✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever
Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum
Psalm 146,2-3.5.7-9; Psalm 50,23 4717
14. Trinitatis 059
Hildegard, Abbess of St. Rupert near Bingen, Germany. ✠ 1179
17. September 2017
1. O Jesus Christ, Thou art worthy to be praised, declare Your steadfast love to us, so that we may rejoice in the righteousness. Amen. (Gradual).
2. The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies Me; I will show the salvation of God to one who orders his way rightly! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not put your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but He brings to ruin the way of the wicked.
3. The Holy Scriptures tell us that many people, in diverse situations, gave thanks to the Lord. The Psalmist makes the following connection: »The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies the Lord; I will show the salvation of God to the one who orders his way rightly!« In today’s Gospel pericope, St. Luke tells us that only one of the ten lepers made clean by Jesus returned to praise and thank Him. This man was a Samaritan. recall last Sunday’s parable where Jesus made a Samaritan the righteous and neighborly hero rather than the expected Jewish priest or Levite.
4. Jews and Samaritans had a long and complicated history. The Samaritans were the descendants of the 10 Tribes of Israel who had remained in northern Israel after Assyria had conquered them (721 bc). Roughly 50 years after this conquest, a new Assyrian king, Esarhaddon, brought people from Babylon to settle in the region of Samaria and nearby cities. These Babylonian Assyrians began marrying the local Israelites and thus the Samaritans were born. These Samaritans still worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but they only accepted the 5 Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy as Biblical books. When the two southern tribes of Judah returned from their own Babylonian Captivity they refused to let the Samaritans help rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. As a result, enmity sprang up between the two groups and this enmity was further worsened when the Samaritans decided to build their own temple at Shechem. By the time Jesus was born, the Jews would have no dealings with the Samaritans (John 4,9). To this day, about 900 Samaritans live in and around Shechem.
5. The Jews claimed to worship the One True God. The Samaritans made the same claim. Each group believed the other to be in error. Yet, when Jesus healed the lepers in today’s Gospel pericope only the Samaritan returned to praise and thank Him. The other 9 Jews knew the psalm in today’s Introit: »I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.« but they don’t live it. The Samaritan, who did not regard Psalm 146 as Holy Scripture, nevertheless does what the psalm exhorts: He praised God. Christians often find themselves in similar predicaments. We know what God says, You shall not …. or Repent, and believe the gospel, yet we fail at doing and believing. It is the bane of our weak, fallen human nature.
6. The Bible consistently repeats the laws and promises of God throughout its pages. The Holy Spirit inspired the Biblical authors this way in part to remind us how often we fail and sin, but also to exhort us to holy living and faith. The Scriptures exhort us to not rely on ourselves or our strength, but rather »Put your trust in the Son of Man in whom there is salvation.« That is what the lepers did. They didn’t get well by their own strength or through medicine. Had Jesus not arrived in their midst they would have lived the rest of their lives as outcasts from society and died apart from the fellowship of the temple and their relatives. They begged for mercy, and Jesus showed them mercy: You are healed, go, and show yourselves to the priests and be declared clean. One of the duties of the Jewish priest was to examine lepers and declare them clean and healed of their leprosy; only the priestly declaration would allow these cured men back into Jewish society.
7. The Samaritan, however, received a double blessing of mercy from Jesus. Our Lord healed him of his leprosy, and when he returned to express his thanks, Jesus told him: Go, your faith has saved you (Luke 17,19). We do not know what this Samaritan thought of Jesus before he met Him. There is good reason to believe that he longed for the promise of the Messiah to be fulfilled. In this he was in agreement with his Jewish cousins. But did he believe Jesus was the Messiah? Did he even know of Jesus before his encounter with Him? The Bible doesn’t answer these questions. However, the Samaritan does seem to at least recognize Jesus’ reputation as a healer, thus with the other lepers he cried out in hope: Please, pity us and heal us too!
8. Our Lord heeds the cry of the oppressed. »The Lord sets the prisoners free, He gives sight to the blind, He lifts up those bowed down and He watches over the traveler, the widow and the orphan.« You couldn’t get more oppressed than a leper in Jesus’s day. The conventional wisdom at that time was if you became a leper, then it was because you did something despicable so that God punished you. That same wisdom reigns today among Christians and even unbelievers. When someone gets seriously ill, what is one of the first things they ask themselves? What did I do to deserve this from God? Why is He angry at me? Ultimately, these are rhetorical questions because we simply have no word from God concerning the particular event. We can say that such illnesses are the result of the curse of God upon creation on account of Adam’s sin, so we get serious illnesses because we have a weaker body that is now subject to disease and death. Ultimately, we cannot change our fate: all men must die.
9. The curse, however, is not the final word from God. He ends our sinful condition with the promise: I will send you the Christ and He will not only heal you but save you as well. This promised Christ stood among the lepers and showed them mercy. »Blessed is he whose help and hope is in the Lord.« Jesus is that Lord, that Hope and that Help. Thus, Jesus told the Samaritan: »Your faith has saved you«, for in praising the man who had healed him the Samaritan had been convinced that this Jesus is the Christ. And so this day our Lord tells you: Arise, and go, or your faith in Jesus has saved you. Amen.
10. Let us pray. O Lord, Thou hast shown compassion to us; help us to trust You so that each day we in the assurance of Your loving kindness. Amen.
To God alone be the Glory
Soli Deo Gloria
All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
All quotations from the Book of Concord are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 12. Edition © 1998 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.