“You are the leper"
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
"On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." (Luke 17:11-13) These men had seemingly no reason to be thankful. They were lepers. They were outcasts. Jewish law decreed that these men could not enter the village unless they were healed. They were forced to leave their friends, family, and jobs. Family and friends were not allowed to have contact with them. They were lepers. They were physically and spiritually infectious. Their skin disease could spread. Religiously...they were leprous because of their sin. That sinfulness could spread as well. And so they were cast out of the village...outsiders to their own people...unable to be with those they loved.
These men were desperate. They missed those they loved. They longed to embrace their wives and children...their mothers and fathers. They saw Jesus coming. While they didn't believe Jesus was God...they still cried out to Him as their teacher; their master. They cried out "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." Help us! Heal us! Restore us! You are our last hope.
"When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed." (Luke 17:14) These men trusted Jesus. They believed in His words that they would be healed. They went to the temple to be examined by the priests just as they were instructed to do. Just as Jesus promised they were healed. I can only imagine the excitement these men had when they could see their skin was healed. Maybe they ran a little faster, shouted with joy, exclaimed their happiness as they raced to see the priest...so that they could be declared clean and embrace their loved ones they have longed to hold. Maybe it wasn't that these men weren't grateful...but they were caught up in their desire to be with family.
Each and every one of us is the leper in our text. We have been stricken by a different leprosy...we have been stricken by sin. Sin destroys. Sin causes all kinds of problems. Because of sin there is sickness and disease in this world. Because of sin many of our loved ones die and are taken away from us. Because of sin people hurt one another, murder one another, and fight with one another. Sin wrecks relationships of friendships, love, marriage and family. Sin causes us to be outcasts...even from our friends and family. Sin is running rampant. Just look at what sin has done around us. Just look at what sin has done to Ferguson, MO.
Listen to the words of New Orleans Saints’ tight end Benjamin Watson: "SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn,” Watson concluded. “BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind.”
Just like the lepers we have only Jesus to turn to and hope in for healing. Just like the lepers we cry out, as we did this morning, Lord, have mercy upon us! And just like the lepers we are healed. But which leper are we?
"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. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:15-19)
I do believe that all 10 of the lepers were thankful for being healed. I'm sure they all rejoiced to be able to return to their loved ones. But only one recognized where the healing truly came from. Only one recognized that this Jesus wasn't just a prophet or miracle worker. Only one came back...and not only thanked Jesus...but fell face first at Jesus' feet. This Samaritan...this man considered by the Jews to be a half-breed and outcast...recognized that Jesus was his Lord and Savior. This man fell face first in order to worship and praise his Lord.
And then something extraordinary happens. Something incredible takes place. Jesus tells the man "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:19). It doesn't sound like much. But in the original language...these words carried more meaning. Jesus proclaims to this Samaritan man: "Ἀναστὰς." The word means to resurrect. Jesus tells this Samaritan who is face first on the ground...to resurrect; his faith had made him well. There in that text is the language of baptism, forgiveness, and life eternal. There in that text is the promise of salvation! Yes, this man came back to give thanks for the healing of leprosy...but more importantly he came back to give thanks and praise for the gift of faith and the healing from his sinfulness.
Why be in Church on Thanksgiving Day. Today isn't a Church holiday...it's a national holiday. It was designated so that people could give thanks...to anyone or anything. People all over this nation indeed spend the day giving thanks for the many temporal gifts they have received...house, home, friends, family, jobs, etc. So should we. However, we should also give thanks for the most important gift: Faith, life, salvation.
So today, I am reminded of how important this gift is. I'm reminded of my son's baptism. I full know that Aaron is a gift from God...but there is something more than that to give thanks for. You see Aaron was born in the image of his father. Aaron was born dead to sin, an outcast, separated from God...because of my sinfulness passed down. That doesn't give me hope...that burdens me with shame.
Yet I know that in the same way God gave me life and salvation through water and His Word in Holy Baptism...He does the same for my son. I know that as I brought Aaron before the font dead to sin...that he would be raised clothed in Christ, a child of God, who had been given the gift of faith and the Holy Spirit that dwells in his heart. So this day I give thanks to God not only for having a house and home, friends and family, a son and wife whom I love, but most importantly for the gift of faith given to me...given to my son...and given to you in Baptism.
At that font Jesus says to you and all who have been baptized: "Rise and go your way [Ἀναστὰς; Resurrect!]; your faith has made you well." (Luke 17:19). Have a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving. Give thanks to God for all His gifts. Share the wonderful news of Christ with all your loved ones. That they too may give thanks to God for all His gifts...especially the gift of salvation and life. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.