This sermon was delivered on Sunday, October 13, 2013 to two churches in the United Methodist Baldwin County Circuit: Bethel UMC and Pleasant Grove UMC.
11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus ‘feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (All Scripture, unless otherwise noted is from the English Standard Version)
From this passage I want to show how we’re like the lepers, we’re like the Samaritan, and, unfortunately, we’re like the nine who did not come back to thank Jesus.
Let’s look at how we’re like the lepers. Before we do so, let’s talk about leprosy—what is it? When the term leprosy is used in Scripture it generally refers to a variety of skin diseases, some highly contagious. This is why people so afflicted were shunned and segregated into leper colonies. Left untreated, leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Contrary to folklore, leprosy does not cause body parts to fall off, although they can become numb or diseased as a result of secondary infections; these occur as a result of the body’s defenses being compromised by the primary disease. Secondary infections, in turn, can result in tissue loss causing fingers and toes to become shortened and deformed, as cartilage is absorbed into the body.
Did you know, this is a freebie, that Armadillos carry the bacteria that causes leprosy and can be contracted by handling them or eating their meat—so, go home and get rid of that pet armadillo!
So, that’s leprosy.
Back to how we’re like the lepers…
William Barclay, a Biblical commentator has noted this unexpected effect on the ten lepers: “A common misfortune had broken down the racial & natural barriers. In the common tragedy of their leprosy they had forgotten they were Jews and Samaritans & remembered only they were men in need.”
Remember 911? Suddenly it didn’t matter if you liked your co-worker, your neighbor, etc. We were bound together in our common tragedy. Houses of worship were full as people came together and sought answers from each other and from God.
The same can be said of Katrina, the shuttle disasters and reaching way back, the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
We’re not lepers, (no one in this gathering, to my knowledge has leprosy) but we are afflicted. We’re afflicted with sin, an “incurable disease” that robs us of our vitality of who we’re really meant to be in God’s eyes. I said “incurable,” but it’s not really true. The same person who cured the lepers, cures us today.
The apostle Paul says, in Romans 6,
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
And in Romans 5:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
Do you see it? We’re set free of our sin affliction because Jesus Christ died for us! This is not a temporary fix, not an Old Testament band-aid that needs to be applied over and over.
Back to Romans 6:
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace
If we were to put a label on our “cure” it would be Grace. That’s how we’re like the lepers: we have an “incurable” disease that Jesus alone can cure.
Moving on to the Samaritan…how are we like the Samaritan?
I think there are three parallels between the Samaritan and us… let me explain:
First, the Samaritans were despised by the Jews.
In the same way…We were once separated from God because of our sin. Our hearts and minds kept us separated from God. Two passages to illustrate this:
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. • Genesis 6:5
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. • Romans 8:7-8
9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately sick
Who can understand it? • Jeremiah 17:9
By the way, in Scripture, the heart and mind are closely related. When the Bible uses the word “heart” it seldom, if ever means the organ that beats in our chests. Instead it usually refers to the center of one’s inner life and orientation to God, from which a person does all thinking, feeling, and choosing.
Second, this Samaritan was grateful, thankful and respectful.
In the same way…Are we thankful everyday, every-moment for our salvation? Do we really appreciate all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus?
I will not answer for you; but for me I will confess that I too often take my salvation for granted.
Third, some commentators say that when Jesus tells the Samaritan that “…your faith has made you well…” that Jesus is really saying (according to the Greek) “…your faith has saved you…” There is some thought that the Samaritan’s faith was saving faith.
In the same way…He has saved us, and……do you remember how you felt when you first believed? For most of us it was a joyful celebration and we wanted to be around other believers, we wanted to be obedient, we wanted to serve.
In short, we were thankful. Our hearts were full of gratitude. Like the Samaritan in our passage, we interrupted our lives to be thankful to the One who saved us. You see, the Samaritan could have, like the other nine, just kept going on with his life and gone to the priests, etc. After all, this is what Jesus told him to do. But he interrupted his life to let the One who “saved” him know how grateful he was.
Imagine the scene in your head:
“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus ‘feet, giving him thanks.”
Can you imagine, yourself, on the street, “praising God with a loud voice?” (Too much of that and they might take us away.)
But, we’re also like the nine who did not return:
Again, quoting from Barclay: “No story in all the gospels so poignantly shows human ingratitude. The lepers came to Jesus with desperate longing; he cured them; and nine never came back to give thanks. So often, once people have got what they want, they never come back.
Often we are ungrateful to God. In some bitter need we pray with desperate intensity; the time passes and we forget God. “
I don’t know about you, but I can speak for me. Often I forget who I am in Christ and Whose I am. I am like the foolish Galatians:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
You see, I lose sight of His grace and try to obtain God’s favor through good works… inevitably I fail. When I fail, it’s easy to become ungrateful for what I have in Him—
For you see, this is what I have in Him:
- All my sins, past, present and future, paid for in full.
- I am a child of God.
- Nothing can separate me from Him.
- All things will work together for good… the list could go on, but you get the point.
The point is: (just in case you’ve missed it): Our lives are to be lives of gratitude and thankfulness because we are under Grace, not Law.
Have you ever thought of what life would be like without Grace—if Jesus had never come? It would be life under the law—life in Old Testament times. But, I wonder if there would be life at all without Grace—even in the Old Testament we see, over and over examples of Grace. A vivid example is the Exodus: God, by His Grace, chose to save His people and rescue them from Egypt; they had not “earned” this rescue, it was pure Grace.
My prayer for you and for me is that we learn how to just relax in this Grace, to lay back in it much like we would a hammock.
Sometimes we do not rely on God’s grace but let evil desires become stronger than our desire to love Jesus; thus, we sin. Yet by the Spirit we may strengthen our desire for the Lord and so choose righteousness.
Pray that you would long to serve Him above all else.