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Discombobulating the Gift with the Giver October 9, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Luke 17:11-19

Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost

October 9th, 2016

 

Focus:  God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.

Function:  That the hearers proclaim Christ as their Savior.

Structure:  Connecting the dots from the Old Testament to the New.

 

Discombobulating the Gift with the Giver

 

Today we want to take a look at our reading from the gospel according to Luke.  On its surface, it looks like any other healing miracle Jesus performed.  Here’s ten men, each of whom is sick, and Christ shows mercy upon them, and heals them.  But there’s a lot more to it, and it has great significance for us in our daily lives.

But first, we have to dig into the context.  Verse eleven says, “On the way to Jerusalem He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.” This doesn’t give us His exact position on a map, but it is helpful.  He’s traveling south, He’s moving from the region of Galilee into the region of Samaria as He makes His way toward Jerusalem.  We’ll get to that.

But on the way, He’s stopped at one of the local villages by a group shouting at Him from a distance.  Ten men, each of them lepers.  And to truly understand their plight, as they cry out “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us,” to truly understand their pain, we open our Old Testaments, specifically, we look to the book of Leviticus, which laid out all of their cultural laws and regulations about how to govern themselves, how to deal with various things like worship, conflict, and disease.

The entirety of chapters thirteen and fourteen cover the skin disease we call leprosy.  There are numerous rules, and you’re welcome to read them, and they get a little gross.  But for a better understanding of our reading at hand, there’s a few verses we want to look at in particular.

Leviticus 13:45-46 – 45 “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ 46 He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp.

Leviticus 14:1-3, 8 – The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, […] And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days.

 

This is what befell these ten men.  Leprousy, a skin disease which was contagious and potentially deadly.  But it’s more than that.  It’s like being quarantined.  If you’re a leper, you’re removed from society.  You’re declared unclean, and you’re forced to live outside of the camp.  There might even be a small group of lepers living together, waiting to be healed.  But in the meantime, you can’t see your family or friends.  You can’t go to work, can’t care for your relatives.  It’s a tough condition to have.

And so these ten men cry out to the Christ, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Lord, help us.  And Jesus does, He hears their cry for mercy and He provides mercy.  He looks at the ten men and rather than simply healing them, He skips ahead.  He tells them to go and see the priests.  You were only supposed to do this if you were clean again, if you were already healed.

But nevertheless, they trusted Him, they turned away and started the trip to see the priests.  We don’t know how long it took, we’re not even told how long into the journey it was before it happened.  But somewhere along the way, between Jesus and their priests, Luke records this: “And as they went they were cleansed.”

Do you realize the repercussions?  These men have not just had their sickness removed, they’re clean again.  They get to return to their families, their friends, their communities, their jobs.  Everything they know about life gets to go back to normal.  This is wonderful!  And so they keep going, heading for the priests who will declare them clean and let them go home.

Except one.  One man stops.  And he turns around.  We don’t know much about him, other than that he was a Samaritan, not a Jew, so not necessarily part of the kingdom of God, and yet, he stopped.  Instead of going with the other nine to see the local priests, this man returned to Jesus.

The other nine go back home.  They see the priests, the priests mark them as clean, and they return to the life they had left, to everything they had known before.

This text is often misapplied as saying we don’t give thanks enough.  But that’s not the issue here.  The issue is confusing the gift with the giver of the gift.  The issue is to whom we give thanks, not how often we do it.  God in the flesh came into the lives of these nine men, delivered them, redeemed them, cleansed them, and nothing.  Life was no different now than it had been in the past.

That’s what this text ends up being about.  We confuse the giver of the gifts with the gifts themselves. And it’s not just the unbelieving who sometimes rejoice in the gift of life, the gift of food, the gift of second and third and billionth chances.  The gift of families and jobs.

It’s about us, too, confusing gift and giver.  Sometimes we make the gift itself god.  We give thanks to our earthly things, be they jobs, homes, transportation, family, even stuff.  We look to these things to save us.  Just look at this election.  How many, even Christians, are convinced that the government will save them?  Even in the church, that either Hillary or Donald is somehow capable of preserving the life we love, of saving of world?

We enjoy liberty in this nation, and then begin to think that liberty is the goal of life.  We enjoy our rights and our freedoms and think that these must be preserved, even expanded, at all costs.  We get so caught up in being comfortable and happy and liked that we won’t tell someone else of who God is for fear that we might lose everything.

But we compare this to the one man, to this Samaritan, who rather than going to the priests has a profound insight.  You see, we learn in Scripture that Jesus is our Prophet, Priest, and King.  This man sees it.  He returns to show his Priest, that is Christ, that he is healed.  And he rejoices, he worships at the feet of his Redeemer, of his Savior.  And Jesus says something to him that is extraordinary. “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”  Or in some translations, “Your faith has saved you.”

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus says this a few other times.  But it’s a mark of contrast.  The woman who anointed Christ’s feet in the midst of the Pharisees in chapter 7.  The blind beggar who also cried out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” in the midst of a rebuking crowd in Luke chapter 18.  These few have faith.  They have seen the Christ and acknowledge Him for who He is: their Lord and Savior.

And for all of them this connection is even deeper.  Because as we remember from the beginning of our text, Jesus is headed where? Jerusalem.  And what’s He going there to do?  To die on the cross.  Why is He going to do that? For the forgiveness of our sins.  Who’s sins are forgiven on that cross? Everyone.

Christ died on the cross, shedding His blood as a one-time sacrifice, good once and for all.  Every sinner everywhere of all time.  Every sin ever committed, every sin yet to be committed.  Covered, by the blood of the Lamb.  You see those other nine lepers were still healed.  But they rejected the giver of that gift.  We are all forgiven, but many reject the giver of the gift.

And we’re not immune to this, even as Christ’s people.  This is why the cry of the lepers, the cry of the blind beggar, sounds out from our lips, “Lord, have mercy on us.”  Whether that’s in the Kyrie or the Agnus Dei, we join these men crying out for the mercy of God.  And more specifically, we join the few men and women declaring that Christ is our Lord and Savior.  He is the giver of all good gifts.  And it is in Him alone that we look for our life and salvation.

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