Sunday, 4 July 2021

The Ten Lepers - Luke 17

In Luke 17 Jesus is walking into a village. Here there happen to be ten people with some kind of skin disease - enough for others to keep their distance from them. Somewhere along the road these ten call out to Jesus to take pity on their plight.

Jesus seems to go straight to a clear instruction: 'Go and show yourselves to the priests'. That was the ritual thing for Jewish people: having suffered some kind of worrying blemish they would go to the priests to be checked to see if it had now gone. Their ritual cleanness would depend on it - and only the priest could pronounce them clean in this way.

The ten follow the instruction and head off. On the way they start to realise that their skin blemishes have cleared up - they can see with their own eyes that they are cleansed (healed). We can assume this excited and cheered each and every one of them.

We don't know what happens to the other nine, but one of them turns back to go to Jesus. He comes praising God excitedly, and threw himself before Jesus in his eagerness. It is at this point we are told that this one also happened to be an odd one out among the original ten - for he was a Samaritan (foreigner).

Jesus asks about the other nine, and notes that it was only the foreigner who returns in this way. Yet regardless of his nationality or heritage, Jesus fully affirms him - sending him away with words acknowledging his faith and healing.

It is worth us asking what this story tells us about Jesus, and what does it tell us about people? Jesus has the power to heal - which can come through a simple (and culturally recognisable) instruction. He affirms all who come to him - regardless of background. He acknowledges and responds very positively to signs of faith. Yet among people the response can be quite varied. Some respond and connect, others may well receive touches from God (healing in this case), but apparently go their way without further connection.

This conveys a reminder for our own mission and outreach. We can participate with God in showing blessing and grace - praying for people to be touched by God. People may well receive such a touch, perhaps even quite a dramatic healing. And yet still not everyone will respond - only some may want to connect further, to be with Jesus in any kind of ongoing way.

Out of the ten, only one came back - perhaps the one the crowd might have least expected! For sure we will all do our own internal calculations of who we think might want to go further with Jesus, and who may not ... but perhaps we might be in for some surprises! Let us be open to the least likely making the ongoing response.

As we work with different people, we will see some respond, and perhaps many others not - much to our frustration and impatience! We might get annoyed by the apparent randomness of it all. Of course in God's economy it is not random at all - it is a free will choice between the individual and God. Yet we do not get to see any of the private correspondence between an individual's heart and God ... so to us it appears random.

But our call and task is to go on seeking Jesus and being available for His Kingdom ministry, being part of God touching people by His grace ... regardless of the eventual response. Yes we absolutely want to see people come to Jesus, to connect, and enter a journey of discipleship. Sadly not all will do this, perhaps only the minority, and yet we continue all the same.

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