INI + AMEN.
Our account from St. Luke’s Gospel this morning gives us the opportunity to have a discussion about faith. We all like to have this discussion about faith. We like to talk about “my faith.” There’s the talk about “my faith journey” and “my faith walk.” We’re told, “You’ve just gotta have faith.” When things get bad, or there’s a disaster, people tend to say, “I have my faith.”
We hear about “faith” in all these ways. But when we do, what are we supposed to think and learn about “faith”? Well, these ways of talking about faith also talk about something else: me! There’s “my faith walk” or “journey.” Let’s talk about “my faith”, “your faith.” When some says, “You’ve gotta have faith”, the focus is on you. Faith has its object. Faith can only truly be talked about if its object is also in view. Faith doesn’t exist apart from its object. Faith is like a hand that grasps somethings. In our Gospel lesson we see how faith operates, what faith does.
FAITH DOES ONE THING: IT CLINGS TO JESUS.
(I. The 10 sought Jesus and cried out in faith.)
People who were sick would find Jesus. There were those who would bring their sick friends or family if the sick couldn’t make it by themselves. Our text today is not the first time that Jesus encountered lepers. There was a time that a leper came up to Jesus and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
The situation before us today, with the ten lepers, is completely different than just the simple fact that there are ten of them, and not just one. Today, Jesus is on His journey to Jerusalem. The final journey has begun. “And it happened as He journeyed to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.” Jesus is on His way to die for the sins of the world. He takes the long way there—preaching, teaching, and healing along the way. Jesus, setting His face towards Jerusalem, was on the way of our salvation—ever nearing that great day of our salvation.
Jesus makes a pitstop in “a certain village.” And there Jesus is greeted by a strange entourage: ten lepers. They stood afar off. They couldn’t come near. One leper might be able to sneak around, but a group of ten would stand out. They cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” This is the cry of faith. This isn’t just a cry for healing of their leprosy. This is something much more weighty. It’s no wonder this question is asked of Jesus as He heads towards Jerusalem. The cry of faith is the cry for salvation.
Maybe they understand maybe they don’t, but their faith says, “If I want salvation, then I need to find Jesus.” You see their faith doesn’t talk about, “Well, I’ve got faith to carry me through my leprosy.” The problem with their leprosy wasn’t the leprosy itself. The problem is sin. They couldn’t go to the temple to receive God’s forgiveness. They were outcasts. Left out. So they cry out, “Lord, have mercy!”
(II. The one clung to Jesus in faith)
The Lord doesn’t leave them in their plight. “Go, show yourselves to the priests,” says Jesus. The gatekeepers for letting lepers back into the community were the priests. They inspected the infected to see if they were still unclean lest the uncleanness spread throughout the people. So they go on their way, and, “while they were going, they were cleansed.” What kept them apart from God, from receiving His grace, mercy, and forgiveness was removed. Their leprosy, their sin no longer kept them away from God. They were purified, cleansed. They were absolved of their leprosy.
The state of leprosy is a troubling one. It corrupts human flesh, and the flesh itself becomes leprous. These men had *done* nothing to remove them from receiving God’s forgiveness, that is, to remove them from God’s presence. They bore leprosy in their flesh. The affliction came to them, and they were no longer clean. They were outcasts—treated as sinners.
So it is with sinners. Even though a person would think, speak, or do nothing evil (which, however, is impossible in this life, since the fall of our first parents), his nature and person are nevertheless sinful, that is, thoroughly and utterly infected and corrupted before God by original sin, as by a spiritual leprosy; and on account of this corruption and because of the fall of the first man the nature or person is accused or condemned by God’s Law, so that we are by nature the children of wrath, death, and damnation, unless we are delivered therefrom by the merit of Christ.
But Christ is on His way to Jerusalem. He’s going to pay for all sins. Jesus sheds His blood, dies and rises for all that you and I have done. Jesus even dies for sin! The sin that clings to our very nature. Thus Jesus says to lepers, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” They are cleansed along the way. And one of them notices something. This cleansing, this absolution, had another effect—his leprosy, the sign of his own sinfulness, was gone!
He seeks out God. He doesn’t go the priests although they were the distributers of the Lord’s gifts. He doesn’t go to the temple although it was the place where God had promised to be with His gifts. He finds God. This former leper falls on his face at God’s feet, and gives thanks to Him directly. “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned with a loud voice, glorifying God, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.” And irony of ironies, this man was a Samaritan. A man not allowed in the temple clings to temple Jesus. “Destroy this temple…” says Jesus—not brick and mortar, but Him, His body. So the Samaritan doesn’t go to the priests, but the THE Priest, the only great High Priest, Jesus. He doesn’t go a temple where He can’t enter the premises let alone the holy of holies. He clings to the feet of the walking-toward-Jerusalem holy of holies, Jesus. He finds God, He finds Jesus.
(III. The man was saved.)
What of the nine? So it is with the Word of God, the absolution of God, His cleaning. Some who hear believe for awhile and turn away. But some receive it and bear one hundred fold. One outside the kingdom, one samaritan is in by faith. One who only under pain of death could enter the temple, clings to THE Temple who would suffer the pain of death for him, and for the whole world.
Jesus says to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has saved you.” Was it his faith that saved him? Would he have said, “Well, I’m just glad I have my faith. It’s what brought me through the tough times”? Was it is faith that said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests?” Was it his faith that absolved away his leprosy, but not just his leprosy—his sin? Was it faith that cleansed the nine? No, it was none of that. It was Jesus. Jesus saved him. Jesus cleansed Him. Jesus did it. “Your faith has saved you. Your Jesus has saved you.”
This is the way of faith. What was this man’s faith? Is it that he really believed? Is it that he had better manners than the other nine? Where does he go when he realizes his leprosy is gone? He goes back to Jesus because Jesus always has more. This man’s faith is what his faith trusts in, and that’s Jesus. This man’s faith is Jesus Himself.
“Arise, go your way. Your Jesus has saved you.” And this is what faith believes. It believes and trusts that Jesus saves. He saves by dying in your place for your sins. He saves by rising from the dead. He saves by washing you at the font, filling your ears with the Good News of forgiveness, and giving you a feast of salvation in His body and blood.
This man’s faith saves because Jesus Himself saves. Faith doesn’t look at itself. It looks to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, as the author of Hebrews puts it. Faith receives what Jesus has to offer. FAITH DOES ONE THING: IT CLINGS TO JESUS. This is how it was for the Samaritan. This is how it is for you and me. The more Jesus has to offer, the more faith clings to that alone. After the service today, where He once again absolves you, forgives you, give you His body and blood, Jesus says the same to you, “Arise, go your way. Your faith—I have saved you.”
INI + AMEN.