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LSB Proper 23C Sermon – Luke 17:11-19

October 10, 2016

October 9, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

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?”

Jesus’ question isn’t new to Him. The same thoughts are held by others who have shown generosity, but who don’t see much response from those whom they have helped. The reaction of thanksgiving doesn’t have to be great. But some sort of acknowledgment is expected. Yet, that is lacking among those whom Jesus has helped. He had healed ten lepers, making them clean and whole again. But what is it that Jesus sees after performing this great act of mercy? “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?’”

Yet, for all the lack of response given by the other nine, the great reaction of the one leper is noted. That great reaction of thanks becomes part of the record for all time: “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.” And not only is the great thanksgiving by the healed Samaritan leper recorded; he receives the commendation that all of the LORD’s people desire to hear from Jesus: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

This event from Jesus’ ministry stands as a teaching moment for all who have benefitted from His work. There are two major parts to the Gospel Reading, even though it is a short section of Scripture. The first part focuses on the lepers’ statements to Jesus and how He answers. Remember how the text began: “On the way to Jerusalem [Jesus] 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.’” The lepers want Jesus to help them in their plight. They have trusted what had they had heard about Jesus’ ability to heal and make well, answering the pleas of those who were diseased. So the lepers cry out for Jesus to do the same for them.

And how did Jesus react? “When He saw them He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.” Jesus removes their illness. The disease that plagued them is lifted. Cleansing is given where only uncleanness had reigned. This is the remedy that Jesus gives to His creation that has been affected by sin and rebellion. Leprosy was just one more evidence of sin’s effect; one of the long list of symptoms that Jesus encountered. But the solution is given, for that is why the Creator of the world became part of it. Jesus’ presence is to bring deliverance. The lepers were correct about that.

So it also is for you. For you are not immune from the effects of sin and rebellion. No, the symptoms of sin are seen among you. That is the reason why our congregation has that list of people for whom we pray printed in the bulletin. The homebound are victims of age and invalidity. Others suffer in mind, body, or spirit, bearing up under mental, physical, and spiritual afflictions. Service in the armed forces is necessary to counter gross evil in this world. And while they are not listed in the bulletin, we offer our prayers for those who suffer from natural disaster this week, particularly those in Haiti and in the Southeastern United States.

But the effects of sin and rebellion aren’t always so drastic. They can be more mundane. Strife within the home. Dissolving of marriages or other relationships. Having reputations damaged. Being mistreated at work. The list can go on. Yet, in the midst of all these things there stands the great promise that a greater day will arise, that a full restoration of order will come. That is the promise that stems from Jesus’ work in the world. The promise flows from the atonement that He has made for sin and the resurrection that has shown Him to be powerful over the greatest of sin’s effects—death itself.

Because you have heard this about Jesus, because that is the great Gospel that has been proclaimed to you, your cries go out to Jesus. You say to Him here: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” That is your prayer when you call out for forgiveness of your sins. That is the prayer Jesus answers. He cleanses you from the leprosy of the soul. And because He does so, you have a place in the life of the world to come where the full restoration will be given.

But there is a second part to the Gospel Reading. The second part is all about the reaction to the miracle that Jesus has performed. As noted earlier, only the one leper truly realizes what has been done for him. Yes, they all notice that they have been cleansed. And it is most likely that they all knew that Jesus had something to do with it; that He had answered their cries for mercy. But the full realization is only shown by one of them: “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.”

When Jesus asks the question to those around Him—“Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”—He is offering His commentary on what has taken place. It is not a good question that Jesus asks. No, it is a question that reveals disapproval for those who had not returned. Yes, Jesus praises the Samaritan leper: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” His desire is to give that commendation to all ten, not just to the one. Yet, He cannot do so.

This second part of the event teaches you about the reaction that your Lord desires to see from you. Now, if you are here in this congregation today, you are offering that response. For as much as you have prayed for Jesus to show mercy, you have also praised Him for it. That has been done in formal ways in the liturgy and the hymns. Through them, you also praise God with a loud voice. You will do more this morning as the Divine Service continues. You will even fall down at Jesus’ feet, as you kneel before His Body and Blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. These are weekly opportunities made available for you to offer the same response to Jesus that was given by the Samaritan leper.

So for those who are not taking advantage of that, the same questions can be asked by Jesus to them: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” It would be better not to have those questions asked by Jesus. No, that is not what you would want to hear. Instead, it is much better to receive the commendation: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” 

But there can be more to the response of thanksgiving than being present in the weekly gathering of Jesus’ disciples. Yes, being here is paramount. But the praise that Christians offer to their Lord includes activities beyond the 1–3 hours of being in Sunday School and Divine Service. Praise and thanksgiving are given to Jesus through the actions that you carry out during the week. Worship of Jesus happens as you carry out His commandments. This is part of the reasonable service you offer to Him. It is part of being living sacrifices.

So when you bring your offerings to the church, you are thanking Jesus for His work done for you. When you perform a charitable act for your neighbor, you are worshiping Jesus. When you live the new life of discipleship, you are expressing gratitude for what Jesus has made you. When you endure afflictions in this world while trusting in the promise of resurrection and everlasting restoration, you are also praising Him.

All those actions—whether done here in weekly worship or done in daily living—are rooted in knowing the truth of what has been given to you. They are done because you recognize that all good things come from the LORD. Nothing that you have is yours without the LORD having provided them. That includes the temporal blessings that He has bestowed to you. And it most definitely includes the great salvation that has been provided for you. Both the belief that you have in Jesus’ ability and the recognition that you have that Jesus has done this for you drive your actions. That is why you are here calling out for Jesus’ mercy, which He gives. That is why you are here praising Him for what He has done. That is why you also go out from here to live as Jesus’ disciples and offer your praise and thanksgiving in the acts that you do according to His will.

The Collect of the Day summed up well the theme of the Gospel Reading: “Almighty God, You show mercy to Your people in all their troubles. Grant us always to recognize Your goodness, give thanks for Your compassion, and praise Your holy name.” Part of that prayer has already been answered by what you have heard about Jesus and the merciful acts He has performed for you. The rest will be answered by your response to what He has done. Let it be a reaction that doesn’t result in Jesus’ questions being asked of you. Instead, let it be what receives His commendation: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

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