“WHERE ARE THE OTHER NINE?”
Luke 17:11-19 (K. V.: 17:18)
“Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Today is the second Lord’s Day of the New Year. Year 2021 along with the very first Sunday of ’22 last week, was somewhat a series of painful, enduring moments as we took the brunt of the blow of COVID. However, by God’s grace, we survived and with many fond memories of good things such as the new sanctuary, we came back to Luke’s gospel study. Thank God for that! Quite fittingly for the Return of Luke’s gospel, we have the perfect passage that sheds on us an insight regarding what to do in 2022. What would you like to do most after being fully restored and COVID-free in this year? Similarly, what about after being fully reconciled and sin-free? May God bless our new year as we pray to be filled with a thanksgiving spirit, please Him dearly and thus, build a community of the Spirit and love.
“Jesus, Master, Have Pity on Us!” (11-14)
Look at verse 11. Jesus was again on the move. His ultimate destination would be Jerusalem at this time, but he still needed to go through more villages and towns to serve the needy and helpless. He then happened to travel along the border between Samaria and Galilee. Any borderline can be precarious and tricky depending on where you stand. Think about the DMZ borderline between South and North Korea. To Jesus, however, no border is an issue as he always breaks down any and all the walls of hostility. Perhaps, Jesus was using this borderline as a shortcut from Galilee to Jerusalem to hasten his trip. As he was going into a village, he met ten men with leprosy. We previously saw how a leper, or a blind would come to Jesus to be healed. A lone patient. But ten lepers all at the same time?
Here, we can safely assume that those ten men might have had a very different background and ethnicity (we know at least one of them was a Samaritan and possibly many of them were Jews). How come they overcame their differences and even their longstanding animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews and got along so well that they could come to Jesus as one unit? Probably, leprosy broke down all their walls of hostility as leprosy did not discriminate any ethnicity. The common misery brought them into a deep bonding. More importantly, however, they put their efforts in building their small community. With their kindred spirit, albeit an unfortunate one, they began to bear and help each other dearly no matter what because there was no one else could help them. In doing so, they became like one body, despite their differences and animosity.
This past Thursday through Saturday was the North America Leaders Conference (formerly known as the Staff Conference). Personally, when I saw the hundreds of familiar and news faces coming to the Zoom meeting, I was overwhelmingly touched and felt the kindred spirit, even though I had not much time talking to them. During this conference, as Msn. Gideon well pointed out in his email, many people testified the importance of building a community in raising the disciples. Nowadays, with the pandemic still going on, people have become more individualistic, virtual, and surface-based. It seems like establishing a deeper relationship in a community is ever more difficult than before. I heard the suicidal rate for the teenage girls skyrocketed, who might need the most communal relationship among the peers. We have many communities to have in our life. Professional communities like our jobs are very important. However, having a sense of belonging in a community of the Spirit and love is no less important in our life. So, I pray that we may build up a strong bond in our Christian community in 2022 as we continue to study together, pray together and praising together.
Coming back to verse 12, we may wonder how these ten men could meet Jesus. We can safely assume that the ten lepers got the news of Jesus’ passing-by. They previously heard about who Jesus is as so many people shared what he heard about him: opening the eyes of the blind, healing all kinds of sicknesses, and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. Now, this great Jesus was going to pass by. It made them feel a shred of hope like a rising sun dawning upon them. To them, it was their once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet him in-person. So, they hurriedly came to him. Note in verse 12b that they had to stand at a distance. It was according to the law. Perhaps, the ten men diligently studied the Book of Leviticus in their GBS and followed its guideline as much as possible (Lev 13:46). So, they could do what they could do at that moment: calling out in a loud voice for help, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
In their plea, we can see their faith and humbleness. Note also how they addressed Jesus. They called him, “Master,” the same expression Peter once used at the miraculous catch. “Master” may not have the same weight as “Messiah” or “Son of God,” but at least it indicates that they perceived him as the holy one of God who has the divine healing power. To this holy Jesus, they also showed their unworthy and humble attitude. They did not think they deserved anything from God. They did not claim any unfairness treatment claim before God, either. Hence, they humbly and totally depended on Jesus’ pity or mercy for any healing.
What did Jesus do when he heard their plea? Look at verse 14a. He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” On another occasion, Jesus touched the man with leprosy and even told him to be healed from leprosy. In this case, Jesus simply said to them to go and show themselves to the priests. What might have been the reason Jesus sent them to the priest rather than give them what they wanted? First, it was to test their faith in him. Jesus knew their humble cry was genuine and in desperation. And now he wanted to bestow the better gift on them through this faith test. That gift would be, we will find out later, that making them whole by meeting him as their personal Savior. Second, it was to help them to rejoin the society healthy and sound. As we have already realized, we all are communal beings. We cannot live alone. We are not meant to be like an island but to be active members of the society. We are to belong to a wholesome community and function as a part of that community. The ten lepers had to have their own small community because of the banishment from the society. After being healed and leprosy-free, they would have to rejoin the bigger group to live a normal and better life. For that, they needed the certification process by a priest, prescribed in the Scriptures. Here, we can see that Jesus helped them in every aspect: physically, socially, and spiritually.
Look at verse 14b. What does their response tell us about them? They were obedient. They had faith in Jesus. That is why they were healed on their way to a priest.
He was a Samaritan (15-19)
The fact that they were all cleansed on the way shows they were healed through Jesus’ mighty healing-power based on their faith. The problem was what happened after this amazing healing. What did one of the former lepers decide to do? Verse 15 reads. “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.” In what way was he different than the others? Well, he came back while others didn’t. He praised God while others didn’t. Actually, Jesus did not ask them to come back or praise God. So, the other nine did not do anything wrong. They simply obeyed him to the letter. Why then was this a big deal to Jesus? Why does Luke the author identify him as a Samaritan?
Look at verses 17, 18. “Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’” Surely, the other nine were not there and no one knew where they went but Jesus still asked their whereabouts. So, we can know that this question of Jesus was meant for the disciples and for those who would follow him. That said, this question is for us. The fact that a Samaritan former-leper came back and praised God shows anyone can receive God’s grace and in return give praise to Him. This is the universal truth. You don’t have to be a priest and a praise-team leader to give praise to God. And this can happen not only for the good times but also the bad times. Listen to what Job said when the initial attack of Satan came to him: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.”
We may not always have the written rules to govern our life. Giving thanks or praises to God is not written in the Ten Commandments. As we already talked about, Jesus did not ask the former lepers to come back to thank him. Yet his saying about the forgetful nine’s not coming back gives us an insight what to do in our life. Apostle Paul pointed out that not giving thanks to the Creator God was the root of all sins and that giving thanks to Him in all circumstances is His good and pleasing will. Remember if Eve knew how to properly thank God even at the worst time of the serpent’s crafty attack, she could have avoided the temptation claiming that she could not understand what God really said about the tree of the knowledge, but she would be thankful to Him. As the New Year began, we still have uncertainty for the future. Would the Omicron Variant continue to wreak a havoc on us? Will we ever come back to normalcy? That makes us worried and rattled. Nevertheless, having a thanksgiving spirit always makes us strong in any situation. That makes bonded in our community. A worrying or complaining spirit never achieves anything. That is why we have key verse testimonies for remembering thanksgiving topics.
In verse 19, Jesus commended his faith and gave an assurance to the Samaritan man for his wholistic healing. That is what we need in the New Year.
In conclusion, we learned putting efforts in building a community is essential in our life. That is one of the cores of our Christianity. Studying, praying, and praising together in our worship can help make a strong bond in our community. Having a thanksgiving spirit instead of a worrying and complaining spirit is the good and pleasing will of God. May God bless this year with a strong community and a thanksgiving spirit.