Pastor Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church – Dyer, Indiana
05. September 2010
“Pray, Praise, and Give Thanks”
+ IN NOMINE JESU +
When Jesus entered a certain village outside Israel, between Samaria and Galilee, he was met by ten lepers. News of Jesus’ ability to heal had reached the ears of these ten. They believed that He could heal them of their incurable disease. As lepers, they knew to keep their distance. Leprosy’s transmission and treatment was not known in those days. So, they called out from a distance with loud voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (v.13). They call Jesus Master because they have heard he has mastery over the flesh. They ask of him what only such a master can do, that is, have mercy on their suffering bodies. “When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed” (v.14). Rightly heeding the Master’s word, they went on their way to the priests, so that they may be readmitted into the community. They received healing on their way.
The life of a leper is not pleasant. The leper’s body is covered by lesions and sores. His muscles become weak and your body is plagued by soreness. Worse yet, he must live in isolation, in utter separation from friends, family, and community. Even more so, he is not welcome to worship in temple and synagogue. Thus, these lepers had two conditions, one in their body and one in their soul. First, they suffer physically with leprosy and second, they suffer spiritually in isolation from the Word.
What a truly wonderful gift the Lord gave them with their healing! How great it was to be blessed to have relief for their suffering flesh. How much more great is it to again embrace family and friends. Even more so is it to hear the Word of God in the synagogue. They received this gift in obedience, trusting in the mercy of the Master. Yet, it is not the ten who are commended but rather the one who returned. Why? Simply, because the one returned with praise and thanksgiving.
Luther’s Small Catechism helps us to understand why Jesus offers the one who returned as the example to follow. Last week in Bible study, we considered the first three commandments of God. The first tells us that we must not have idols but only fear, love, and trust in God above all things. The second instructs us to not misuse the name of the Lord our God. The third commands us to keep the Sabbath day by not despising preaching and His Word, holding it sacred and gladly hearing it and learning it.
Consider the these commandments in light of the ten lepers: Did they honor the first commandment, believing that Jesus, the Master, was God incarnate, giving Him righteous fear, love, and trust? Or maybe they merely believed that Jesus was God’s servant, calling to Him to perform the great miracles that God’s messengers had done throughout the millennia. Or maybe they didn’t believe anything. Maybe they merely had heard the news of Jesus, knew the right formula that had worked for others, and only superstitiously called out in the outside chance that Jesus could do something.
It’s really hard to know that motive of those lepers. Why? They don’t speak from faith. They don’t give any credit to God. Even after being miraculously healed, they give no credit to God. They should have remembered the first commandment, that is, that their lives are completely in the hands of the Almighty God, who governs and preserves all things, from the lilies in the field to the child in the womb. Even those suffering in sickness or death are under the merciful care of God. Those who fear God, who love Him sincerely, and trust in Him for everything should know that a miraculous healing is a gift from the bounteous providence of God. Thus, the nine transgressed the first commandment. They did not seek God, giving Him the fear, love, and trust He deserves.
The nine left Jesus with dead obedience to command. Faith is not merely following the commands of God. That sort of faith the world knows well. As flesh-born sinners, we believe that we must keep God’s commands completely or we will be punished and die. We believe that the Law is the inescapable demand of God. Keep it and you will live. Transgress it and you will suffer and die. Break the Lord’s command with works of the flesh and you will not inherit the kingdom of God. The Law does not save but damns. It does not give life but kills. A mere legalistic faith, a mere faith of keeping laws, has no mercy. You keep the law or you die.
Consider the list from Paul again. Who has not envied another? Who has not been angry or jealous? Who has not been apart of or created rivalry, dissension, or divisions in this world, the church, or their very own family? You have sinned against God’s Holy Law. Repent. Repent of your works of the flesh. Consider yourself a leper, separate from God as a sinner, and beg his mercy.
Thanks be to God, He has also given us a great Word of promise, a great Word of Gospel. There is mercy for our sinful leprosy. We are forgiven in Christ. Christ himself has suffered the punishment for our lawbreaking. God took the punishment into himself in His Son so that we might have life and mercy from our suffering. The only reason we don’t live with horrible disease, the squalor of poverty, or with short miserable lives is because of the merciful sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Only through His shed blood do any good things come to us.
By this Gospel Word of mercy, Christ’s Spirit is active in us. He lives in every saint of God, washed clean and forgiven in the font. Baptism now saves us from the curse of the Law. Baptism gives us new and clean hearts, bearing fruit in us by Christ’s Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. God has crucified the flesh with its passions and desires and instead has given us the new, forgiven man who lives and walks by the Spirit.
But “then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks” (v.15-16). Only the one responded with the gift of faith. Only the one gave God the credit for the merciful healing. Only one loved God with his whole heart, trusting in Him for all good things, thus believing that his removal of his leprosy was from God himself. This is the model of the active indwelling of the Spirit.
Thus, like the one cleansed leper who returned, we call upon our Lord’s name in every trouble, with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, just as Luther confessed. We pray in the name of Jesus for every need of body and soul. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” is our prayer, too. Our prayers often end: Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer. We too call upon Jesus when we are assaulted by the world, Satan, or our own evil fleshy desires. We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. When we fail, we call upon the name of the Lord. We beg of him: “Master, have mercy upon us.” In every trouble, we call on the Lord. This is the faith God desires.
Dear Christians, hold God’s Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Meditate on our Lord’s precepts, keep your eyes fixed on His ways. Store up this Word in your heart that you might not sin against the Lord. Walk the path of righteousness, the wisdom that guards our life from wickedness and violence.
When your flesh rebells against these commands, repent. When your flesh prefers to walk the way of darkness, repent. When your heart of flesh forgets the Word and sins against the Lord, repent. In repentance, we call out to our Lord, “Have mercy upon us.” Purge us of our evil ways. Create in us a clean heart and renew a right Spirit within us.
Only by the Gospel can this new heart be made. Only by the Gospel are we given the Spirit of thankfulness and praise, daily returning to the font and weekly to the altar. This is the gift of the shed blood of Jesus that washes away our sins. This is the gift of his very flesh and blood given as the medicine of immortality for our leprous sinful flesh. This Gospel food forgives our sins, creates the new heart, and preserves us in our wilderness pilgrimage to everlasting life. Like the lone leper who returned, we give thanks to God for hearing our prayer and showing mercy on us. He has forgiven us and continues to heal us of our mortal wounds. For this wonderful gift, we give our Lord thanks and praise. Dear Christian, rise and go your way, your faith has made you well. Thanks be to God! Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your heart and mind steadfast in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
+ SOLI DEO GLORIA +