In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
That is natural. The Law of Moses said that when you are healed of leprosy you must go show self to a priest. A priest will examine you, declare you clean, and reconsecrate you, restoring you to God’s good standing. You will then be able to rejoin your family and friends, and most importantly go into temple where God Himself dwelt. No are longer cut off from your people. No longer cut off from your God.
And there are two things to note in the restoration of lepers (Leviticus 14) to the people of God. 1) It parallels the consecration of priests (Exodus 29). In both cases the one to be consecrated is sprinkled with the blood of sacrifice for cleansing and anointed with oil. Blood is put on their right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe, consecrating them to hear what God says, to handle God’s holy things, and walk in God’s presence. Foreshadowing Christ’s cleansing of all who are baptized to be His priests. 2) The sacrifice whose blood consecrates them is waved before the Lord (Leviticus 14:12). Up and down, back and forth (Exodus 29:27KJV). Father Son and Holy Spirit (make the sign of the + cross). Foreshadowing the sacrifice that atones for the sin of the world.
They were sent by the healing One to the priests. They had prayed to Him knowing He had power to save them. By saying, “Go show the priest,” He told them they were healed. As in, “Go to the priest who will declare you restored by God and to God for I have done it.” In the going they realized they were healed. And one, a Samaritan—an outcast from Jews by his race, being of mixed Jewish and Gentile ancestry, an outcast even among the lepers—turns back. Still the outcast. Still the one out of step with everyone else. He turns back.
He turns back praising God. Giving thanks. He turns back to fall at the feet of the only priest that matters. Not a priest according to the Law of Moses. For the Old Testament priests entered God’s presence in the temple only through the commandment of God, by the blessing of God, carrying with them the blood of a sacrifice. This priest enters into His Father’s presence by virtue of His own perfect righteousness, bringing with Him His own precious, innocent blood. Blood that blots every stain on humanity, cleanses every sin on this disease ridden, bloodsoaked earth, cleansing humanity of every spiritual wickedness, healing their flesh, but more importantly breathing new life into the souls of those who believe.
This New and better priest is the One the Samaritan seeks out. He falls on his face before Him. For this priest is not merely a man, He is God. He is to be worshipped. The other nine, Jews all, assuming they were accepted by God because of their race, their birth, go on in their old ways, forgetting the source of their healing. They return to their old traditions which moments earlier had cut them off from everyone. Like a dog returning to his vomit, is a fool who repeats his folly, who returns to his lifeless traditions.
This Samaritan, this outcast is the only one who realizes Our Lord is the priest who declared him clean and righteous. He had true faith. The Lord confirms this saying, “Your faith has saved you.” Our translation read, “Your faith has made you well.” The translators chose that word because the setting is a healing. But this word is not the usual word used for healing, but rather for salvation. And whenever the setting includes Jesus physical healings are secondary to the salvation He came to bring. Physical healing benefits you bodily in the short term. Salvation benefits you body and soul, eternally.
But to be perfectly accurate it is not the man’s faith that healed or saved him. It is Jesus who healed and saved him. But remember are two ways to speak of faith. The first way is to speak of “saving faith.” That is, the “one true faith,” the “faith once delivered for all time.” This refers to what the creed confesses. I.e., what Christianity teaches, proclaims, and gives. The content of the Christian faith. It comes from outside of you, not inside. Therefore, when we speak of the faith, we are referring to Jesus. He is the Christian faith in the flesh.
This man, turned from a faith in the Old Testament priests and his own action of going. He returned to One who saved him. He clinged to Jesus, who would die on the cross for him. He turned to the historical Christian faith which frees all who believe it from the requirements of the Old Testament. He never went to the priests. This means that under the Law he is still an outsider. Still condemned. For the Law has not declared him right. But He is not under Law, but under Jesus who has declared him saved. This way of speaking about faith is entirely passive. It merely receives, humbly accepts, and clings to what has been given.
The second way to talk about faith is active. That is, the faith that you have. What you personally believe. If you believe the One true faith, passively received, the faith which trusts in Christ Jesus vicarious death on your behalf and not your works, then you are saved. If you personally believe something else or mix the bits of Jesus you like and reject the bits you don`t like you are in danger. The nine others never returned. They were focussed on what they liked, their going, the priests. They trusted in the Old Testament laws and their own actions. They got some miraculous healing from Jesus, but they missed Jesus Himself! They turned their backs on Him, even when they saw what He did. All they got was a mere healing. But they missed the boat that would’ve taken them to heaven’s shores.
But this Samaritan who trusts in Our Lord is an image of ourselves, the Christian Church. He is an outsider by birth and situation. He is unable to help Himself. By Christ’s saving him Jesus is now his Lord and God. In fact, the thankfulness which returned him to Christ has now separated him from his fellow lepers who still cling to the Law. They too were healed and saved by the One who mercied them. But only one returned in true thanksgiving. For true thanksgiving is directed by faith to the One who saves you. To Jesus. To Jesus alone.
Christ is now his Lord and he is now an outsider from other nine whose faith is in the Law not Christ. In the same way the Church is never accepted here on earth. Never popular. Not if it teaches the law free salvation through Christ`s cross and His cross alone. When the Church is popular, which is different than having a good reputation which is a blessing, if it is popular with the world, it is not preaching Christ crucified for sinners, but something else. For friendship with the world is enmity with God. In fact, the situation we find ourselves in today where the Church is not popular, where no one seems interested in the things of God is normal. After all, only one returns to give glory to God of ten who were healed. But though we give thanks for any increase the Lord gives, numbers and popularity never matter to the Church. For the Church is made up of those who continue to return to the risen Lord in thankfulness. We glorify Him. We turn to Him in every trouble. We ask Him for mercy and praise Him when we receive it just as do in the liturgy. As we do every resurrection day when He continually says, “Rise and go, your faith in Me has saved you.”
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON