Ten lepers cry out to Jesus with one voice: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” All ten share in the same condition. They are all leprous. They are all outcasts. Cut off from society. All of them. Yet they had faith in Jesus to heal them. “Have mercy on us!”
"Ten" is a perfect number. All together, they cry out for mercy but at a distance. They had nothing left to lose.
They were all from the same village. Thus, they knew each other. They had a collective sense of community among themselves. Not based on faith. Nine were Jewish, one a Samaritan. The Samaritans, they believed in the Bible, at least some of it. They believed that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. They observed and followed the Law. Specifically they were strict adherents to the 10 commandments. They believed that Messiah would come.
But they also believed that Judaism in general and the Jewish Torah specifically had been corrupted by time and no longer served the duties the LORD mandated on Mount Sinai.
While the Jews viewed the Temple Mount as the most sacred location in their faith, the Samaritans regard Mount Gerizim as their holiest site; claiming it was there; at that sacred space, that Moses had originally intended for the Israelites to worship.
By the time Jesus arrived on the scene there wasn’t much love lost between Jews and Samaritans. In fact, they viewed each other with suspicion and mistrust. To the Jews, a Samaritan was more revolting than a Gentile (pagan). Samaritans were half-breeds who defiled the true religion. The Samaritans meanwhile saw themselves as the true descendants of Israel and preservers of the true religion. They considered the Jerusalem temple and the priests corrupted and therefore illegitimate.
But on that day, they all stood at a distance. This terminal disease, leprosy, had not only brought them together. From it, they had formed a common bond. They each knew the outcome. Theirs was a terminal disease. And without divine intervention, their common bond would be their common end.
They didn't have FacebookTM, Twitter, and Instagram back then. There weren't any inspirational posts for them to share as in, "I might have Leprosy but Leprosy doesn't have me!" At least, they had each other.
Lepers were like death-row inmates. They were as good as dead. - Dead men walking. For death itself, was in their flesh. Lesions, sores, and scabs, bore witness to their decay as living symbols of death. They were unclean.
As such, they were shunned from society. They were cast out of the community; barred access to home, market and synagogue.
They literally had nothing. No home. No income. No future. Nothing.
Their leprosy made them dead to family and friends. Leprosy made them dead to religious practice. Only a cure for their leprosy could bring them life. But cures were rare. So rare, in fact, that the rabbis of the day considered the cure of a leper equal with raising a person from the dead. Lepers were the living dead.
To be diagnosed with leprosy was more of a social pronouncement rather than medical. Folks with Leprosy were suspect. Almost like AIDS victims a quarter-century ago. Folks kept their distance, on a number of levels. An explanation wasn't necessary. Everyone knew...they were dirty.
The men in today’s Gospel reading didn’t call out to Jesus just to say “Hello.” They called out because they were sick. In fact, they were dying a very slow death.
And it is precisely those people whom our LORD came to rescue. Perhaps the greatest virtue of the Samaritan was his sense of self. The man knew precisely what he was. And what he needed. More to the point, he knew where to get it.
They pleaded for help. "Jesus, Master, Have mercy!" That prayer has been prayed across the centuries.
"Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief!" -Mark 9:24
"Lord, I am not worthy for You to enter my house, yet say the word, and my servant shall be healed..." –Matthew 8:8
"Yes, Lord, it is not right to take the children's food and toss it to the dogs, yet even the dogs, eat the crumbs which fall from the Master's table." – Matthew 15:27
"Lord, save me!" – Matthew 14:30
"Lord, remember me when You enter Your kingdom." – Luke 23:42
And to this day the faithful simply pray; "O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us, and grant us Your peace." - Agnus Dei
Kyrie Elision...Lord have mercy! – Kyrie
They each asked for mercy. And they received…mercy. This is exactly what David teaches when he reminds us, “…surely goodness and mercy shall follow me…” Yet the goodness and mercy of God do not follow us like a good little puppy dog. They gallop after us like a celestial stallion. They chase us down like the hounds of heaven. They stay hot on our heels. The goodness and mercy of our Savior chase us all the way to heaven’s gate into the waiting arms of our Father.
They each went to the priest. They did this at Jesus' command. Which must have sounded quite strange. You only went to the priest as an affirmation that you were in remission. Only the priest could verify that a cure had come. Only the priest could pronounce you "good to go."
Jesus commanded they go to the priest for He knew, in advance of the miracle what would happen next.
When Jesus says, “Go!” That’s a complete sentence. It is one thing to feel grateful; it is another thing to express it.
The louder you called for help, all the louder you should praise God. The Greek word used to describe this Samaritan giving thanks εὐχαριστῶ is the same word that is translated as “Eucharist.”
The Eucharist is public thanks! Jesus is the true healer. Live your lives in perpetual thanksgiving and praise. At His table. And in your life.
The event reported in this Gospel happened while Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to lay down His life as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. The guilt of your selfishness and pride rested on His shoulders. The hands that in other cases healed with a touch were soon to be nailed to the cross in payment for our ingratitude and loveless hearts.
The voice that told the lepers to show themselves to the priest would soon cry out in pain and agony, “I thirst”, and “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” as Jesus endured the full punishment of body and soul that we all deserve.
Yet, that same voice would sound forth again after His resurrection, announcing that the forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to Jews and Samaritans and all the nations of the earth.
Christ forgives your many sins. And it is the message of the cross, which tells you that God understands you and your suffering, for He took them upon himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. From the cross the Savior declares, 'I love you. I know the heartaches, the sorrows, and the pain that you feel. But I love you.'
Jesus, the author of life planned every circumstance for these men. Likewise, He orders your days; He directs your path - regardless. Regardless of outward circumstances. Regardless of those obstacles 'in your road'. Regardless of past experiences and present details
The Lord remains faithful. Each was cleansed along the way. No sooner had they arrived at the Tempe they receive a clean bill of health. Restored, redeemed, forgiven. And forever free.
So how about you on this Thanksgiving? You respond by loving God and serving your neighbor. It’s that simple. “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and mind.’ Likewise, serve your neighbor in love.
The Samaritan experienced grace. For Grace is karma’s worst nightmare. With grace, we receive what we don’t deserve. And because of grace, you demonstrate mercy –“even to the least of these.”
And who are the least among you? That’s for you to figure out. And when you do figure it out; and you will -serve them, love them, show compassion on them, with mercy and grace -always.
People of God – Love God; serve your neighbor – be a sermon in shoes! Blessed Thanksgiving! And All God’s people said – Amen!