“As Jesus journeyed toward Jerusalem, he passed through the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee. As Jesus entered a village, ten lepers approached, but made sure to keep a safe distance. They cried out, ‘Jesus, Master, show us some mercy!’ Jesus saw them and said, ‘Go and let the priests examine you.’ So, they went and were made clean along the way. But one of them, once he realized that he was healed, turned around and began to shout out praises to God. He flung himself at the feet of Jesus and said, ‘Thank you so much!’ This one was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Weren’t there ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Can you believe that only this foreigner has paused to give God the glory?’ So, Jesus said to the Samaritan, ‘Stand up and begin the rest of your life. Through faith you’ve been made well.’”
For the last eight and half chapters of Luke’s gospel, Jesus has had his eyes firmly fixed on Jerusalem and the new exodus that he will accomplish there. But as he presses on towards his destiny, his eyes are also open to what his Father may have in store for him along the way. Moving through the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee, he couldn’t find himself more on the margins of mainstream Jewish society if he tried. And as he enters this little village, ten men who are very much on the fridge of community life, cry out to this one they recognize as their master, hoping that he might grant them mercy - hoping that they might be healed. Jesus sees them and their plight, and in keeping with Mosaic orthodoxy, he commands the lepers to go and show themselves to the priest so that once their healing is confirmed, they can be restored back into the life of their community. Only at this point, they’ve yet to be healed. But, in faith, the ten obey Jesus and set out to find one of the local priests. As they go, they are healed.
No doubt, once the nine Jewish lepers realize they’ve been healed, they speed up their pace to get to the priest and begin their lives anew. They have places to go, people to see, things to do, and lives to relive. They’ve been isolated from their friends and family for so long. Jesus’ gift of cleansing will enable them to be outsiders no more. These nine Jewish lepers have acted in faith. They’re obeying Jesus’ and Moses’ command. They’re doing the right thing and undoubtedly, they’ll soon be reunited with their family and friends. They are cleansed and this is a good thing. But nevertheless, they’ve missed out on an opportunity. And as so often is the case, a stronger faith is found through an unexpected person.
Despite the stereotypes and judgments hurled at the Samaritans, only this foreigner takes the time to pause, to lift up his eyes and his voice in worship to God the Father, and to fall at the feet of his Master and Savior in gratitude. We can learn so much at unexpected times, in unexpected places, and through unexpected people. Time and time again, the strongest form of faith is found on the margins rather than in the mainstream.
Like the ten lepers in this story, we often cry out to Jesus, asking him to show us mercy and to cleanse us and heal us. This is a good thing. We should be quick to do so. And like the lepers, we can be sure that Jesus sees us and hears our cries. Like the nine, we might be quick to get on with our lives, including obeying God and doing the right thing. Our days are filled with work and responsibility. We’re busy providing for our families and meeting urgent needs. We’re bustling here and there – to and fro – doing good things – doing the right things – doing even religious things. But, if we’re not careful, like the Jewish lepers, we might fail to pause and offer God our worship and our praise. If we’re too busy living life, even doing good things for God, we might fail to take the time to thank God’s Son for his deliverance. We might find ourselves missing the forest for the trees. As the Westminster Catechism reminds us, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” The means are important, but we must never lose sight of the end. We should spend at least as much time praising and thanking God for what he’s already done in our lives, as the time we spend in asking him to do the things that he’s not yet done. God calls us to be faithful. But as the apostle Paul consistently tells us, God’s will for our lives is that we might also be thankful. And one of the primary motivations for mission is to bring worship to God where it’s presently lacking.
So, let’s keep this story in the forefront of our minds. Let’s lookout along the borderlands of our world for those lessons we might learn in unexpected places through unexpected people. And in the midst of living life and obeying God, let’s be sure to occasionally pause and take time to praise God for who he is and to thank him for what he’s already done. We have much for which to be thankful and our God is forever worthy of our praise.