Trinity 14 2021
September 5, 2021
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Did you notice that in our Gospel reading today that everyone is on the move? Jesus is passing along between Samaria and Galilee. He is on His way to Jerusalem, but taking the long, windy way around. We know where He is going – to His death on the cross. God is on the move.
And then there’s the lepers, standing at a distance. They are stuck. Sir Isaac Newton described what is called the First Law of Motion that an object at rest will stay at rest, and an object in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an external force. They can’t move themselves out of their situation unless acted upon by something that has power over them.
But they had heard about Jesus. And so they cry out to Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Notice what this is not and what this is. Their cry is not for cleansing but for mercy. The lepers are all slaves of their condition. They have no freedom. Their way is hampered at every turn. In order to be free they must be cleansed. They must be rid of the disease that stands in their way, that blocks their way to God. But that disease is simply a symptom of a greater problem. That disease only highlights the necessity not just of cleansing but of faith. The basis for the cleansing is the atonement. It is cleanliness that comes only by the washing with the blood of Christ where Jesus shows God’s ultimate mercy by cleanings all creation from the leprosy of sin.
Jesus then puts them into motion. Jesus commands them to go and show themselves to the priests. Once stuck in the muck of sin (the leprous yuck), now they are moved by Jesus’ Words. Jesus’ purpose of sending them to the priests is to fulfill the Old Testament laws, but also something more. Jesus wants the cleansed men to go to the place of sacrifice and offer themselves as a living testimony of the healing that Jesus brings. They go by faith, having confidence that they will be healed.
The great irony, of course, is that only one of the ten turns back to Jesus. All ten were cleansed, they were all set free from leprosy. But only one was saved from the effects of sin, only one had faith to return to give glory to God in the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is, only one worshiped God in Spirit and in truth. This is salvation, which leads to worship, by a Samaritan no less. The Samaritan’s worship is a confession of his faith. He returns to Jesus, giving glory to God, he fell, giving thanks to Jesus. In fact, this is the only place where “giving thanks” is directed toward to Jesus. This giving thanks, this eucharist, is an allusion to the Church’s ongoing Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Altar. Part of the way that you give thanks to God is by falling on your knees before the altar to receive the healing and cleansing of Jesus’ body and blood.
Now the healed Samaritan is moved into motion. When Jesus tells the Samaritan leper to rise and go his way, He isn’t merely telling him he should get on his way and catch up with the other nine, nor is He telling him that since he’s now better, he can arise and go do whatever his little heart desires. It’s such a poor English translation to say, “Rise and go your way.” But we like it. We like it because deep-down we like to believe that Jesus is perfectly fine with us going our own way and doing our own thing. This is NOT what Jesus is saying here! “Rise and paroumai. Rise and journey.” By using this very specific word, Jesus is calling this man to rise and take a pilgrimage, not just going anywhere, but with Him on His purposeful journey to His cross. He’s calling him to bear witness to Him as Jesus the heavenly High Priest presents Himself to His God and Father as the all-atoning sacrifice for all sin for all time. Jesus is calling this man to journey in saving faith in all his comings and goings throughout the remainder of his life.
“Rise and journey, your faith has made you well.” True enough, but better yet, “your faith has saved you.” You see, this healing comes not because of the Samaritan’s faith in and of itself, but who he has faith in, the One to whom he had given thanks. “Faith is that which freely obtains God’s mercy because of God’s Word” (Ap V 31-32). And this healing is more than physical, but it is salvation, it is deliverance from the leprosy of sin and death that will even move the dead out of their graves on the day of the resurrection, the day of final and complete healing. “Rise and journey!”
Until that time, Jesus is still on the move, still healing, still moving us out of our sinful stupor onto the pilgrimage road toward enteral life. Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you, God declares in your baptism. Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you, God declares each time you eat His body and drink His blood. Rise, and go your way, your faith has saved you, God declares in His holy absolution as He heals you from the leprosy of your sin.
But take note: Jesus never promises the Samaritan a cross-less, pain-free, worry-free journey. He promises him salvation. This is so important for us to remember. The Christian journey in this fallen and sinful world is a journey full of danger, despair, fear, suffering and sorrow. It’s a journey that involves bearing crosses. No one should be surprised or shocked by this. No one should be caught off-guard. It is the valley of the shadow of death through which you walk. But He promises to be your shield. He promises to guide you, lead you, protect you, and feed you all along the way.
God is on the move in Jesus. He comes to you today leading you back to Himself and out into the world. Get up and get going, to the Eucharist at the altar, out into the world, and back again to Jesus. Rise and journey, your faith in Jesus makes you well and saves you.