13 October 2013Luke 17:11-19
"Then he said to him, 'Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well'." (v.19)
One of the many interesting features of Luke's Gospel is his
geography. When he tells us very precisely where something happened
there is always a good reason. So, "the region between Samaria and
Galilee" is a clue that something significant is going on. Normally
Galilean Jews and Samaritan Jews would keep their distance from
each other because of their ancient religious disputes (see here for some background) so the boundary
between Samaria and Galilee was a religious one, as well as being
political and geographical.
It was a slightly 'fuzzy' boundary though - a kind of no-man's-land - which was inhabited by those people who were welcome in neither Samaria nor Galilee. Especially lepers, who were regarded by Jews, whether Galilean or Samaritan, as 'ceremonially unclean' (because of their bleeding sores - contact with blood was to be avoided at all costs) and they were forced to live as outcasts away from 'clean' people. (You can read all about a range of unpleasant skin diseases in Leviticus 13.) So for Jesus to venture into this region, and enter a leper colony, was extremely odd.
What happens next is fascinating. This particular leper colony was mixed - Galileans and Samaritans thrown together as religious and social outcasts, united by their suffering. And they recognised Jesus as someone who could help them. Just being in the presence of Jesus was enough for them - they didn't dare get too close - and they asked him to heal them so that they could return to their homes and families as 'clean' people. Jewish law required them to be checked by a priest before this could happen, and Jesus simply sent them off and, as they obeyed him, they were "made clean".
But the Samaritan who came back to Jesus to thank him was the only one to praise God for his healing (or 'salvation' - the same word in Greek). And that, too, is highly significant.
- Part of Luke's purpose in his Gospel was to show that salvation was not restricted to the Jews. Why do you think that religious people tend to draw boundaries beyond which salvation is not possible?
- In Luke's Gospel, much of Jesus' ministry is 'on the boundary'. Where are the boundaries for the Church's mission today?
- How much do you think the healing of the ten lepers depended on Jesus, and how much on them? Was there anything different about the Samaritan's healing?