Today, Jesus rebukes the nine who appear to listen to Him—and He commends the one who, at least at first, doesn’t listen to Him.

Did you catch that?

As He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee, as He entered a village, Jesus was met by ten lepers who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (cf. Luke 17:11-13).

And, when Jesus saw them, He said to all of them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

Each of them. All of them.

But then—one of them—when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he worshipped Jesus and gave Him thanks.

Then, Jesus answered—and here’s the rebuke to the nine—Jesus says: “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Then—Jesus said to the one: “Rise and go your way; your faith has saved you” (cf. Luke 17:14-19).

To the nine who apparently did exactly what Jesus said, Jesus speaks a harsh rebuke: “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Then—to the one who, at least at first, apparently did not do exactly what Jesus said—to him, the rebuke of the nine is as a commendation: this one was found, he did return, and he did give praise to God.

So why does Jesus rebuke the nine who appeared to do exactly what He commanded?

And why does Jesus commend the one who seemingly did not do exactly what He commanded?

It might help to ask those questions differently.

So how about this:

In doing exactly what Jesus commands, by the letter, what do the nine not do?

And—in doing seemingly exactly not what Jesus commands, what does the one do?

Jesus gives the answer.

The nine did not return to give praise to God.

The one did.

So what does this mean?

Consider how God cares for you.

He doesn’t just care for you at church one day a week but throughout the week—awake, asleep, whether you’re in a good mood or not.

We pray and confess this in the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer—“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

God gives the bread that we need for this body and life to all, even evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

So there’s the daily bread and the giving of thanks.

God gives us each day our daily bread.

But how does the Christian give thanks?

How has the Church traditionally, regularly, routinely, habitually—meet, right, and salutarily—thanked God for all His benefits?

The one-hundred and sixteenth psalm has it this way:

“What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me? I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving and will call on the name of the Lord. I will take the cup of salvation and will call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord now in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem” (cf. Psalm 116:12-13, 17-19).

Line by line, how does the psalm teach us to render thanks unto the Lord?

I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, that is, I will set aside time for worship and devote my time to study of His Word. Giving thanks is a sacrifice of your time.

I will take the cup of salvation, that is, as often as I need it, as often as it’s offered for my great need of it, I will seek out the cup of salvation and drink of it all of you.

I will call on the name of the Lord, that is, where the Lord promises to be present for my benefit, there, I will be.

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the Lord’s house.

That is, after laboring for six days and receiving each day his daily bread, the Christian goes to church.

Or—if we say it the way St. Luke records it:

He turns back to God…

Returns to praise God with a loud voice…

Falls on his face at Jesus’ feet—he worships Jesus…

And gives Him thanks.

All ten are healed.

All ten receive their daily bread from God.

But to only the one does Jesus say, “Rise and go your way; your faith has saved you” (cf. Luke 17:19; Greek New Testament).

“Your faith has ‘made you well’” is neither a literal translation nor a good one, because faith may notactually “make you well” if it’s understood only in outer, earthly terms—like being cleansed of leprosy.

The word Jesus uses here is not the word for being made well or being healed. It’s the word for salvation: “Your faith has saved you,” He says.

I don’t mean that the one man is saved because he returns. It’s not his returning, his going, or his accepting that saves him—though His going, returning, and accepting is good.

Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you.”

So—by the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord, through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord, he’s saved.

His victory has been won.

This is true for him—and true for all who will be saved.

“For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

But look at what this saving faith produces: he cannot but turn from his way, return to God, worship God where God is found for him, and give Him thanks.

So—today—we need to understand this:

Jesus rebukes the nine who appear to do exactly what He says because they lack faith. They’re more interested in how the world views them—what they would gain after showing themselves to the priests and being restored to the community.

And—Jesus commends the one who does not immediately do exactly what He says because of the faith the man has that recognizes Jesus Christ as Lord.

What God says about you is more important than what the whole rest of the world says about you.

The nine receive their daily bread and are content to rejoin society. When the dust of their leprosy settles, they care more about what others say than what God says.

The one receives his daily bread and must—before going back into the world—he must turn from his way, return to God, worship, and give thanks.

The time is coming—and is now here—when you’ll be tempted to care more about what the world says than what God says.

I’m not talking about how many booster shots you’ve had or how many masks you wear when you cross county or state lines.

I’m talking about whether or not the Christian is prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, to take arms against a whole sea of troubles.

How does our Proverb have it?

“Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life…Incline your ear to my sayings [so writes Solomon]. Keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from [wisdom of God] flow the springs of life” (cf. Proverbs 4:10-23).

Do you keep hold of instruction? Do you not let go of it? Do you guard instruction as though it is your life?

Or is your time too important, your pride too large, and your heart too hard?

And how writes St. Paul?

“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (cf. Galatians 5:16-24).

Do you walk by the Spirit? Or do you gratify the desires of the flesh? Do you know what it is to crucify the flesh? Do you make the attempt?

Or will you tomorrow—the next time—or after you move the goalposts again?

If we speak only in generalities, it can be easy to agree with everything the Bible says.

But when the Word of God, applied in your daily life, requires you to say no to something you’d like to say yes to…

Or when the Word of God, rightly divided, causes a crisis of conscience at which you must choose this day whom you will serve…(cf. Joshua 24:14-15).

Or if your friends or family draw you from the faith—or try to—to fool you into following some cleverly devised myth…

Remember and have as your example not the nine who called out to Jesus, received their bread and what they wanted with joy, but did not turn, return, or give thanks to God.

They have their reward in full, and it’s fleeting.

Rather, remember and have as your example the one who called out to Jesus, received his daily bread with joy, and—against the want and will of the world—turned from his way, returned to the Lord, praised God with a loud voice, worshipped Jesus, and gave thanks.

His reward is forever. 

His victory is won.

And so is yours.

What Jesus says to the one, He says to each and every one of you: “Rise and go your way; your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:19).

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

The Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2021
Luke 17:11-19
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

I’m not a doctor, but yesterday I did read most of an article from the CDC’s website. I’ll leave it up to you what lesson you can learn from that, but the recent outbreak shouldn’t surprise us, given the statistics.

And the fear—that’s expected, too.

Infection can damage the respiratory tract, we know that, but I’ve read, now, that it can damage nerves and even skin and eyes.

Extensive contact is necessary for it to spread from person to person, but that doesn’t make us feel more safe.

What is “extensive contact,” anyway?

One cough, one mucosal particle from the nose, that’s all it takes.

Or one dead armadillo.

I’m talking about leprosy, of course.

And some armadillos are naturally infected with the bacteria that cause leprosy in people, so, last week, when I saw a dead armadillo in the road about a mile north of the church, I prepared myself for the inevitable leprosy outbreak.

Okay, no I didn’t. But it’s not a new thing for an entire people to worry about clean and unclean, the spread of disease, and the fear of God.

Who isn’t tired of hearing all this bad news about fear. I’m sure everyone would rather hear all the bad news about politics. And we’re all tired of the bad news about disease.

So hear the Good News of the Gospel:

Jesus is God and Lord.

Faith in Jesus saves.

And the Living God is a God who loves even the poor, miserable, diseased lepers.

With that in mind, recall the Ten Lepers and the Good News of Jesus Christ:

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

What’s the lesson here?

If the Bible is merely Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, if we strip the intent of God to save the world from sin, death, and the fear of satan, and if we reduce the Word of God to morality tales as told by cartoon vegetables, the lesson’s simple: be thankful.

But do you see how that fails?

If you reduce the Gospel to “Be thankful,” are you comforted?

It’s not the Gospel if it tells you how to be, what you must do.

It is the Gospel if it tells you who you are by faith in Jesus Christ, what God has done to win you away from sin, death, and the fear of satan.

We are to be thankful.

These verses from St. Luke’s account of the Gospel are also appointed for Thanksgiving Day, so yes, we are to give thanks, but that’s only part of what goes on here.

What’s the lesson?

A lesson could be made out of what Jesus says: “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19), because faith doesn’t always make you well.

Prayer doesn’t always yield, in an apparent way, that for which you ask.

Or have you not prayed for anything you didn’t get?

It’s an important distinction for us to make, to know that Jesus literally says, “Rise and go your way; your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:19, The UBS Greek New Testament).

The word isn’t θεραπεύω as in therapeutic or therapy that might make you well. The word is σώζω as in soteriology and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

That’s a big difference.

Faith may not make you well, temporally speaking. 

But faith that trusts in Jesus for salvation saves always, whether it’s small like a mustard seed, immature, O you of little faith, or brand new.

If faith makes you well, there are a lot of sick Christians who must now doubt their faith.

But if faith that trusts in Jesus saves, then we are comforted in the midst of any affliction.

We can abound, of course. It’s easy to rejoice when everyone’s healthy, your team is winning, and you just cashed a check.

But the peace that Jesus gives teaches us, even, to be brought low and yet rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Philippians 4:12). To thank God for our daily bread, even in the midst of what talking-heads call “unprecedented times.”

Faith in Jesus Christ saves, that may well be the lesson, but briefly, I’d like to share this with you as well.

All ten were lepers.

All ten “stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us’” (Luke 17:13)

All ten were cleansed.

But only “one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice” (Luke 17:15).

What does this mean?

All ten were lepers.

Desiring not the death of the sinner but that he turn from his evil ways and live, leprosy was the cross God gave to these men, that they would draw near to Him.

That’s what God is doing every moment of every day since Creation—calling you to repentance and teaching you to rely on Him.

All ten called out, and God, in the flesh, literally drew near to them.

But only one believed that God breathed into him the breath of life. Only one turned back, praising God, worshiping Jesus, giving Him thanks.

Only one recognized Jesus as the High Priest He is, who would offer the sacrifice of His own Body and Blood on the tree of the cross to justify the world.

Only one trusted in Jesus for salvation.

Only one saw the cross he bore in his flesh as a call to repentance and faith. Only one received his daily bread of renewed health in faith that looks to God for all good things.

With only that one did Jesus dwell.

To only that one did God draw near.

To that one alone did Jesus say, “Your faith has saved you” (cf. Luke 17:19).

So what does this mean?

God has given us all a cross to bear.

Great and small. Acute and chronic. Colorful and bland. The size and shape and individual weight of each cross is different, yet we’re all the same.

God is patient, desiring that all should reach repentance (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Hear the Word of God, believe it, and He will raise you unto life everlasting.

Rejoice in the Good News of the Gospel, the power of God for salvation to all who believe in the Lord, and you will know how to abound and how to be brought low, how to do all things.

Rejoice in this Good News:

Jesus is God and Lord.

He speaks life into existence, doing all things well.

He knit you into existence, that you would live with Him forever.

Jesus is God and Lord.

That’s the Good News.

And faith in Jesus Christ saves.

Not your struggles, not your works, not your effort or your prayers, but “[Jesus] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

I see it every year, around the eleventh of September, the claim that everyone who dies tragically is somehow an angel or otherwise with God.

It’s not true.

Whether your life is a Tragedy or a Comedy, it makes no difference, you were purchased and won from sin, death, and satan in the History of Jesus Christ.

Faith in Jesus Christ alone saves.

That’s the Good News.

And the Living God is a God who loves the leper, the infant, and the poor, miserable sinner.

He gives us all a cross to bear, out of love, that we would  draw near to Him and bear it faithfully.

He gives us His Son, that we would cast our cares upon Him. He draws near to us, removes our burdens, comforts us with Absolution, and speaks peace into our hearts.

May we all hear this Good News, recognize Jesus for who He is, and follow Him like the one, Samaritan ex-leper who returned, praising God, worshipping Jesus, and giving thanks.

That’s the lesson.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trinity 14 Sermon, 2020
Luke 17:11-19
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt