Sermon: The Infinite Mercy of Christ (Luke 17:11-19)

Luke 17.11-19 CLICK FOR AUDIO

The Infinite Mercy of Christ

Luke 17:11-19

Introduction

My favorite kinds of movies are those that end with an unexpected twist.  You’ve seen enough to know how the typical story line progresses toward its usual and predictable conclusion.  However when it quickly turns from that and follows an unexpected ending it is a movie with a good story, one worth watching.

Here we have a text that has a twist.  Luke writes this account in such a way as to leave his readers making assumptions and most of these assumptions end up being wrong.  His purposeful vagueness at certain specific points leads us to make wrong assumptions.  He uses these wrong assumptions to pull us into the story and to cause us to see some amazing things about Jesus.

Here is an account of ten lepers who are all healed.  Ten are healed physically but one is also saved, healed spiritually as well.  The one who is converted returns to Jesus to give God thanks.  There is a connection between this section and the beginning of Chapter 15…Luke’s purpose for including this account where he does is to show us theologically the distance in which Jesus is willing to go to receive sinners.

This is God’s Word for us today at GCC:

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” [1]

Father, help us plumb the depths of this passage in order to see more of our beloved Savior…Amen.

1. Travelling Around Samaria (Luke 17:11)

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.

There is nothing really special about this route to get to Jerusalem.  It is, however, the commonness of the route that makes point vivid to us.  It was normal for Jews to travel around the region of Samaria between it and Galilee.  Normally, a Jew would travel this way to avoid Samaritans out of hatred for them.  Jesus has a different reason in selecting His travel route.

51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53 But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and

consume them?” 55 But he turned and rebuked them. 56 And they went on to another village. [2]

Jesus didn’t hate the Samaritans they hated Him.  His time to die was coming but it wasn’t here yet.  Jerusalem and the cross were continually becoming larger on the distant horizon but His time to die wasn’t here yet.

Samaria was the place where most rejected Jesus; it was literally a place of rejection.  However, there was one more act of mercy to be accomplished on the outskirts of this region.  Jesus had one more expression of love toward those who have even rejected Him.

2.  An Infinite Depth of Mercy (Luke 17:12-14)

12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed.

If we didn’t read ahead in this account, we would assume that all of these lepers were Jewish.  Luke tells us later that they were not all Jewish but at least one was a hated Samaritan.  This is the picture of Jesus going to the absolute lowest in society.  These ten lepers are worse than unprofitable slaves from last week.  Here, He is healing a Samaritan leper.

In chapter five of Luke’s Gospel we learned some about the horrible disease of Leprosy.   We also learned even more by reading the OT Books of Leviticus and Numbers.

Do you remember all the regulations concerning those with this disease?

14 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean. [3]

These lepers were practicing Levitical law by standing at a distance.  They were ostracized from society because of this horrible disease.

Not only did this disease have physical and social implications but it was also symbolic of sin and the judgment of God in the spiritual realm as well.

Miriam in Numb 12 as the anger of the lord was aroused she became leprous.   Another example found in 2 Chron. 26 King Uzziah was angry with the priests and leprosy broke out on his forehead because of sin and God’s judgment.

It’s also important for us to understand that the priests were not the ones who cured those infected but were the inspectors.  In other words, they made the determination whether or not the person was cured.  They were purity inspectors; one theologian calls them, in the case of leprosy, Health Care Consultants[4]

They, in turn, prescribed the appropriate offerings the cured were to give God.

Another interesting point is that Jesus tells them to go show yourselves to the priests.  Why is this significant?  He tells them to go show themselves to the priests and at the beginning of their journey, they still have leprosy.  This is an act that requires some faith.

In Luke 5 Jesus heals one with leprosy by touching him.  Here this is a healing from a distance.  This is a healing that requires faith from the one who is to be healed.

I can imagine the conversation among these lepers may have been similar to the conversation between Naaman and his servant in 2 Kings.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. [5]

This healing in Luke and the healing of Naaman are similar in many ways.  Perhaps so similar, Luke is making an important point.  Perhaps Jesus is the Prophet all have been waiting for after all.

Perhaps the lepers are wondering why Jesus decided to heal this way?  After all, the guy before was healed immediately. 

Luke’s generalities up until now have led his readers to make some wrong assumptions.  One wrong assumption was that they all went to the priests in Jerusalem.  The one Samaritan was headed to his temple and his priests at Gerizim.

While they were going, all were healed.

3.  Jesus Receives Samaritan Lepers (Luke 17:15-16)

15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.

This returning cleansed leper is a returning saved leper.

In verse 14 we have the common word for physical healing.  They were all healed in this sense.  However, in verse 15, we’re introduced to a very special verb in the Greek language…iathei.  This word has more of the meaning of physically and supernaturally or spiritually.  The other indication is that Luke uses the phrase… when he saw that he was healed. 

This is Luke’s common word used for spiritual insight.  He had eyes to see and ears to hear.  This one leper who was cured was also called.  His eyes were opened to who Jesus is.

We see another example of Jesus fulfilling OT prophecy.

18    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

       He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

19    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [6]

 

What is this saved man’s first response?

He begins praising God, also Luke’s common report of one healed and saved.  The way this man does it is truly a turning point in history of redemption.

The Samaritan Woman at the well heard Jesus speak of a day when everything would be different.

19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. [7]

Here is the beginning of the end for the temple.  No more would a worshipper need the temple to meet with God…

This healed man stops dead in his tracks on the way to the temple and does an about face.  He sees that not only is his skin healed but his heart is also healed.  His response to this overwhelming mercy and grace showed to him by Jesus is to begin praising God…  turned back, praising God with a loud voice;

He comes into the presence of Jesus and immediately.. he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet,   Luke wants us to see this: This man praised God and worshipped God by falling on his face in front of God.  This phrase is a common way of showing that the person falling on his face is overwhelmed with divine authority.  Here, Jesus is worshipped and submitted to as Lord.  He was called Master earlier and now He is worshipped.  If Jesus was not God, it would be idolatry to worship Him.  He is God so worship is very appropriate.  Jesus is thanked because He healed this man…while he was going.

Oh and by the way, Luke tells us this man was a Samarian.  A detested Samarian, one that Jews don’t have contact with and avoid at all cost and go way out of their way to not come in contact with.  This man was received by Jesus and made a disciple.

4. Foreigners Are Welcome Into the Kingdom (Luke 17:17-19)

17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” [8]

It’s hard to say for sure, but it could be that the other nine were Jewish.  It could be that Luke’s point is that miracles were done all through Palistine and yet for the most part they rejected Christ and it was the Gentiles who were turning to Christ by faith.  This could be a picture of that.  However, at any rate, there is only one of the ten who returned and the one returning was a foreigner…a Samarian.

Jesus’ language is very strong here…this foreigner is not quite strong enough.  Should be rendered “One of another nation”.  Jesus did not recognize Samarians as half Jewish but as foreign Gentiles.

Our Lord makes a final declaration to this Samaritan…“Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

The first thing that distinguished this man from the others was that he was a Samaritan.  The second thing was that he had saving faith.

Let’s look at this faith in operation: He believed Jesus was God.  Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.  He knew what kind of disease he had.  He knew that he was terminal.  He also knew that only God could cure leprosy.  When he cried out to Jesus he was crying out to God.  The other proof we have that this man believed Jesus was divine is that when he began praising God for his power in healing him, he headed straight for Jesus and fell at His feet and worshipped Jesus as God.

One more Greek word…your faith has made you well.  The word translated well is a word Jesus uses for salvation.

This specific word is used seven times in the NT and every time including this one it means that faith has saved the individual.  Jesus sees this foreigner exercise saving faith in Him and declares that his faith in Jesus has saved him.

As far as application goes we must consider what happened here and learn of our possible shortcomings.

-First we too must exercise saving faith in Jesus Christ alone to be saved.

-Second, Jesus asks where are the other nine whom He also healed of leprosy?

 

The lesson before us is humbling, heart-searching and deeply instructive.  The best of us are far too like the nine lepers.  We are more ready to pray than to praise, and more disposed to ask God for what we have not than thank Him for what we have.[9]

 

We must be a thankful people and not a people always looking at our situation and wanting more.  Humility is thankful, pride and self-centeredness always wants more.  When we pray, let’s ask God for a thankful spirit and not always ask Him for stuff that our pride eyes and desires.

While we’re praying, let’s also pray that God would keep ever before us the former condition our souls so that we will never become puffed up with pride but see our unworthiness to ever be healed from our sinfulness, our spiritual leprosy.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. [10]

Has God healed you from your spiritual leprosy?  Have you thanked Him?

 


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 17:11–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 9:51–56). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Le 14:1–9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] Joel Green NICNT Luke pg. 624

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (2 Ki 5:9–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 4:18–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 4:19–21). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 17:11–19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9] Expository Thoughts on Luke, J C Ryle pg. 234

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Php 4:4–7). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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