[The healed leper] prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:16 (CEB)
Well, of course the healed leper thanked Jesus! Wouldn’t any of us do the same in similar circumstances? Probably. Oh – wait a minute – he was a Samaritan. Does that mean he really wasn’t worthy of being healed by Jesus? Did he just catch some of the wind blowing his way as he left with the nine others? Did Jesus make a mistake by healing someone who was of a different race than he was?
No, no, and no. Jesus wasn’t looking at him as unworthy because he saw everyone as worthy of God’s grace. Everyone was included in God’s kingdom. Luke points out that this was a Samaritan because the nine others (whom we presume to be Jews, like Jesus) went on their way and did what Jesus had told them to do – go show themselves to the priests.
But this Samaritan couldn’t even contain himself! He was so thankful that he turned around and fell on his knees before the one who had healed him of his disease. Not only was he healed physically, but he was also healed spiritually.
One of my best friends and I used to have a discussion about who deserved God’s grace. She would ask if someone who repented and turned his or her life over to Jesus on their deathbed, would that person be forgiven and find salvation. I always said yes, but she would argue that it wasn’t fair. If they had spent their entire life doing things that were against Jesus’ teachings, breaking the Ten Commandments knowingly and willfully, they shouldn’t be able to just say, “Forgive me” and it’s done.
Well, it isn’t quite that simple, and it certainly isn’t cheap grace. Grace is offered to those who genuinely have a change of heart and turn their lives around, even if it’s on their deathbed. I would also tell her that it isn’t ours to judge, and only God knows what is on that person’s heart. It’s ultimately between that person and God.
Whatever race, gender, ethnicity, or age we are, grace is offered to us every moment of every day. Jesus offered someone who was considered “less than,” an enemy of Jerusalem, and someone with whom the Jews didn’t want to associate healing and grace. He received it with joy and praise and let Jesus know how grateful he was.
What about us? How much grace do we offer others, even those who are different from us?
How do we praise even when it seems like things are lousy?
In what ways do we fall on our knees every day, regardless of our circumstances to give thanks to the one who offers grace, healing, and life?