Trinity XIV - Luke 17:11-19 - September 6, 2015

Order of Service - Pg. 15
Hymn # 36 "Now Thank We All Our God"
Hymn #569 "O Lord, I Sing With Lips and Heart"
Hymn #398 "Renew Me, O Eternal Light"

Jeremiah 17:13-14
Galatians 5:16-24
St. Luke 17:11-19

Collect for Trinity 14
Keep, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy Church with Thy perpetual mercy; and because the frailty of man without Thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by Thy help from all things hurtful and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghhost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on the Gospel Lesson

1)         Look at what faith does. Here are ten lepers standing far off from the Lord, keeping their distance so as to not infect anyone else with their terrible contagion. They ought to men of a hopeless demeanor. Having leprosy is a living death. Every day your disease eats away at your very flesh. Having leprosy is a social death as well. Being highly communicable, the disease must be quarantined from regular life. The leper lives in a colony outside the city not in his own home with his own wife and children. The leper avoids the market, relying upon others to bring him his daily bread. The leper, separated from family, home, commerce, and everyday life is also separated from synagogue. The leper cannot hear the voice of God speaking to His people through the Holy Scriptures. The words of Moses and the promises of the prophets seem distant to him because he hasn’t heard them in years. These men ought to hopeless, dejected, and despairing. And perhaps they were on a regular basis. But not today. Jesus of Nazareth is making His way toward Jerusalem. And while they had been unable to hear the word of Moses and the promises of the prophets in their synagogue, they had most certainly heard the Gospel. Those who passed by them on the other side of the road must’ve been talking about the great things this man of God has done. Hearing the reports about Jesus’s miracles and teaching kindled the small fire of faith in their hearts. But upon seeing the Lord pass by as He enters their village, that small fire of faith explodes into a flame of heat and light, joy and desire that they can’t restrain. They lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” See what this faith of theirs does. It does not despair because of their leprosy. It does not huddle in the leper colony in hopelessness and destitution. This faith of theirs overcomes all afflictions of body, community, and soul, and cries out to Christ alone, “Lord, have mercy upon us.”

2)         Jesus does not disappoint. He does not touch them as He touched the lone leper in Matthew 8. He may not even stop. So when He saw them, He said to them. The details are scant probably because there weren’t any other details to record. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. He goes to acquire forgiveness and salvation for the sins of the entire world. He will not be deterred by ten leprous men, nor will ignore faith when it cries out to Him. What does He tell them as He passes by? Go, show yourselves to the priests. That’s it? No great word of declaration. No great miracle for all to see. Just, go, show yourselves to the priests. Jesus has not yet fulfilled the entire Law of Moses, so He bids the lepers to go to the priests and fulfill all that was commanded of them in Leviticus 14 to demonstrates their cleansing from the leprosy and be rejoined with their families and worship. Well not quite. Jesus bids them to be bold enough to approach the priest. In Leviticus, the priest is supposed to go to the leper outside the camp and inspect his condition. If the leper came to the priest, think of how many others he might thoughtlessly infect! Yet Jesus tells them to go to the priests. For worldly wisdom and human scruples this is a terrible conundrum. Do they risk it based on only a word from Jesus? They have not yet been healed as He says it. Do they believe and act on that belief, or unbelieve and tarry, waiting for something more than just the Word of Christ?

3)         And again, look at what faith does. And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. Faith hears the words of Jesus and runs with them, in this case quite literally. Jesus says Go show yourselves to the priests and the lepers do just that. They were not cleansed when they departed from their colony. Yet they believed the Word of Jesus and held it dearer than all human reason and worldly wisdom. Everyone knows that words don’t heal people. But faith believes that the words of Jesus do what they say. In the beginning God spoke and creation came into existence. So now God again speaks and what He speaks happens. Faith knows this, believes this, and yearns for this, to hear the Word of Jesus. Then faith runs with whatever word it receives in the direction Jesus says. They men don’t run home first to their families. They don’t run first to their friends. They run, having only Jesus’ promise in their pocket, right to the priest. This is what faith does. Faith believes Jesus’ word is true and lets all contrary words and opinions and thoughts be false. Faith believes the smallest word of Jesus because faith believes that God is true and everyone else is a liar. Faith holds onto that word of Jesus for dear life because that word of Jesus IS true life.

4)         Then, once the Samaritan has returned to give thanks, look at what Jesus says about this faith which receives His word, believes it, and runs with it. Christ the Lord says, Arise, go. Your faith has made you well. Jesus ascribes this man’s cleansing not to His own power but to the man’s faith. He doesn’t say this to encourage the Pentecostals in their man-made opinion that faith is your own conviction of heart and that if you only muster up enough faith, then you can be healed. Faith is God’s working in your heart, not your own. Nor does Christ ascribe this great thing to faith to overshadow His own divine power. Christ lavishes such praise upon faith because faith is the true worship of God. Christ praises faith because the faith which saves is not faith in oneself or a blind faith that things must turn around at some point, but because faith receives the Word of Jesus, believes it, clings to it, and runs with it. Jesus praises faith because faith is what justifies sinners. It is what saved this man, body and soul. This man received more than just cleansing from leprosy. Jesus’ word gave him more than just healing. It gave Him the forgiveness of sins and salvation. It gave this man, outwardly dying from leprosy and inwardly dying of trespasses and sins salvation and resurrected the man to new life in Christ. That’s what Jesus says. Our English translations just hide it well. He says, Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well. But Jesus’ words run deeper than that. He says, avnasta.j poreu,ou\ h` pi,stij sou se,swke,n seÅ (There, now you can say that your pastor has spoken in a tongue in church, for a tongue is nothing but another language. And now he will interpret as St. Paul instructs).

5)         Jesus says Rise. Go. Your faith has saved you. It has done much more than make you well. It has saved you, for Jesus’ word means ‘to save,’ ‘to bring salvation.’ Our English translations interpret the word in the context of the story which is all well and good. But it neglects the greater healing Jesus gives these men. Faith alone saves. Faith in Christ’s atonement and merits, that is the only thing that justifies sinners so that God doesn’t count their sins against them because He instead counts Jesus’ merits, His perfect obedience, to you. These lepers receive all this because when Jesus offers His gifts He offers all of them. Jesus is very interested in healing bodily disease and restoring health. But He is just as interested in the salvation of men’s souls. In fact, for now He is more interested in granting salvation to men by faith in His merits than He is in healing. The healing will come. You’ll get it alright. But perhaps not now. Not everyone with leprosy gets cleansed. Not every cancer patient triumphs over the disease. Not everyone afflicted with an unheard of disorder gets a survivor t-shirt. Just because Jesus doesn’t heal your affliction in this life doesn’t mean He doesn’t love you though. Just because Jesus doesn’t cleanse you of your disease doesn’t mean your faith is weak or unwilling. It just means that is not your heavenly Father’s good and gracious will for you right now. His will is that you be saved by faith in Christ now because all who are saved by faith in Christ in their lifetime have this promise as well,  that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. All the healings of Jesus in the Gospels point us to this one immutable fact. Those whom He justifies by faith in this life He will raise to new life on the Last Day.

6)         And we should note as well that this salvation that Jesus gives applies to all ten men, even those who did not return to give thanks. Good works are not a part of salvation by faith. If we were to say that the nine “unthankful” men were not healed because of their ingratitude, we would be going beyond the text and saying that if gratitude does not follow then faith was never really present in the first place. Good works are bound to follow faith, but they do not enter in the discussion of being justified by faith in Christ. We can’t make works, even gratitude, necessary before, during, or after justification. Lord willing gratitude will follow, but thanks be to God that it’s not necessary for salvation. For how often do you return to Christ to give Him thanks for the gifts He gives? So our justification before God is based solely on Christ’s work, not ours. But Jesus does want to teach us gratitude by this Samaritan’s example. We ought to give thanks to the Lord for His blessings to us, especially for the blessings He acquired for us at the cross and applies to us in the Word and Sacraments, the forgiveness of sins, life, and our eternal salvation.

7)         See what faith does and what Jesus says about faith. Faith is not to be swept in the corner, for it is a gift of God Himself as the Scriptures testify in countless places. Faith is not be made in our own work, but praised as the Holy Ghost’s chief work in our hearts. Faith hears the words of Jesus and believes them, holds them dear, and despises all words to the contrary. Faith believes the words of Jesus and runs with them, in the direction He commands. Faith is the only means by which He wants to save us, to justify us, and reconcile us with God, and through that salvation promise us resurrection to new life on the Last Day, that great final health our dying bodies crave. Hear His Word in faith. Cling to the Word at baptismal font, His word spoken over bread and wine, His Word in your pastor’s absolution, His word in the Scriptures. Then rise. Go. Your faith has saved you. For all this, it is our duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. Amen.

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