13 August 2019
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
Rush United Methodist Church
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.
And he was a Samaritan.
Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
A Story of Kings
There once was a commander of the Syrian army
By the name of Naaman.
He was loved by his men, for
He was strong and
The Lord, Yahweh, our God, brought him victory,
Though Naaman was a pagan and knew him not.
Naaman developed a disfiguring, communicable disease.
He suffered in isolation and shame.
How could he lead men if none would come near?
There was a great prophet of Yahweh
Who had developed the reputation as a healer.
The prophet lived in Israel,
South of the Syrian border,
His name was Elisha.
Naaman had to see Elisha
Even though Syria and Israel were adversaries,
As they are to this day.
The healer was behind enemy lines.
The intersection of Naaman and the Lord was heating up.
King Joram of Israel was suspicious of the king of Syria,
Who requested safe passage for his commander to visit Elisha.
Was this a pretext for starting a war?
What should he do?
Fear, anxiety, and uncertainty overwhelms King Joram.
He tears his shirt in frustration.
The crown’s concerns spread throughout the kingdom.
The prophet Elisha hears the news.
He sends for Naaman,
That he might come to know Yahweh;
The source of his victories,
The Lord of prophecy,
The God of healing.
Elisha tells him
“Go, wash in the Jordan seven time, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean,” (2 Kings 5:10)
You’ve got to be kidding.
Desperation overcomes skepticism.
Naaman washes himself just as he was told.
He is healed of his leprosy.
At the intersection of Naaman and the Lord,
There is healing.
He renounces his former pagan god and
Claims the God of Israel,
“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel!” (2 Kings 5:15)
Naaman comes to the Lord and
At the intersection of faith and praise.
800 years later
Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem
Through the land of Elisha.
Leprosy was a disease of legend,
So easily transmitted and feared,
It left its victims in forced isolation.
Ten people with leprosy like Naaman approach Jesus.
All the while, they keep their distance.
A touch means becoming unclean and a time-consuming trip to the ceremonial baths and coming before the local priests.
Jesus was Jewish.
They were Samaritans.
They shared a common belief in Yahweh,
As do we.
Jesus was widely known throughout the region as a healer.
He attracted large crowds.
Jesus had something
These ten people with leprosy wanted:
To be cleaned, healed, and restored to normal life.
In short, to be made well.
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” they cried. (17:13)
If Yahweh can heal Naaman,
So too, can the Lord use Jesus to heal us.
The region between Galilee in the north
And Judah and Jerusalem in the south
Had changed in the 800 years between Elisha and Jesus.
Samaria had been dominated by faithful Jews
From the 12 tribes of Israel,
Namely Ephraim and Manasseh.
About eighty years after Elisha
The region fell to the conquering Assyrians,
Who deported the best and brightest of the population to exile.
Assyrians settled in,
Intermarried with those who remained behind to tend the land.
To the Jews in Galilee and Jerusalem
The Samaritans became known as mixed raced collaborators with the enemy.
To talk about Samaritans
Is to bring up the topic of racism.
The divide deepened.
Most Samaritans remained faithful to Yahweh,
Yet were prohibited to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem.
They established their own local Temple first in Shechem,
Then to Shiloh.
To the faithful Jews in the time of Jesus,
Samaritans were treated as pagans.
Discriminated because of their mixed race;
Hated for their collaboration with the enemy;
Dismissed as pagans.
It is in this cultural context
Jesus enters when he stops in a village between Samaria and Galilee.
“Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” they cried. (17:13)
Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan,
Also unique to the Gospel of Luke? (10:29-37)
When held in contrast with this narrative of Jesus healing ten people with leprosy
It is as if this
Miracle of healing becomes secondary.
When held in context with the narrative of the healing of Naaman
It is as if the Gospel is painting a far greater trajectory
Of God’s intervention in salvation history.
A miracle may be pointing us to something more profound.
This story of healing
Reveals a deeper message of unlikely gratitude.
Allow me to bring laser focus on the one Samaritan
Who returned to Jesus.
“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan.”
The text appears relatively simple and straight forward.
But, consistent with Luke, let us pay attention to details.
The first detail is the healed man
Came to an immediate awareness of God;
A display of God’s presence, power, and mercy.
He saw that he was healed.
For us today,
Are we as self-aware of God’s presence, power, and mercy?
Or, have our spiritual senses been so dulled by the world
That we’ve lost most of our situational awareness of God?
Have our spiritual senses been dulled by our passive approach to discipleship
That we’ve grown distant from the only source of healing,
The only solution to the fractures of the world
And the brokenness in our life?
Beloved, let us adjust our sets and tune our spiritual antenna.
Let us be aware of God’s presence, power, and mercy.
The second detail
Is that the man healed of leprosy changes his orientation towards God.
He walked away, but then
He turned back.
He returned to Jesus.
Oh, it is so easy to be healed by the Lord
And to simply move on,
As did the nine others who were made clean
But who failed to return.
Experiencing the presence, power, mercy, and grace of God’s healing intervention in our lives
Is an opportunity to repent
And to engage in the hard work of discipleship.
To turn back requires the intentional desire to change and grow in spiritual depth
Even though every one of us naturally resist change.
Repentance and change always begins with the self;
It always begins with me.
The third detail has much to teach us.
As the cleansed and healed man made his way back to Jesus,
He praises God with a loud voice!
Praise is recognition:
The source of healing is the object of praise,
None other than the Lord, our God.
Praise is reassurance:
Instilling confidence of faith within
And bearing testimony to others of
God’s greatness, glory, and mercy.
Praise is admiration of
God’s power, grace, and love.
And he did it loudly!
Shouldn’t our praise be loud, too!
Perhaps the cry room in the back should be reserved
For those who want to praise God in silence,
Because this sanctuary should be rocking!
The fourth detail is instructive.
The healed man prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet.
Do we place ourselves in a position of submission before Jesus?
Do we listen to his teaching at his feet?
Do we make our selves vulnerable before the Lord,
Placing ourselves completely, whole, utterly in the mercy of God?
The final detail is all about gratitude.
The healed man,
A former foe,
One who had been considered a pagan like Naaman,
Gave thanks for what the Lord had done.
None were more unlikely to extend gratitude to God
Than this Samaritan man.
Yet, he did.
So, too, can you and me.
Beloved members and friends, guests and visitors,
The Gospel invites us today
To fill our hearts with gratitude.
Thank the Lord,
For all that has been, and
For where our spiritual journey has led us
To this day and time and place.
Thank the Lord,
For his faithfulness.
God keeps his covenants.
The One who created us stays in love with us.
The Lord’s faithfulness gives us assurance,
That if we follow wherever God is leading,
We will remain in God’s presence,
Strengthened by God’s power,
Blessed by God’s mercy and grace.
In this season of thanksgiving,
Let us thank the Lord
That, yesterday I may have been at war with God,
Emotionally and spiritually scared as a man with leprosy,
But today, I’ve been given a second chance
To turn back, and
Return to the feet of Jesus,
Cleansed, cured, and restored,
With a heart at peace.
“Get up and go on your way;” Jesus tells us.
“Your faith has made you well.” (17:19)
Our Lord’s invitation to us today
Is to place ourselves at
The intersection of faith and praise and gratitude.
That’s where we meet the Lord.
2 thoughts on ““Unlikely Gratitude””
Amen.. This is our topic last devotion. And to think that the grateful person is a stranger (Samaritan)! Praise God for His word and thank you for sharing.
Thank you for your kind words. Blessings!