Summary: Everything I have can be traced back to an opportunity or an event that I never could have orchestrated or created; every good thing I have going on in my life finds its source in a gift of God’s grace
Beginning a few Wednesday nights ago and for the next several weeks, we’re talking about the issue of Grace. And as I said last time, the way we define grace is that “Grace is getting a gift you don’t deserve.” Now mercy is when we don’t get a punishment we do deserve; but grace is getting a gift we don’t deserve. And as we saw, the Bible almost always describes grace in the context of God’s character, manifested in how he treats people. John 1:14 says,
14 The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
And then in verse 17 it says,
17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
So if we’re going to understand how God relates to us; and how he wants us to relate to him; and how he wants us to relate to each other, we need to understand the issue of grace. And so we’re going to be looking at stories and conversations of Jesus in which we can see how God’s grace collides with our misconceptions about God, with our broken relationships, with broken families, with religious traditions, with sin selfishness, anger, and pride, and all the stuff going on in our lives and relationships. And today we’re going to start with a story in Luke 17:11-19.
11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14When he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? 19Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
The first thing “collision of grace” I see in this story is that…
God’s grace collides with thanklessness
Even though there are ten lepers, the two main characters in this story are Jesus and a Samaritan leper and here’s why: In the first-century, Jews and the Samaritans were divided by both racial and religious prejudice. The Jews hated the Samaritans because they were Assyrian-Jewish hybrids and they viewed the religion of the Samaritans as a perversion of Judaism because they only believed in the first five books of the Bible or “The Law,” whereas the Jews believed in all the books of the Old Testament, which was the entire Bible at that time.
On this map, this middle region is Samaria, where the Samaritans lived. Below that is the region of Judea where you find Jerusalem. And then up above Samaria is the region of Galilee, where you find the Sea of Galilee and the cities of Nazareth and Capernaum. And then the Jordan River South runs south from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.
All three of these regions—Judea, Samaria, and Galilee—make up what is now known as Israel and Palestine. And it was mostly in Judea and Galilee that Jesus walked and taught. It’s about 140 miles in a straight line from top to bottom.
Now, if you had to travel from Jerusalem to Capernaum, you would want to take the shortest route possible, which would be a straight line. But because of their prejudice toward the Samaritans, the Jews would not go through Samaria, they would go around it which obviously added quite a bit of time when you’re walking.
However, over time, they relaxed their restrictions and by the time of Christ, Jews would travel through Samaria, but only travel through. And even though they would allow themselves to do business with Samaritans or take a short-cut through their country, the Jews still hated the Samaritans and considered them unclean—the same way they felt about the lepers—and the feelings were mutual.
Now, like the Samaritans, the lepers were also outcasts and outsiders. And even though they were allowed into the city to beg for money, they were required to live outside of the city walls. Even in Samaria—because they did believe in the Old Testament Law of Moses, the Samaritans also considered lepers to be unclean. And according to the Old Testament law, people with this disease were quarantined outside of the city and required to keep a “safe” distance from people so that they would not touch anyone and make them unclean.