[This was shared during worship with the people and guests of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio yesterday.]
Gospel lesson for this morning ends with Jesus telling a man Jesus has
cured of leprosy, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
of Scripture like this one have often been misconstrued by people. What
does Jesus mean by these words? Is He saying that if you and I have
enough faith, bad things won’t happen to us?
I hope that the
answer to that question is obvious. After all, Jesus Himself, sinless,
completely trusting in the other two persons of the Holy Trinity--God
the Father and God the Son--nonetheless suffered more than any of us
ever has or ever will. Completely innocent of sin, He suffered and died
for the sins of the world.
In Matthew 5:45, Jesus says: “[God]
makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the
just and on the unjust...” You and I have all known faithful
people--people who trusted their whole lives to Jesus Christ as their
God and Lord--who suffered, some dying at young ages despite their
uncompromising belief in Jesus.
And often people encounter suffering--persecution, shunning, and death--because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ is no insurance policy against suffering in this imperfect world.
understand what Jesus means in the final verse of our lesson--”Arise,
go your way. Your faith has made you well.”--we need to look at the
entire incident recounted in the lesson. As Lutheran Christians, we
believe that we can't understand a single passage of Scripture by looking
at it in isolation. Martin Luther talked about letting Scripture interpret
Scripture, understanding an individual passage in light of what all of
Scripture teaches and looking at passages within the contexts in which
So, please go to our Gospel lesson, Luke 17:11-19.
We’re told: “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed
through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain
village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.”
is heading for Jerusalem. Today's lesson is part of a section of
Luke's gospel that scholars call "the great interpolation." It
begins at Luke 9:51 and ends at Luke 18:18, opening with Jesus setting
His face toward Jerusalem, intent on His mission of dying on the cross
as the perfect sacrifice for our sins and rising from the dead to open the gates of eternity to all who turn from sin and trust Him as their only God and Savior. In the midst of rising opposition, Jesus continued in His mission on earth. As His people, we are called to be similarly steadfast, counting on the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us.
In the midst of this journey, Jesus passes
between His native Galilee and the country of Samaria. The Samaritans
were a half-breed people hated by the Jews. They had once been a full
part of God’s people. But after the split of ancient Israel into two
separate nations, the Samaritans mingled with other peoples, worshiping false gods, adulterating their faith in the one true God of
Galilee, the region in which Jesus was raised, was next to Samaria and was regarded by the others in His homeland as "the wrong side of the tracks."
Jesus approaches a
Samaritan village. On the outskirts of town, He is encountered by ten
lepers. In those days, when people had leprosy, they were forced to live
in isolation from family, friends, and neighbors in colonies on the
edge of town. No one touched them. They were forbidden to touch anyone
else. That’s why the lepers had to call Jesus from afar.
verse 13, please: “And they lifted up their voices and said, 'Jesus,
Master, have mercy on us!'"
In desperation, the lepers called out to
Jesus. They seek something no one else is giving to them: mercy.
know, we who have received the undeserved mercy, grace, and forgiveness
of God, given only in Jesus Christ, need to be willing to hear the cries
of those around us for mercy. That's why things like our involvement with the Inspire Shelter, the CHAP emergency food bank, and Lutheran World Relief is so important. One reason that so many people are turned
off to the Christian faith these days is that, unlike Jesus, Christians
often fail to give the mercy and compassion that they themselves have
received from Christ.
Verse 14: “So when [Jesus] saw them, He
said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that
as they went, they were cleansed.” Old Testament law said that once a
priest certified that a person had been cleansed of their leprosy, they
could return to their homes. Jesus instructs the ten lepers to see
priests. Even as they went, their leprosy disappeared. It’s hard to
imagine how the ten of them felt at that moment. Their earthly lives had
been changed by the compassion of God, given in Jesus Christ.
look at what happens next. Verses 15 and 16: “And one of them [the
cleansed lepers], when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a
loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at [Jesus’] feet,
giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.”
Not every beneficiary of
God’s mercy acknowledges all that God has done for them. They just go on
with their lives as though goodness and blessings from God are
things to which they’re entitled. Listen: None of us is entitled to
anything from God. Life itself is an undeserved gift! Every good thing added to it is gravy. God’s Word says that “every good and perfect gift”
you and I have comes from God.
Often though, I’ve seen that people who
have been helped by God through extraordinary circumstances, evidence no
gratitude to God. It’s as though they can’t admit their vulnerability
or their need of God’s help. Maybe this is why only one of the ten
cleansed lepers returned to give Jesus thanks. The other nine didn’t
want to even think about how weak and helpless they had been.
But the fact
is, we are all weak and helpless. We all need God’s help. We all need to
acknowledge that. It’s only when we own our helplessness and our
weakness that the strength and power of God can flood our lives and help
us to live with the confidence and hope God has in mind for us.
paraphrase what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians, when we are
weak, then we are strong; God’s power is made perfect, complete, in our
lives when we let God take control of our lives...and not a moment
before. It’s only when we’re weak enough to lean on Christ that God
gives us the strength to face and conquer all that keeps us from being
the people God made us to be!
Verses 17 and 18: “So Jesus
answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?
Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this
You never can tell who is going to respond to
Jesus Christ. Nor can you know when or how they will respond.
That’s why the Church--it’s why Saint Matthew Lutheran
Church--must remain resolute in sharing the good news of new,
everlasting life for all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
and only mission of the Church is the Great Commission. Jesus is quoted giving this mission statement to believers like you and me in five different places in the New Testament. One place we
see it is in Acts 1:8, where the risen Jesus, just before His ascension
tells us: “...you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon
you [the Holy Spirit Who came upon each of us when we were baptized in
the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit]; and
you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus doesn’t say, “You shall be My
witnesses as long as people are willing to accept that I am the way, and
the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through
Nor does He say, “You will be My witnesses as long as God and the Bible are
Nor does He say, "You will be My witnesses as long as it's politically correct."
He says that we are to be His witnesses. Period.
And if nine out
of ten people with whom we share the Gospel reject Christ, the Gospel
message, and God’s Word in the Bible, so be it.
Our call is to simply
keep on sharing Christ, keep making disciples. And we are to fulfill this Great Commission, as Paul
puts it, “in season and out of season.” [For help in playing your part in fulfilling this commission given by Christ to every Christian, see here.]
Then, Jesus says to the
one thankful man in verse 19, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made
Now, you and I know that ten people had been made physically
well. But Jesus isn’t talking about people being physically well here. Jesus
didn’t suddenly revoke the healing He had given the other nine because only one man displayed gratitude. So, here’s
the key fact in this passage: All ten were physically healed, but only
one was made well.
A person can be physically healed, but still not be
And a person can physically or psychologically or emotionally
broken down, but still be well!
The New Testament, of course,
was written in Greek. And the root verb of the word translated as “has made you well” is,
in Greek, sozo. It literally means saved.
The grateful man was well
because he had been saved.
The person dying on a hospital gurney can,
even as they die, know: “It is well with my soul!” They know that they are just as saved as the healed leper was at the moment Jesus declared that his faith had made him well!
Even at the point of
death, it’s possible for us to live in the certainty that nothing can
separate us from the love of God given in Jesus Christ. We are saved.
How? How can we know that?
By faith, the healed man acknowledged God’s blessing.
By faith, he fell
to his feet and worshiped God.
And Jesus declared that, no matter what
suffering may await that man through the balance of his life, for there is nothing more certain
than suffering and death on this dying planet, the healed man had nonetheless been saved for all eternity because He
believed in Jesus Christ!
By God’s grace, he had been saved by his faith in Jesus Christ.
He could live his life on earth in confidence and hope
and joy; through Christ, he was saved--eternally saved--for a life with
God that never ends.
We can live our lives with the same confidence, hope, and joy as we yield our whole lives in faith in Jesus Christ!
On this Sunday that we end our partnership
as congregation and pastor, I urge you to never forget that our hope is
built on faith in Jesus Christ alone.
It is Jesus Christ alone Who can
save us--not denominational affiliations, not church rituals or
traditions, not liturgies, though each of these things can play constructive roles in the lives of God's people.
We cannot be saved by habits, nor political correctness nor political action, not
by caving into the warped values of a world out of sync with God, not by our
personally preferred interpretations of Scripture, not by love, nor morality, nor being
good, nor obeying the rules.
It is Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone
who saves us from sin, death, and futility. He does that as, in response to His grace, we believe in Him as our only God, Lord, and Savior.
Paul writes in our second lesson for this morning: “If we endure [in
faith], we shall also reign with [Christ]. If we deny Him, He also will
Stick with Christ.
Refuse to let the lies told to you by the
world, the devil, or your sinful self to tear you from Christ, the only
Way, the only truth.
Have faith in Christ alone.
And one day, all who
trust in Christ, giving their sins, their past and their future to Him,
will--despite our faults and sins and backsliding--gather around the
throne of God together and hear the words of our Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your Master’s joy!”
And, on hearing those words, all who have
been made well by the grace of God given through faith in Jesus Christ
will join the celebration with all God’s saints that never ends.
before that moment, we will, I am sure, if we remain steadfast in letting Christ love and grace
and guide us, see one another then.
And, by the way, you’ll know me when we
get there; I’ll be the guy sitting in the last row shaking my head in
wonder that, in Christ, God’s grace even saved a wretch like me. Amen