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Thanks, I think

[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?

Thanks and Praise

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.”  Luke 17:11-19 (NRSV)

The story of the ten lepers is familiar to man people, and what most people remember is that one of the lepers, a Samaritan and not necessarily a desirable person to have around for any self-respecting Jewish person, turned around and praised God loudly, thanking Jesus for the healing.  However, the story is a little more complicated than that

Leprosy in Jesus day could have been any sort of skin disorder:  psoriasis, eczema, a red rash, or Hansen’s disease (no relation to me!).  Whenever someone ended up with something like this, they were banished outside the city gates, considered unclean, unapproachable, and ostracized from their community, family, friends, neighbors, and their own city or town.  Whenever someone approached, they were required to shout, “unclean, unclean” so the people would be able to pass by them at a safe distance. 

In this case, Jesus was passing by, and they must have heard of his reputation, so their cry became “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  (v. 13).  Although Jesus didn’t go over to touch them (which was often his pattern when healing people), he told them to go show themselves to the priests, and as they went, they discovered that they were clean.  They did as they were told, and they knew that seeing the priests would certify that they had been healed and would be able to be restored to their communities.

The one exception was the outcast among the outcasts, a Samaritan.  Relations between the Samaritans and the Jerusalem and Galilean Jews wasn’t good.  They were seen as “half-breeds” and considered not truly Jewish.  Their worship center was in a different location, although they worshiped the same God.  So when the only one to return was a Samaritan, Jesus noticed that he was the only one who had returned to give thanks and to praise God.  He told the man that his faith had made him well.

Healing was one thing, wellness has a much larger connotation of wholeness and total well-being.  The other nine were healed and followed the correct protocol, but the Samaritan (who probably would not have been welcomed by the priests) put the pieces together and not only was healed but recognized the hand of God in his physical healing.  He was healed inside and out:  body, mind, spirit.

Isn’t that what we all would like?  I sometimes wonder if all the negatives in our world cause us to be sick in body, mind, and spirit.  Maybe we simply don’t see the hand of God in our lives.  Maybe we just don’t praise God enough for the blessings we have.  What would happen if we started a praise journal where we recorded at least one great thing that has blessed our lives each day?  It’s worth a try!  That’s my challenge to myself this week – and to anyone who might read this post.  May God bless your week!

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