Lectionary Reflection: Luke 17:11-19: One to Remember

Ten to one against.  Not very good odds for us normal people.  Still, there are three things in his little story worthy of note.

1.         How did Jesus respond when only one returned?  Did he get mad?  No.  Was he upset? No.  Did he in any way suggest the other nine would be in trouble for their lack of gratitude?  No.  He pointed out the fact to any who were listening, and then he focused on the one that did return.  How might we respond if we do good for someone and they don’t seem properly grateful?  Maybe not so well?……………

God knows how fickle we are – how ungrateful by nature.  God knows ALL our faults and failings.  There is no surprise there.  He did not even suggest that when good things happen in our lives we should be like the one in ten and make sure we give thanks.  No.  He didn’t say that.  He left it open for us to decide.  I hate it when he does that………….

2.         WARNING.  SPECULATION ALERT

Why did the nine not return?  Nothing is said about that.  All I can do is peek at human nature and suggest some options: fear on two counts, embarrassment, and other concerns.

Could they have been so thrilled with being clean they immediately went to loved ones and told the good news to them.  Now they could get back to “normal” life, whatever that is.  So they became consumed by life – things other than God.  Like, that never happens to us?

Could they have been ashamed of their having needed help?  People used to be ashamed about needing help.  That was not a good thing.  We all need help at one time or another and so it is nothing to be ashamed of.  Of course, these days there are plenty of people who have no shame not only about receiving help, but it’s like they are entitled to it.  (Once upon a time my kids were 12, 15, 18, and 21 so I know whereof I speak).  Anyway, I felt it was important to point out that people used to be embarrassed or ashamed by the idea that they needed help.

Fear on two counts?  Well, first there is God.  Yes, they wanted to be healed.  Yes, they heard about Jesus the miracle worker.  Yes, they asked and were willing to do what they were told, but it had to be a shock when it ACTUALLY happened.  If they did not feel the fear of God in that moment, they never would. 

Then there must have been some fear of Jesus.  If I go back I might say or do the wrong thing and he might take back his healing.  If I go back he might ask me to do something in return.  (And we have never imagined these things in our own lives in certain situations)?  If I go back, he might even ask me to follow him.  My family has suffered without me long enough already.  He might even expect me to get close to him.  There’s a frightening thought.  Getting close to Jesus, the powerful miracle worker. 

And how many ways have you seen your fellow Christians hold back, keep back, keep God at arm’s length?…………

3.         One curious note.  Jesus said the faith of this man healed him.  But he just pointed out that the man was a Samaritan, a foreigner (NIV).  That had to be a poke in the eye for your average Jew that might have been listening.  A Samaritan!?  How could a Samaritan have the kind of faith that heals?  Samaritans (as my kids might have said when they were young) had “cooties” and so were untouchable, even without a skin disease.  A Samaritan?

Well, Faith is a gift of God………

But that is even worse!  That means God cares about Samaritans enough to give them the faith to be healed.  Maybe God even loves Samaritans.  Oh, the Jews listening must have been hot, but for any gentiles that might read Luke it is another story.  You see in several places in Luke’s gospel he makes a point of cataloging times in Jesus’ life when he reaches out to non-Jews with love.  This is a good thing, and it is important to know for us today as well:

You see, it says NO ONE is outside of God’s love and no one is hopeless and everyone is welcome to be healed.  If I can paraphrase Tiny Tim: “God loves us, everyone.”  Hmmm.  I can preach on that.

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