Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem. He's got work to do, so his mind is set on suffering and dying. He's relentless in his focus. Nothing must be allowed to slow him down. He's on his way to sacrifice his life as a ransom for many, including you and me.
But then, ten lepers show up on the right side of the road. Who has time for lepers? Who wants to engage them knowing they're disease spreaders. Worse yet, one of them is not even an Israelite. He is a mutt. A two-time loser. A Samaritan and a leper. Why would Jesus stop now? He doesn't need to worry about contracting leprosy. He serves a higher cause!
But when Jesus gets within earshot, they yell at him. They beg him: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
They're hopeless. They're as good as dead anyway. Why bother to slow down? What can Jesus do for them? Soon, their flesh is going to rot off completely. What purpose is there in slowing down to give them spare change to buy a loaf of bread? They can be forgiven for not seeing the big picture. But Jesus does see the big picture. He's off to save the world!
However, instead of blowing past them, pretending he doesn't hear them, Jesus stops. He looks at them and says, "Go away and show yourselves to the priests at Jerusalem.” That makes sense. Jesus is going to Jerusalem too. They can all meet up there and maybe he can do something for them then.
But here's the twist. When Jesus says, “Go show yourselves to the priests” he's telling them to follow the biblical procedure for lepers who had been healed. Jesus is telling them to show themselves to the priest because they're going to be healed from the horrors of leprosy. While they're still lepers, Jesus tells them to act as if they're healed and no longer outcasts from society.
Then, as they go away, all ten are healed. Jesus gifted them with healing. He gave them new life with his words.
Nine of them keep going. One doesn't. The two-time loser. The Samaritan leper turns back. He knows who healed him. He knows who showed him mercy. So he comes back and throws himself at Jesus’ feet. At Christ’s feet, the Samaritan is whole. A new life is gifted to him. A healed life. A complete life with Jesus.
But where are the other nine? Why is it that only one comes back to thank God? This one is not even an Israelite. He's despised by the Jewish people. But that's the way of Jesus' divine love. It ignores prejudices. It risks betrayal. It runs up against unbelief. It accepts that some, if not most, will refuse his gift.
Then Jesus says to the Samaritan: “Get up. Your faith has made you well.”
Faith doesn't trust in itself. Faith focuses entirely on Jesus. With Jesus, the Samaritan is healed, but he's also received by his Savior. That's how true faith talks. It doesn't talk about itself. It says "Thank you!" to the one who gives healing and salvation.
Jesus gives the Samaritan healing and salvation. He goes to Jerusalem and the cross to take on the leprosy of our sin in his body, answering for all of it on Golgotha. So what can we possibly offer to the Lord for all his benefits to us? The answer is found in Psalm 116: “I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” It's simple. We say, "Thank you!"
And if we get anxious, and want to do more than say thank you to Jesus, we can follow the Psalmist further: “And I will call on the name of the Lord.” We can call on Jesus just like the lepers so that he will be with us to bless us.
That's Jesus' Good Friday promise to us. He's always got time for us. He will always stop and give us the words of eternal life. He will always assure us that his promise is trustworthy: “I am your Savior. I died for you. I rose for you. You are forgiven. I baptized you. You are saved. Eat my body. Drink my blood. It’s my last will and testament. You are the heirs of the salvation I won on the cross” (Brent Kuhlman, Thanksgiving Eve Sermon, 2009).
[So] what shall we render to the Lord for all his benefits to us? A sacrifice of thanksgiving. We will call on the name of the Lord. We will take the cup of salvation and will call on the name of the Lord. We will give thanks for all the Lord’s giving by receiving his gifts.