11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19
Nowhere to Go but Jesus.
I think I get it. Or at least, I think I can imagine, at least a little, what the other nine were thinking. These were good Jews who knew the laws about being clean and unclean, about what it meant to be on the outside looking in, about how devastating it was to be ostracized from family, and workplace, and temple worship.
They were on their way to set that right, to get back on the inside, to be able to kiss their wives again, and for the first time in who knows how long, to be able to worship God again the way a good Jew should. And after all, hadn’t Jesus Himself commanded them to go see the priest (so they could officially be declared clean and welcomed back into the community)?
So I get it. Kind of. It’s not that they were ungrateful. It’s just that they had better places to be.
What I don’t get is this Samaritan. What’s he doing hanging out with these nine Jews in the first place? It seems that despair and rejection can overcome cultural barriers that even love has trouble tearing down. So he is hanging out with his hated cultural enemies, and he joins in calling out to this Jewish Rabbi, calling Him “Master” and asking for mercy. This Samaritan must have been desperate, indeed.
So desperate, in fact, that he even set off to go see a Jewish priest at the command of this Jewish Rabbi. What was he thinking? The other nine could expect a welcome home, but—leper or no—a Samaritan was certainly not welcome in the Temple of Jerusalem.
So when the ten lepers looked down as they ran and noticed the terrible skin disease was gone, nine had good reason to keep on running! What a miracle! They couldn’t wait to go see the priest, and enter the temple, and worship God!
But one stopped in his tracks. As on outsider, he was not welcome where the other nine were going. He had no other place to worship God than the feet of Jesus.
In his desperation, the Samaritan had nowhere to turn but Jesus. In his joy and worship, he had nowhere to turn but Jesus. And that’s what Jesus Himself calls faith: faith that saves. “Go in peace; your faith has saved you.” Faith has nowhere to go but Jesus.
We pray: Jesus, make me desperate for you today. In my need, in my joy, teach me to cling to you. Amen.