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.’
Over past weeks we have heard parables in the Sunday Gospel reading. This coming Sunday we hear a miracle story.
And it is a story where Jesus stands firmly in his religious tradition. He heals ten lepers and instructs those he heals to keep to the prescripts of the law, and to demonstrate their healing to the priests, and so be formally reintegrated into the community of Israel.
We’re not told whether they go to do that. Of itself that is interesting.
We are told that one, finding himself healed, praises God at the top of his voice and turns back to Jesus. The implication seems to be that the nine do not do any of these things.
And then we learn that that one is not of Israel but is a Samaritan: is one who actually might not be that welcome at the Temple! But maybe he was heading there, for he ‘turns back’, and turns back to go to Jesus to thank him – an action (ie the turning back and the thanking Jesus) that Jesus describes as praising God.
Again it is one who is outside the community (in this case doubly outside, because of his disease and his religion) who demonstrates to the presumed community what it is to be in right relationship with God.
- For what do you thank God?
- With whom and how does that form community?
Jesus heals a leper. Detail from 9th Century Ivory carving in the Victoria & Albert Museum. (c) 2007