The gospel writer of Luke tells the story of ten lepers who encounter Jesus travelling between Galilee and Samaria. Because of their illness, they were social outcasts, forbidden to associate with those who were considered ritually clean. But Jesus’ fame was spreading throughout the region and they had most likely heard stories of his healing. So they approach him carefully, keeping their distance, and they beg him for mercy. Jesus then says something curious: ‘go and show yourselves to the priests.’
In praying with this scripture I found myself wondering what the lepers thought when given this admonishment. Jesus makes no promise of healing, he simply gives them a task which they obey. But, did they pause in a moment of incredulity? Did they ask Jesus how he expected them to show themselves to the priests when they were not allowed anywhere near the Temple? We don’t know, Luke gives us no further commentary; he simply says: “and as they went they were made clean.”
I can remember many occasions growing up where I was given advice by my parents at which I turned up my nose because it seemed implausible. Just because the eye of the stove is not glowing red doesn’t mean that it won’t burn you if you touch it. My mother knew this, yet I balked because it didn’t look hot to me. Yet even though I did what she advised me against, she put salve on my burn and bandaged my finger so that I could heal. I don’t recall if I ever told her thank you for bandaging my finger as well as my pride.
The lepers in today’s story did follow Jesus’ instructions and in the doing were made clean. One of them, a Samaritan, turns back to thank Him. Touched by this Jesus says: “get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” The restoration to health wasn’t in response to the expressed thanks of this Samaritan, but rather in the initial request for mercy. Jesus healing of the lepers was pure grace and He didn’t rescind this act of mercy because the other nine failed to say thank you. That is the ineffable mystery of God’s love, a love given in spite of our deserving it, and that is very good news.
I’d like to think that the other nine were indeed thankful when they realized what Jesus had done. I know that I have been on the receiving end of many kindnesses some of which I realized long after the fact and didn’t get to express my thanks personally. Maybe you can relate. How has God been at work in your life under the radar? How has God blessed you, nurtured you, cared for you, surprised you? Perhaps there was a time in your life when you were facing into a difficult situation and wondered just how you would make it, yet here you are today, on the other side. And while you may have not come through unscathed, God was ready to apply salve and bandage your wounds in order for you to heal. Luke’s point I think is that gratitude completes the act of healing. How has God’s grace been present in your life? As we gather around the altar in a moment, offer thanks to God. It’s not too late!
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