Free to Give Thanks

Wisdom 6:1-11
Listen, kings, and understand; rulers of remotest lands, take warning; hear this, you who have thousands under your rule, who boast of your hordes of subjects. For power is a gift to you from the Lord, sovereignty is from the Most High; he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise your intentions. If, as administrators of his kingdom, you have not governed justly nor observed the law, nor behaved as God would have you behave, he will fall on you swiftly and terribly. Ruthless judgement is reserved for the high and mighty; the lowly will be compassionately pardoned, the mighty will be mightily punished. For the Lord of All does not cower before a personage, he does not stand in awe of greatness, since he himself has made small and great and provides for all alike; but strict scrutiny awaits those in power.
Yes, despots, my words are for you, that you may learn what wisdom is and not transgress; for they who observe holy things holily will be adjudged holy, and, accepting instruction from them, will find their defence in them. Look forward, therefore, to my words; yearn for them, and they will instruct you.

Psalm 81 Arise, O God, to judge the earth.

Luke 17:11-19
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

The Samaritan returns to give thanks.  But, Is it thanks because he is healed from Leprosy?

Maybe, but that is not the whole story. The Samaritan leper would know that Jesus is a Jew.  This encounter takes place in the borderlands between the two peoples.  Israel was divided into three regions: Judea in the south, Galilee in the north, and Samaria in the middle.   When a Jew wanted to go from Judea to Galilee, the most direct route led through Samaria. But good Jews would never go that way. They would go through Perea on the other side of the Jordan River.

Why? Because there was such tension between the Samaritans and the Jews, that Jews uttered the word `Samaritan’ only as a curse. Why were the Samaritans so despised? In the year 722 BC, the Assyrians invaded Israel from the north, and carried the ten northern tribes into captivity. It was brutal. The Assyrians put fishhooks in the mouths of the Jews, tied them together, and dragged them out of northern Israel back to Assyria, where they were held hostage. The Assyrians sent their people down to Israel, like settlers, where they intermarried with the Jews not taken into captivity. The marriages which took place between the Assyrians and the Jews produced the Samaritans — half-breeds in the eyes of the Jews.

Jesus says to the leper “Go, your faith has saved you”.  Yet barred from the Temple, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim.  Although they still believed in the Pentateuch, they changed the stories. The Garden of Eden, Noah’s ark landed, and Abraham offered Isaac on Mount Gerizim.  So, to the Jews the Samaritans were not only half-breeds they were guilty of corrupting the sacred traditions of the Jewish people.  It was a mutual hatred.  The Samaritans hated the Jews because during the Maccabean revolt, Hyrcanus destroyed the temple on Mt. Gerizim. 

Along comes Jesus in an act of kindness cures ten men. Imagine an Israeli from the town of Ashkelon recently attacked by Hamas, healing a Palestinian from Gaza.

The nine Jews who went off to show themselves to the priests, followed the sacred tradition.  The Samaritan could not do this – he was cut off from the law.  The law could not justify him.  Like the woman at the well he recognises in Jesus all he needs to verify his healing.  He needs no priest.

This healing is an act of pure love that not only brings physical healing.  It also breaches the divisions of ethnic hatred, and extends a hand of kindness to one normally despised and marginalised.  The Samaritan is beyond the obligations of the law, and this leaves him free to recognise the gift, for which he rejoices and gives thanks.