A Man Came Back Praising

July 1, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Luke 17:11-19

Ten Persons Set Out Trusting

1. [This message is based on] what happened when Jesus' group was on a trip going up to Jerusalem. A village had ten persons suffering from a serious skin disorder, [traditionally thought to have been leprosy]. They had probably heard from somewhere of the healing miracles Jesus had performed. These ten met Jesus at the entrance to a village. And as they stood from a distance, they raised their voices and begged for mercy. Were we to ask why did they stand so far away, the answer would be because they were not allowed to go near people.

2. There were various regulations in regard to this disease. First of all, the priest gave a detailed inspection and made a careful diagnosis. Whereupon, if the priest confirmed that it indeed was that disease, which is translated as "serious skin disorder" [in the Japanese New Interconfessional Version], then the person was considered "unclean, defiled." When that person walks on the road, he or she is required by law to cry out, "I am unclean. I am unclean." Also, they were not permitted to live in residential areas. They had to live alone outside the village. That was the situation into which these persons were put.

3. Most likely they did not actually live alone, they probably used to live in a community. One of them was a Samaritan. The rest of them were Jews. It was not considered typical, that Jews and Samaritans dwelled together because these two people groups were hostile to each other. But the suffering of [this] disease, a disease that excludes one from society, had led to the removal of this inimical mentality. And going along together, they sought for Jesus to ask that he heal their disease. They shouted together, "Please have mercy on us, wont' you?!"

4. To these persons in their condition Jesus had said, "Go to the priests and show him your bodies." They had come seeking mercy. It was specifically [for mercy] that he might heal their disease right then and there for sure. In chapter five of The Gospel According To Luke we find a person afflicted with the same disease, but [there] Jesus lifts his hand, touches, and heals [that person on the spot immediately]. The ten found here in this text must have also expected such a special act of healing upon them. But, the Lord only says to them, "Go to the priests."

5. Going to the priests was a procedure for being restored back into society. In Leviticus in The Old Testament the procedure for when one was healed of serious skin disorders is recorded as follows. "The following is the instruction for when a person who had been afflicted with a serious skin disorder undergoes purification. When he is brought to the priest, the priest will go outside the camp and inspect. If the serious skin disorder of the afflicted is cured, in order for the priest to do the rite of purification, he commands that person and has him prepare two living clean birds, a branch of cedar, scarlet, and a branch of hyssop," (Leviticus 14:2-4). In this way, he will conduct the rite of purification, then by way of the required procedure, the healed person is restored back into every day society.

6. But, the ten did not get healed. By all rights then, it would be senseless for them to go and show themselves to the priests if the serious skin disorder was not cured. Still though, Jesus had commanded [them] to go to the priests. What could he have meant by this? He had most likely meant, "Have faith!" Their setting back out to go to the priests would be the exact same thing as expressing a form of trust and obedience. Well, so what did they do then? They had faith. And they actually did set out [for the priests]. Whereupon, they were healed along the way. It actually turned out according to their measure of faith.

7. We can find a number of stories in the scriptures like this one, where acts of God had appeared in accompaniment with one's faith. Probably the closest narrative to today's is the healing of the army commander Naaman, which is recorded in The [Second] Book Of Kings.

8. A character named Naaman, an army commander for the king of Aram, appears in Second Kings chapter five. Like the ten, he suffered from a serious skin disorder. He heard of a prophet who was in Israel, and so seeking for healing he proceeded to the prophet Elisha. He had expected that Elisha would come out, place his hand on the afflicted part, pray to the Lord, and heal him. But, when Naaman arrives at the entrance to [Elisha's] house, Elisha sends a messenger out and he spoke as follows. "Go to the Jordan River, and wash yourself seven times. If you do that, then your body will go back to its former state, and you will be clean." Naaman was angered at these words and decided to depart. But he was chided by his assistant and he went down just as the prophet had told him to and he washed himself in the Jordan River. He believed and he transferred that belief into action. "Then his body went back to its former state, and he was clean," says the scripture. Thus, his disease was healed.

9. This Old Testament story may have been on their minds. They trusted and obeyed just as Naaman had done. And when they rose to action by faith they did experience the power of God. The same thing can be said for us as well. It is essential that when we believe we set out step by step. It is important that we transfer faith into action. No matter how much we study the scriptures, no matter how much theological knowledge we take on, as long as we place ourselves on the outside like bystanders, we cannot experience the reality of the living God. When we also trust in the Lord, and step out in obedience, we will see the miraculous power of the living God. This is the first message we should be getting from this passage today.

They Went Home Praising

10. But, if that was the whole message from today's passage of scripture, this narrative should have been done with at verse fourteen. It should have ended at the point where they were healed. But, Luke wrote on further. We must not overlook it; because it has another valuable matter in it.

11. Luke furthers the narrative. One of the men returns praising God aloud. That man was the Samaritan. What did the other nine do? As one might expect, just as he had told them to, they went to show their bodies to the priests. But, the Lord was astonished and said, "Were there not ten who had been cleansed? Where are the other nine people?"

12. Don't you think it's strange? "Jesus, what are you saying? Didn't they go to the priests obediently because you told them to go to them?" Don't you want to say that? As I mentioned earlier, they set out obediently as per the Lord's words [to them]. They went surely believing they would be healed. And, in actual fact, it came to pass the way they had believed. Thus, afterwards, like the Lord had said, they showed themselves to the priests, did the procedures, and most likely needed to restore themselves back to society. We shouldn't make it matter where they were.

13. Much rather, at this point in the text I think we must consider why the Samaritan did not go to the priest but had come back [to Jesus]. For what purpose did he return? "The one among them knew that he had been healed and returned praising God out loud. And he bowed himself before the feet of Jesus and gave thanks," (verses fifteen and sixteen). Thus he had come back, in order to give thanks to Jesus. Thus it was just one man in ten who had wanted to give thanks to Jesus. Is that odd? No, I don't think it is. What would we have done? Probably, we wouldn't have come back either.

14. I would like for us to re-read this story, putting ourselves into this story. Standing from a distance we shout, "Please have mercy on us, won't you?" Jesus hears our voices. But, Jesus doesn't do anything that resembles what we expected. He only instructs us to go to the priests. He requires of us to act on faith. We consider it. We're perplexed. We're stressed out. But, we finally decide. we will believe what Jesus says some how and set out trusting in God.

15. Well, even though [we] believed the words of someone else, or we believed God through the words of another person, when we believed and took action, what kind of things do we think about? Don't we normally expect "a reward" of some kind for our having believed? Then a kind of transaction begins in that. I believed [you God] so reward me. I believe very seriously. I believe with all my might. I believe fervently. So gimme some help, 'kay? Grant my wishes. In that way we seek for a pay-off for [our] faith. Thus, unless we're rewarded, we might sometimes get mad, "Hey, I believed hard, though!," and we might figure out that "It's because I didn't have enough faith." Whatever the case may be, the thought that if we present our faith God will grant us a due reward does have a basis.

16. Will our faith for believing the words of Jesus, believing God, and having set out for the priests really be rewarded as expected? We might even say we're paid splendidly. Because we're healed along the way to the priests. We're amazed. It's a great joy. "Yeay, believing what the master, Jesus says, was the right thing to do. We should trust in God!" It's a great joy for us when we get what we were hoping for as "a reward of our faith." Thus we get a reward and go to the priests. This is what is happening in this story.

17. But, there was just one person, just one, and he realized one mind-boggling huge truth. -- How that God takes notice of me. God loves me as I am. He cares about my life. How amazing that is! Think about it, it really is. God the creator of the universe loves persons one [by one], accepts people, cares for [each person's] pains, and takes notice of [each one]; that should be mind-boggling huge [to you]. It was even more important to him than even his being healed of his disease. Therefore, he had forgotten to perform the procedure for being restored back into society and he began praising God with his whole heart and mind. All he could just do was praise God out loud.

18. Then while praising God with a loud voice, he retraced the path he had come and went back to Jesus. He did it to give thanks. Why? It was not merely because he had been healed. But because he had been allowed to meet the beloved God who is the living God. Because [God] is the one who transformed him into a person who praises God with amazement and joy. He went back in order to give thanks to this Jesus, and to offer praise to God the Father with [Jesus]. Jesus said to this one who had come back. "Stand up and go. Your faith has saved you." This man had certainly been saved. And that is more than being healed of a disease.

19. Why doesn't this story end with verse fourteen? I think it is already obvious. It is saying that we too are invited to be where he stood, praising God and overflowing with joy and thanksgiving in the presence of Jesus.

20. I stated earlier that "When we too trust in the Lord and walk in obedience, we will come to see the miraculous power of the living God. This is the message we ought to take from this passage today." But, that doesn't mean that if we believe and we obey, then God will love us, take notice of us, and perform special miracles for us. Because before we ever believed and before we ever obeyed, God loved us. That love of his was already completely revealed in the cross.

21. We don't need to obtain God's favor by our own fervent faith. We don't need something tawdry that we might obtain through our tiny faith. What we do need is by faith to meet with God as love, to be touched by the grace of the living God, to be amazed at the size of [his grace], and to become persons who just praise God, and then our lives themselves will become praise unto God. This is the second message we ought to take from this passage.