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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, October 13, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 17:11–19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (NRSV)

Luke’s account of Jesus healing ten lepers—and only one thanking Jesus for the healing—is often interpreted as being a teaching about the need for gratitude, but Luke seems to be using Jesus’ praise for this individual in a different way. Nestled in-between the man’s thanks and Jesus’ praise, Luke quickly inserts a detail: “And he was a Samaritan”—a comment so out of the blue that it must have had importance for Luke and Luke’s audience.

Indeed, the Gospel of Luke seems quite interested in the Jewish-Samaritan relationship: the Parable of the Good Samaritan only appears in Luke, and Luke includes outreach to Samaritans as one of the early pushes for the apostles. In most of these instances (though not always; see Luke 9:51–56!), Samaritans were portrayed in a positive light—a marked shift from how they were viewed in Judea during Jesus’ time. The one-sentence recap is that Samaritans were the ancestors of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but post-exilic disputes over the temple and a Samaritan partnership with the hated and brutal ruler Antiochus IV around 160 years earlier had led to a sharp break between Jews and Samaritans.

This continued positive portrayal of a people many would have considered “enemies” is a reminder of how Jesus’ ministry should force us to reevaluate the many cultural and political barriers that we assemble. These divisions are antithetical to the Gospel, and we need to see and claim the collective humanity of people whom we label, consciously or unconsciously, as “others” or “enemies.”

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart. Help me to recognize that everyone I encounter today, whether in person or in a news story, has been claimed, known, and loved by you—and may that recognition change how I treat them as well. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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