Sunday, September 13, 2009
Trinity 14 Luke 17:11-19
And it happened in the journey into Jerusalem, and He (Jesus) was going through between Samaria and the Galilee. And as He was entering into a certain village ten leprous men met Him--they stood far off. And they raised voices saying, "Jesus, Lord have mercy on us." And seeing them, He said, "Having gone, show yourselves to the priests!" And it happened as they went they were cleansed. But one of them, seeing that he was healed turned back with a great voice glorifying God, and he fell upon his face at His feet thanking Him; And He was Samaritan. And answering, Jesus said, "Were not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not found (any), having turned back to give glory to God if not this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Having arisen, go. Your faith has saved you."
Today we have the familiar Gospel of healing of the ten lepers. It is often read and preached at Thanksgiving focusing on the surprising reaction of the one, Samaritan leper. But there is a lot more to this story than just being grateful. This is also an account all about blame and credit. First, blame is assigned for the misfortune of these lepers. Then credit is accounted for the miraculous healing these lepers received. But if you misplace either the blame or the credit in this story, you will miss the point Jesus is making.
We begin by looking at the blame. Now, some of these lepers were Israelites–God's children. As such they probably expected the LORD's favor upon them. Instead, they contract leprosy, in some cases at what appears to be no real fault of their own. We would not be surprised if some of these lepers would become angry at God for allowing some of His children to become so ill. They might have questioned how a loving God would allow such pain and suffering for His Own children. But is God really to blame?
A noted Rabbi asked the question "Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?" That's a bad question. There are no good people. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Oh, I know that you might think that you are pretty good as compared to terrorists, murderers, and the like. But God makes no such comparisons. A sinner is a sinner, period, no matter how many or which commandments are broken. That means that each and every one of us deserves leprosy and more, even eternal death as the wages of sin.
But there was One *good* Person to walk the face of the earth. Only one, the second Person of the Trinity. He was good in every way, for He was both God and man. As a man, under God's Law, Jesus alone could keep all the commandments perfectly. He was as good as good can be. But then God did the unimaginable. He allowed the very worst things to happen to the only Good One, who suffered and died on the cross, bearing your sin, its blame and punishment unto the death of forsaken-ness and condemnation.
Yes Jesus took your blame at Calvary for your salvation. Which takes us now to the question of w(W)ho gets the credit. No doubt, Jesus alone gets the credit for the miraculous healing of these 10 lepers. They cried out for God's mercy, and Jesus provided it. But what about salvation? Who gets the credit there? Some would look at the last words of Jesus to the grateful Samaritan leper "Your faith has saved you" as somehow crediting this man...after all, it is his personal faith which Jesus credits for his salvation.
But what is faith? Is it your personal decision to believe in Christ? No! Is it your invitation to Jesus to come into your heart? No! Is it your sincere determination to live a life in service to the LORD? No! Is it your willingness to make Him the LORD of your life? No! Is it your choice to surrender your heart to Jesus? No! God's Word says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. It is God's gift of believing by the power of the Holy Spirit, that you may trust in Jesus for your salvation.
Faith saves you only because it is the God-given means for receiving His gracious gifts. Your faith is not your action, but your passive receiving of God's gifts. The gift of faith received in baptism prompts faithful parents to bring their children to the washing of water and the Word of the font to receive faith there. Faith draws you to hear God's love in Jesus Christ preached to you from the pulpit this day. The Spirit gathers you by faith around the Altar to receive the body and blood of Jesus in communion for your forgiveness.
So, in this story of blame and credit, things become quite clear. Like the outcast lepers, you deserved all the blame as a sinner before your holy, righteous God. But Jesus took your blame in full at the cross, suffering your death so that, in blessed exchange, you receive His eternal life. All credit for the grace which saves you goes to Christ Jesus, Who did everything under the Law to earn life for you. All credit for your faith also goes to the LORD, who gives you the gift of believing, so that you may be receiving salvation!
Today's hymns from LSB:
#865 Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain
#849 Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness
#846 Your Hand, O Lord, In Days of Old