ever, and the bulletin in your hands looks like a coded document; if you avert your eyes in polite society so as not to notice all the people looking down their noses at you -- if you are an outsider, then listen with fresh and eager anticipation. It’s likely that something is coming that will be of special encouragement to you.
If you are an insider -- and it occurs to me that most of us here this morning are insiders, good church-going folk who know when to stand up and when to sit down, responsible members of society who get at least ten offers of easy credit in the mail every week -- if you are an insider, decide now if you are willing to listen at all. And if you are, open your ears very wide and hold onto your hats, because it’s likely that something is coming to make you examine your actions more closely and more critically than you would probably like to.
Vs. 12 and 13 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, Have pity on us!"
Nothing particularly surprising here. Most villages had their share of lepers. They didn’t all have the disease that today we identify as leprosy. They included people with all sorts of different skin disease, discolorations, and disfigurements. Some of them probably weren’t even all that sick, they were simply ritually unclean. They could not associate with regular folks. They could not engage in religious ritual. They were likely to be found at the edge of town. They were required to keep their distance. And they were required to call out in a loud voice to warn people of their presence.
They were the prototypical outsiders. Normally, you wouldn’t find Jews and Samaritans occupying the same space. But among lepers, their common ailment -- their common outsider status -- overcame ethnic rivalries. Here on the border between Samaria and Galiliee, leper groups might include some combination of Jews and Samaritans.