But the other nine, where are they? Luke 17:11-19

A sermon delivered by Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min on October 9, 2022.

This morning we immediately pick up where we left off last week and we are going to learn about what it means to give God glory and praise. Last week, Jesus told his disciples not to fret about the faith they don’t have; rather, they are to focus on the faith they’ve got and put it to work. Today’s scripture has the group on the move.

We learn this morning that Jesus and his companions were heading south moving from Galilee in the north towards Jericho and ultimately, Jerusalem in the south. Our text has him walking along this boundary line between the Jewish-populated region of boundary lineGalilee and the land of the Jewish pariah, Samaria. Our scripture this morning not only reminds us Jesus was heading to Jerusalem one final time, but it also shines light upon Luke’s writing in Acts about where the Church is supposed to go following Jesus’ resurrection; specifically, the community of faith is to reach out to “those other people”, that impure collection of people called the Gentiles. Who were the Gentiles? Everyone but the people of Israel. Listen to the Word of the Lord.

Luke 17:11-19

17.11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten men with a skin disease approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? So where are the other nine? 18 Did none of them return to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” [1]

Misery does indeed make strange bedfellows because what we have is two groups of people who normally despised one another huddling together to create a community of ceremonially unclean exiles. On the one hand, it would appear there are at least nine Jews in the group because Jesus tells them to follow the edict spelled out in Leviticus 14 and be declared clean and free of disease by a priest. On the other hand, we are flat-out told there was a Samaritan in the bunch as well. Jews and a Samaritan formed their own community bound together by their mutual illness and the need for safety. What binds them together is their mutual misery and cultural ostracization that transcends ethnicity and nationality. Think of it in today’s terms: You have nine Jews who were formerly in the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, and a lone Palestinian Muslim from the Gaza Strip forced to live together on the margin of society because they are despised by their own people.

Following proper social protocol, the ten maintained their respectful distance away from Jesus and the others so as not to make Jesus and the disciples ceremonially unclean as well. It would be like you and me going to visit the doctor but having to speak to her through a speaker and bulletproof glass at a drive-through window. It’s at this point the ten cry out a request, a prayer, each and every one of us have prayed in our life at some point: Oh Jesus! Have mercy upon me!

If we let the text speak for itself, we note the ten afflicted men did not specifically ask to be healed per se; no, they simply ask for mercy. To show mercy to someone means to pause and express compassion while attempting to alleviate hardship. Luke doesn’t tell us what they wanted exactly but he does tell us what Jesus perceived they needed: restoration back with their community. They needed to be reunited with their families and friends and have the opportunity to engage others in the marketplace. Jesus saw they needed to be pulled from the ranks of the marginalized and be re-established as an equal to everyone else. We know this by Jesus’ simple command to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Jesus does not say, “Be healed!” but rather he tells them to go show the priests they are okay. The priest then checks off their healed condition and pronounces them ceremonially clean and that was the ticket for their life to get back to normal.

If you were Jewish, you would hear Jesus’ words as sensible words. The Jewish people had priests they could go to and get the clearance to rejoin the community. But who does the Samaritan go to? He surely would not be welcomed by the Jewish priest for a declaration of purity because his just being a Samaritan made him unclean in the priest’s eyes, to begin with.

We read that the ten were made clean while they obediently followed Jesus’ instructions. All ten lepers did exactly as Jesus told them. “Jesus tells me to go show myself to a priest for reasons unbeknownst to me so I’m going to go!” In their expression of their obedience, they were healed. In their process of being healed, they were once again engrafted into their Jewish culture. But what did that mean for the Samaritan? Now that the nine were eligible to be declared pure by the priests, their newly declared ritual purity would demand they part ways with their Samaritan colleague. In other words, they could be sick together without any problem, but they could not live a reconciled life with each other. The marginalization of the other did not disappear in the eyes of the nine. Bob may be healed but Bob still is a Samaritan, one of “those people.”

What we see is that those who are marginalized by the world perhaps understand their faith the best. Bob the Samaritan leper may not have had a priest to go to and see but he was aware enough to go back to Jesus and say thank you and praise what the Lord had done.

The great Oxford don, C.S. Lewis, observed the relationship between people who expressed gratitude and their positive well-being. He writes, “I noticed how the humblest and at the same time most balanced minds praised most: while cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised least. Praise,” he says, “seems to be (one’s) inner health made audible.”[2] I like that! One’s outpouring of praise to God is a barometer of a person’s spiritual and emotional health!

If we slow down at this point and look at our story more carefully, we can also see the essence of what a Christ-follower’s life is to be all about. First, the Samaritan stopped and turned around. He changed his orientation and his direction. Second, he gave God glory and thanked God for the obvious blessing he received. Isn’t that a summary of what the Gospels are saying to us? From the very beginning of the Story in Luke, John the Baptist called people to “turn around” and reorient their life back to God. The lowly shepherds who were the first witnesses of the baby Jesus’ birth went about glorifying God thanking God for all the things they had seen and heard. Turning around and thanking, glorifying God for God’s mercy. It’s pretty basic, beloved. The reception of a blessing should lead to a transformed life of both blessing and gratitude which leads to an enhancement of one’s spiritual depth.

Fred Craddock, former professor for preaching at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta comments on this story by saying, “What we have, then, is a story about ten being healed and one being saved.”[3] All the men in their obedience were healed but it’s only in the Samaritan’s turning around and thanking God he was healed in the spiritual sense. Jesus’ last words in verse 19 of the Story today literally reads, “Resurrect yourself and go; your faith has healed you, literally, saved you.” All ten in their obedience were cleansed but only the one Samaritan knew to yoke together obedience to faith and give credit to where credit was due: To God. When he fell at Jesus’ feet, he acknowledged his healing was from beyond himself and that it truly was an act of mercy. His act of obedience and his faithful response not only reconciled him to his community but more importantly, declared his reliance upon God’s gifts and mercy and restored his relationship with God.

Beloved, for 110 years, people have given themselves and their gifts to demonstrate their gratitude to God for all the blessings we as a church has enjoyed. You and I are sitting in a room that was literally built from the DNA and the raw material of other disciples’ joyful thankfulness. It’s because of their joyful thankfulness that we have been given and entrusted with the saving hope and grace of Jesus Christ.

Beloved, how are we both individually and corporately, not only obeying God but turning back around in thankfulness and glorifying the Lord with praise? You have heard me tell you how we can do it many times over the last five years.  We give God glory when we like the Samaritan fall at Jesus’ feet and truly worship him. 

We glorify God by becoming wholly uncomfortable with where we are in our faith and truly desire to grow deeper and wider. If you are practicing your faith and still understand God as you did 5, 10, 15 or so more years ago, then you have a problem. You’re stuck and your spiritual life is stunted.  We glorify God when we grow the faith we have.

We glorify God when we intentionally care for one another, look out for each other, and seek the best in our brothers and sisters.

We glorify God when we actively become the hands and feet of Jesus and serve others, the marginalized in the community, with acts of service and compassion.

We glorify God when we share what we have experienced in our faith in the community and invite others to partake in what we have experienced.

And yes, friends, we glorify God through our financial giving. If we like the Samaritan know that all we have is a result of God’s gracefulness to us, then we hold those resources loosely and look for ways to invest in Kingdom work. The measure of your giving is a measure of your spiritual maturity.  You know, people don’t think about dropping $200.00 for a dinner for two on Las Olas Boulevard but when the offering plate goes by, people wonder, “Do I drop the in ones I have or the $20.00 bill?” Giving is a spiritual issue, folks.

Our homework as we leave today is to reflect on the many ways God has blessed us individually and as a church. How well are we glorifying and praising God like the Samaritan? I have just provided you with the yardstick now it’s up to each of us to start measuring. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

© 2022 Patrick H. Wrisley, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, 401 SE 15th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL. 33301.  Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and may not be altered, re-purposed, published, or preached without permission. All rights reserved.

[1] New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] Feasting on the Word— Year C, Volume 4: Season after Pentecost 2 (Propers 17-Reign of Christ) (Feasting on the Word: Year C) by David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor https://a.co/cqn5ZmM. Originally cited from C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (London: G. Bles, 1958), 78-81. The word in parentheses was added by me for rhetorical clarity.

[3] Fred Craddock, Luke. Interpretation. A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 203.

About patrick h wrisley

A Mainline Presbyterian Orthodox Evangelical Socially Minded Prophetic Contemplative Preacher sharing the Winsome Story of Christ as I try to muddle through as a father, friend, head of staff, colleague, and disciple.
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