“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”
As Jesus neared Jerusalem he continued to work miracles and to show mercy and to call on the people to have faith in God, by which he meant to trust, love and worship God. It so happened that Jesus and his disciples were about to enter a village when ten lepers cried out to him to have mercy on them. Luke is careful to point out that they “stood at a distance.” Lepers were not permitted to approach anyone, and they had to remain outside the village according to the Law. But they had obviously heard that Jesus was a powerful healer full of mercy and kindness. They had a very simple request, and they couch it in the most respectful language that acknowledged his authority. They addressed him by his name and begged for mercy. Cries for mercy were commonplace in Jesus’ ministry. Keep in mind that all this is done at a distance. They raised their voice to get his attention to ask to be healed of a horrible and despised disease. Jesus looked at them and told them to go and show themselves to the priests just as the Law in Leviticus required. And as they went their way they were cleansed of the disease.
All of these men had faith in Jesus. They called him “master” and they acted on his directions. Obviously, a leper would not show himself to a priest until his was healed, but Jesus told them to go on to the priests before the healing had occurred. If they were healed the priest would certify that they were cleansed and allowed to return to their family and friends in the village. They believed that Jesus could and would heal them, and so they acted on his command and all ten of them were in fact healed. But there are different kind of “faith.” You know there is always a twist coming in the New Testament narratives, some sort of reversal, and an epiphany that the first hearers of the Gospel would quickly identify. Faith in Jesus, saving faith, the kind of faith that makes a person whole is not only confidence that he can and will work miracles. The kind of faith Jesus expected then and still expects today will be identified not only by confidence in Jesus’ extraordinary power to heal and restore, but the faith Jesus commends has the qualities of worship and gratitude.
“And one of them when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.”
Well there’s the twist. Ten were healed but only one returned to give him thanks and praise. There are two important words here. The word that we have translated, “glorified God,” is built on the Greek word doxa which means to value, to worship, to measure the greatness of something. The word Luke uses for “giving him thanks,” is one of his favorites, eucharisteó. It means to make eucharist, to give thanks:
“and (the healed Samaritan) fell down on his face at his feet giving him thanks…”
Where before he and the other nine could only stand at a distance, Luke’s account has him coming right up to Jesus. This is another reversal. Luke uses geography, or better choreography to teach the reader theology. By coming within reach of Jesus he shows, visually, his state of grace. The space between the former leper and God has dramatically shrunk. The space between God and the other nine who were healed continues to widen. Once the Samaritan was a stranger to God, but now he has been made close by Jesus the Son of God.
By identifying the one person who returned to give glory to God as a stranger, an outsider, Jesus also identifies at least some of the other nine as Jews. This was and still is a hard fact of Jesus’ ministry. St. John put it this way:
“he came unto his own and his own received him not, but as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name…”
This is another reversal. The ones who were expected to respond with praise and gratitude were the children of the Covenant. But it turns out to be the one who was far from the promises of the Covenant, who ends up with the blessing and coming so close to Jesus that he could hold onto the feet of the Son of God.
“ he fell down on his face at his feet giving him thanks: and he was a SamaritanAnd he said unto him, Arise, go they way: thy faith hath made thee whole.”
What about the other nine? Jesus seems to turn to his disciples and wave his hands:
“Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?”
Jesus wasn’t expecting an answer from his disciples. He rhetorically indicted the nine for not responding to God’s gracious act. They missed the moment. They did not receive the greater blessing that was meant for the children of promise. It went instead to the stranger: “thy faith hath made thee whole.”
This is what I want you to see: miracles do not certify the kind of faith Jesus says will make us whole. We do not put our trust in miracles. I believe in miracles, but miracles do not make people into faithful Christians. Base your faith on the life, death and resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. Trust Jesus. Count your many, many blessings. Be thankful, express your gratitude to God and worship him.