Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 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!"
When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."
Admittedly, I've spent little time digging into this passage. On first glance, it seems like an obvious example of why it's important to be thankful. Done and done.
Sure -- on the surface, that is a logical conclusion. But today we learned that most scholars think that is a rather shallow reading. What is the far more important point is that of salvation.
First of all, I needed to pay attention. Earlier parables about ten virgins tend to make me reflexively respond to this story as yet another parable. But hey -- this was an actual event in the earthly ministry of Jesus.
As Jesus instructed them, the lepers head off to the priests in order to testify to a miracle of God. But interestingly enough, only one comes back to thank Jesus. Here is where my bell got rung.
Previous readings had never made me notice some important details:
- the one who returned was a foreigner - a Samaritan.
- the Samaritan was united to the other lepers previously, because they all commiserated in their malady. Since they all had leprosy, they were thus united as outcasts. But now that they are healed, the Samaritan is no longer one of them. Ironically, in his healing he is then shut out, because the Jewish priests would not have received him, and Jews (the other lepers) would no longer associate with him as a Samaritan.
- his faith made him well. In the original Greek, the phrase made him well is actually ("sohd-zo"), which is translated most other times in the New Testament as saved.
Once I realized the exclusion that the Samaritan experienced upon physical healing I was grieved. How often do Christians huddle together in exclusive "clubs" for the sake of fellowship? How often do we shut others out of deeper blessing because we want to enjoy our own blessings by ourselves?
The Samaritan came back to his Lord in praise, repentance (he threw himself at his feet) and thanksgiving. Then he receives salvation! Yes, the others received great blessing. But it appears that only when we throw ourselves at the feet of Christ, acknowledging our profound needs not only physically but spiritually, that we are truly made well. I was humbled by this.
In response during today's service we were invited to bring those things in our lives that require deeper healing -- regrets, wounds, resentments and the like, and fall at the feet of Jesus in praise, repentance and thanksgiving. It was a rich time of humility and worship.
Ask yourself the same question I asked myself in silence, on my knees, today: Are you like the nine lepers, or like the Samaritan one who came back?