Going Deeper Stewards: 10 – 1 = 9 Bad Stewards Luke 17:19
Rise and go; your faith has made you well. These are some of the most frequently quoted words of Jesus and deservedly so. But they call up a number of questions when read in context. Ten lepers cry out “... in a loud voice, Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” All are commanded to go to and have priests confirm cleansing; they are healed on their way; only one returns to thank Jesus and praise God. Yet he is the one to whom the words, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well ” are addressed. What is he being made well from? Wasn’t he healed already? What about the other nine, don’t they need further healing? Surely they all need more of Jesus, right? If we look at the words and actions we start to find answers to these questions. Luke 17 finds Jesus travelling “along the border between Samaria and Galilee .” He was in a ‘no man’s land’, between two different cultures and it is here that he encounters this group of lepers. The ten lepers call out to him with one voice. Forced to live apart from their families, their friends and society as a whole, they cling together in their own community. They were used to living a life as laid out by Leviticus 13: wearing torn clothes, long loose hair, and crying out ‘unclean, unclean’ if approached. They were totally isolated and their basic human need for contact had forced them into this unified group.
Yet, one of the group was different, an outsider within a group of outsiders. Let’s join these men as they cry out to Jesus and are told to ‘show themselves to the priests’. As they set off on their journey they were cleansed, healed. Their skin feels different, they feel different. There’s time to turn back, to thank Jesus, to praise God, but the pull of family, friends and community is too strong. They are fixed on their purpose to get the official word from the priests. Only one of them turns back to give thanks to God:
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him ─ and he was a Samaritan. You see, the other nine’s need to connect to people and places was greater than the desire to praise God. They are physically healed but still diseased, gripped by the overwhelming desire for human community. The call of community becomes allconsuming, a form of idolatory. Jesus exclaims in response, “’Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’” The nine lepers love community more than the God who healed them. Our Samaritan was always an outsider: his beliefs were different, he was a leper, and he was a leper among lepers. This allows him to see the miracle that Jesus is. He worships God not healing. He rises and goes, with Jesus. Our nine lepers are bad stewards not just because they don’t give thanks. They are bad stewards because they take what they are given and don’t give back: they choose to worship and praise the gods of community and family rather than Lord Jesus. They walk away from the fullness of life in God’s kingdom.
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