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God’s Word for You

Luke 17:15-19 one leper

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, November 14, 2018

15 When one of them saw that he was healed, he turned back praising God at the top of his voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus said, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give glory to God, except this foreigner?”

The healed man didn’t just come back to thank Jesus, he came back praising God that he was healed, and he threw himself down at Jesus’ feet. There was no reason to do this if Jesus were simply the physician of the man’s body. But Jesus had paved the way for this man to come to faith, real, saving faith, in him.

The Samaritans were (and still are) of mixed ancestry, combining a tiny remnant from the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, or Levi with Gentiles from various locations from the old Assyrian Empire (see 2 Kings 17:23-34).  They disagreed with Jews over the text of the Bible, recognizing only the Pentateuch or five books of Moses, and over the authentic center of worship, which they maintain is Mount Gerizim near Shechem in Samaria. This Samaritan man had called out with the others for Jesus to have mercy on him, and now he was acknowledging that this Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, has called on the power of God to heal him. He was correct as far as he went, but Jesus had even more to tell him. Amazed that the other nine did not return, Jesus had still more mercy on this man:

19 And he said to the man, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.”

The text is clear, “Your faith has saved you,” although some translations try to help the reader by making it, “Your faith has healed you.” Jesus was not talking about faith as the “efficient cause” (causa efficiens), as if faith hammered the man’s unbelief into trust in Christ. Rather, the man’s faith was the “instrumental cause” (causa instrumetalis), the thing, organ or instrument through which he was now ready to receive salvation from Jesus. We can think of this in terms of faith as an I.V. tube. The tube itself is not the reason a patient is cured, but once in place, he is ready to receive the healing medicine. This medicine is the gospel, which the Samaritan was ready to hear. Now that the differences between Samaritans and Jews were set into the framework of having the Christ standing above him as he lay prostrate on the ground, he had at last come before God in the flesh.

The Samaritan was where the Jews should have been, but too many of them were not throwing themselves at Jesus’ feet. They strutted and walked around like roosters, expecting Jesus to fall down before them instead. The Pharisees in particular had become like teenagers who think they can jump in and out of the bath without ever touching the soap. They never get clean; their stink sticks to them, and the stink of their sins was sticking to the Jews. As long as they avoided the cleansing touch of Jesus, they would never be clean. This once leper understood what it means to be truly unclean, ceremonially unclean, and he rejoiced that God had cleansed him. This is Jesus, the true soap.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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