This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 9nd, 2016.
“Seeing is believing.” This phrase sounds rather contrary to the whole idea of Christian faith, doesn’t it? Actually, earlier on in Luke, Jesus talks about the generation seeking a sign and categorizes them as “wicked.” But this passage seems to have its center based upon this action of “seeing,” maybe even alluding to the idea that this is the most important action taking place in this story.
At the beginning of this passage, we encounter Jesus on the way to Jerusalem when he encounters a group of lepers calling out his name. From the start, Jesus establishes himself as a curious character to a 21st-century reader because I cannot think of many road trips I have been on where I was willing to stop and attend care to someone calling out and asking me to help fix something of theirs. If it was a single person and seemed to be stranded, I might be a little more sympathetic; but, seeing as there are 10 of them I can at least feel better about myself because they have each other for company.
But Jesus “saw” them, and at first it may seem as if this verb is simply mentioning he noticed people were calling to him, but we start to get the feeling that he was “moved” by these 10 men. It’s here that we start to see a parallel between this story and the Good Samaritan earlier in Luke’s gospel. Plenty of people saw or noticed the victim lying on the side of the road, but it was only the Samaritan who was moved by the victim (Luke 10:33).
It’s also worth noting the difference between this story and the story of the hemorrhaging woman in Luke 8:43. While she disregarded the customs and laws that required an unclean person to stay away from the general population, these unclean men are abiding by the law and remaining where they are supposed to (on the outskirts of the village away from the healthy population) – yet in both cases, the important part is their appeal to Jesus regardless of their status. We do not see Jesus once referencing, congratulating, or even noticing their ability to abide by the law. Instead, what we see is Jesus teaching about the foundational importance of God – compassion and mercy. The highlight of this passage is the faith displayed by the people who have seen Jesus.
Earlier in Luke 4, Jesus makes mention of the Old Testament character Naaman the Syrian – the captain of the army of the king of Aram. On top of these impressive credentials, Naaman was also a leper. He was sent to the king of Israel to be healed from his leprosy. Much like the ten men in the story in Luke, leaving faith was a prerequisite to their healing. After being ordered to go wash in the Jordan seven times, Naaman appealed in frustration, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’” Naaman was expecting a character like Jesus. While the healing of Naaman was spectacular, Jesus’ healing is one of a kind.
How hard must it have been for the ten men to go and show themselves to the priests? At no point did Jesus strike a deal with them guaranteeing their healing if they helped Jesus maintain his status as “Master” among the population. Their quest into the village was built on nothing but hearsay about a man named Jesus. Can you imagine what it might have been like to have leprosy, to be known as a social outcast, and take that first step toward the village, toward the priest – walking through the streets with everyone staring at you and wishing you had stayed on the outskirts of the city where you belong?
When they saw that they were healed, why is it that only one of the ten men turned around and went back to Jesus? And of all the men, why is it that the Samaritan – the outsider – was the only one who saw what was happening? The administrator of the mercy that they received was not the priest they were on their way to see, but Jesus himself. Perhaps the one man, the Samaritan – the foreigner, was the only one who looked at Jesus and saw that he was actually able to offer mercy, and not just healing. I wonder how often we treat Jesus today like the other 9 men then? If you were in their shoes, walking toward the priest and all of the sudden you looked down and saw that all of your leprosy had been healed – how quickly would we try to explain this “miracle”? How quickly would we say that Jesus knows how thankful we are for his activity in our lives and go on living our lives? Which men in this group proclaimed “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” and which men proclaimed, “Jesus, Master, heal us!”? While nine of the men got what they wanted, one man received more than he could have ever imagined possible.
The appropriate response to Jesus’ saving mercy is not a presumption that it was something we deserve – much like the unworthy servant in 17:7-10 – but genuine gratitude and pure praise of God for His saving mercy. The Samaritan was the one who had truly seen. Thus he was the one who truly believed.
Minister to Students and Recreation
First Baptist Church, Lufkin, TX
Tags: faith, healing, lepers, moved