Notes For a Message Based on Luke 17:11-19; “C” – P20

Readings for this week are: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Psalm 66:1-12 or UMH 790; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19

You can read these texts here: NIV  // NRSV  // The Message

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Can you imagine what life was like for the Disciples of Jesus? They left everything behind to follow a “grass-roots Rabbi,” someone who did not have a formal education and yet could explain and illustrate complicated matters of life and faith in simple language that everybody could relate to.

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In the beginning, they left everything and began following him because he was able to touch something in their souls; he was able to quench their thirst and their hunger for God; he was able to inspire them and encourage them to be better men and women.

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Originally the disciples came from all different walks of life; in the past some had worked in farming and agriculture (fishermen and peasants), others were professionals working as bureaucrats for local governments (collecting taxes, keeping books, etc) or in construction (laborers, engineers, carvers, artists).

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In the past, their backgrounds had separated them; fishermen did not want to hang around tax collectors and tax collectors did not want to have anything to do with anyone else unless it involved the exchange of money.

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The disciples had followed this “grass-roots Rabbi” for close to three years now. They learned so much from Jesus; it was frustrating at times because Jesus had a tendency to challenge them to look at everything from a different point of view. Education was never meant to be an easy endeavor, and Jesus was not an easy teacher.

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At that stage of their journey, however, they started to see the fruits of that education. It was so exhilarating to be able to help others. Jesus kept sending them out on little side trips, usually two-by-two, and they would help anyone who asked.

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Still, following Jesus was not easy. Sometimes they were cold by night, sometimes they were hot, thirsty and hungry by day. Often they were tired, their feet hurting after long walks between villages. Sometimes they were welcomed, sometimes they were shunned. These experiences built a common bond among them.

clip_image016Things that used to separate them, their social status, their education or lack thereof, their ethnic, professional and religious identities, simply did not seem like a big deal anymore because they learned to see how God worked through each of them. Shared mission, shared experiences and a shared story built a bond and a connection among them.

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Following Jesus INFUSED their lives with a shared sense of belonging to God and to each other. Following Jesus gave them a sense of purpose and mission in life.

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Truth be told, as Jesus traveled the countryside, men and women came out in droves to hear him speak, or to ask for healing. Many inquired what would it take to join their group; the great majority decided against it because the price was way too high and they were not willing to pay it (Luke 9:57-62). Who in their right mind would voluntarily subject themselves to the hardships of the road without a guaranteed future reward? How do you explain “a shared sense of belonging” to someone who does not want to expend any effort in order to belong?

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Today’s Gospel reading took place while they were traveling in the territory between Samaria and Judea. As Jesus and the Disciples were walking through a village, there were ten lepers standing at a distance. Instead of shouting “Unclean! Unclean!” as they were supposed to according to the Law (Leviticus 13:45), they called out, “Jesus, have pity on us.”

 

Had they heard through the grapevine about the “grass-roots Rabbi” who gave vision to the blind and taught the lame to walk? Did they do it for sport because there was nothing better to do and they were bored? Were they asking for healing, or were they hoping for a meal? We don’t know.

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Can you imagine what life was like for these ten men? Persons with leprosy were shunned by society (Lev 13:45-46; Num 5:2). They were forced to live in their own colonies (2 Kings 7:3) and keep distance from non-lepers for the fear of infecting others.

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In the past, as healthy and accepted members of society, these ten men were separated by ethnic and religious identities. While they were still healthy, their feelings were mutual; Judeans would not even think of mixing with Samaritans and Samaritans did not harbor any warm feelings towards Judeans either. That animosity seemed like ancient history now because at the time we met them, these ten men shared an unfortunate common bond. They were sick with leprosy, and that made them outcasts. Their common misfortune broke down racial, national and cultural barriers. In the common tragedy of leprosy, religious, ethnic, and racial differences that seemed so important in the past lost their meaning. A shared tragedy and a realization that they are in need of healing and reconciliation tends to unite men and women who experience it.

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For whatever reason, these ten men cried out to Jesus for help. In response, Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests (Luke 17:14). As they set out for that journey, as they stepped out on faith, all ten were healed.

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The story continues with Luke making a point that only one of the ten, the Samaritan, returned to thank Jesus. That is when Jesus mused/reflected, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:17-18).

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Truth be told, Jesus knew where the other nine were. They were on their way to show themselves to the priests; they were doing what their religion was telling them to do. That is what was expected of them and they were very happy to do what was expected of them. Only one of ten, thought it important to walk the extra mile and do something above and beyond what was expected of him. He came back to Jesus to thank him.

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I wonder how his life changed as a result. I am not talking about the obvious things like being healed from leprosy and being restored from the status of an outcast. I wonder what transformation happened inside him as a direct result of that decision to walk an extra mile and to thank Jesus for the healing? I wonder what happened to his sense of belonging, to his sense of mission, to his spiritual connection to God?

 

Every man, woman and child who came in contact with Jesus, or who made a decision to follow Jesus was changed. Those who responded to that change with their lives, making a choice to become tools in God’s hands were infused and inspired with a sense of mission to make disciples.

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Today I want to ask you, where do you see yourselves in today’s story? Are you with the crowds that would like to follow Jesus but are not willing to pay the costs of discipleship? Are you with the Disciples, embarking on a journey with Jesus, not quite sure where it will take you? Are you willing to accept God’s mission and make it your own? Are you with lepers, in need of healing and reconciliation?

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Those who had the courage to follow Jesus, found excitement, fulfillment, purpose and meaning in their lives. They responded to that excitement, fulfillment, purpose and meaning by partnering with God to reach out to others. We who have been blessed are now called to become partners with God, to be instruments of blessing to God and to others… That is what mission is. That is what Jesus saved us for, to “… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything [JESUS] have commanded [us]. …" (Matt 28:18-20).

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