Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Trust and Gratitude: The Ten Lepers Luke 17:11-19

The Christian faith is a journey, when we make a personal commitment to follow Jesus Christ, we begin our journey walking alongside God.

As I reflect upon my Christian journey so far, I can see how at different times in my life God has called me to take certain steps, to go in certain directions, even though I did not always know why. For instance, I remember clearly as a fourteen year old feeling that God wanted me to go to university and study theology. It was only after three years at theological college that God showed me where this was all leading, the next stage of the journey into ordained ministry. And as I reflected upon my Christian journey, I have come to realise that often God calls us to take steps of faith, to go places, or do things which at the time might not always make sense. For example, going to university to study theology was a step of faith for me, because I'd never done anything like it before, and I knew that my academic talents lay in other subjects. And yet, I felt that this was the right thing to do.

In the passage from Luke's Gospel Jesus asked the ten lepers who came to him to take a big step of faith. We are told that Jesus was walking on the border of Galilee and Samaria, when he was approached by ten lepers who cried out to him to have mercy upon them. Jesus looked at these men, and said to them. 'Go show yourselves to the priests'.
The book of Leviticus lays down what should happen if people are cured of leprosy. We were told that they were to go to a priest, so that the priest could declare them ritually clean, because anyone who had a skin disease, but particularly one as serious as leprosy was considered in Jewish religion as unclean.

This is why Luke tells us that these men stood some distance outside the village. They were shunned by society, avoided by everyone. And yet Jesus is telling these men to go and see the priests, before they had been healed. And they obeyed. All ten of them set off to see the priests, and we are told that on the way they were healed. They didn't question Jesus, or say, heal us first, then we'll go. They obeyed Jesus, they placed their faith in him.
The point that I want to make is that often in our Christian lives God calls us to do things which to us may not always make sense at the time. This is because we only see a small part of the picture, and it is only later, when we have been obedient to God that we can see what his purpose was in asking us respond in certain ways. This requires us to develop our listening skills, so that we can hear God's call, listen to what he may be saying to us, and like the ten lepers step out in faith.

These lepers stepped out in faith, they were obedient to Jesus, and as a consequence they were healed of their disease. Yet of the ten men that we healed, only one returned to Jesus to praise him and thank him for what he did. And this person was a Samaritan, despised by the Jews. This illustrates two points. First of all, God's grace extends to all people. Both as a leper and as a Samaritan this man would have been an outcast in Jesus' Jewish society. And yet Jesus' love and mercy extended to him. No one is excluded from the love of God.
The second point is that only one of the lepers showed gratitude for what Jesus had done for him. Ten were healed, but only one returned to praise Jesus. In our Christian life we must guard against ingratitude towards God. As Christians we have so much to thank and praise God for, he has given us so much, and so we must learn to count our blessings. Our we like the nine lepers who ignore Jesus afterwards, or do we thank and praise him.

The story of the ten lepers is a wonderful story of the infinite grace and mercy of our Lord and Saviour, one who gives us good gifts, even if we have ungrateful hearts. It is also a story which challenges us to place our trust in God, to follow his commands, and to see the wonderful rewards this brings us. Amen.

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