347th AG REPL BN Camp Atterbury, IN
Trinity 14 (September 13, 2009)
Luke 17:11-19 The Ten Lepers
“Lord Have Mercy”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is from the Gospel lesson just read from Luke chapter 17, the words of the lepers, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!
Today we are going to hear the lesson of patiently putting up with ingratitude just as Christ our dear Lord did and continues to do with us to this very day. Jesus will teach us that the reason we do the right thing is not so that we receive thanks, but because it is the right thing to do. And Jesus does this for you and I every day by forgiving our sins.
In our story, Jesus is traveling along, healing and doing good wherever He wills. As He passes through Samaria and Galilee, ten lepers spy Jesus from afar off and cry out to him, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! This cry is what we cry out every Sunday in the Divine Service and in our prayers. Lord, have mercy. It is the cry of faith. These ten lepers trusted that Jesus could do something to help them out of their terrible disease, and so they cried out to Him, Lord, Master, have mercy.
Jesus sees them, He hears their cry for mercy, and so He says to them, Go, show yourselves to the priests. This is important, for in Jesus’ day, only the priest could declare one clean. The priest didn’t make a person clean, but He declare what was obvious to everyone what was true. If the priest said you were clean, you were clean. So they go to the priest.
After going to the priest, one of the ten puts the jigsaw puzzle together. We cried out to Jesus, He healed us and sent us to the priest to be declared clean. This Samaritan recognized the hand of God in the whole matter, and so returned to Jesus and gave thanks and glory to God for His mercy.
We know this story. It would be very tempting to simply leave this story with the command: BE THANKFUL! Just like when the Lawyer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” You see there is a Law way to leave this story and a Gospel way to leave this story. The Law ending is pretty easy. Don’t be like the nine. Be like the one who returned and gave thanks. Be good.
Now is this a good command? You bet! Think of the Psalms: O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. Certainly each one of us can and should give thanks for all of the goodness which Christ our Lord pours out on us each and every day.
But this is not finally the point of the parable. For if you examine yourself according to the Law, you recognize your own utter lack of thankfulness. How many of you have ever thanked a teacher who taught you kindly and patiently? How many of you have thanked the platoon or First Sergeant who worked hard to qualify you? How about the XO, Commander, SGM, or Colonel who stopped to ask how your day is going? How about the PFC, or SPEC who cleaned up after you? Your boss? Your employees? Or what about your own parents and spouse? Have you thanked them for caring for you and loving you for years on end without so much as a word of thanks? I could add many more to this list, and I’m sure you could as well. There are lots of people all over the place who keep the world moving, and who patiently see that everything gets done that needs to get done. But as often as not when it comes to these things, you and I blithely ignore them. We have more important things to do than give thanks to God for their work.
For you see, when you go to a doctor and are healed, that is God at work just as much as it was for those ten lepers. Or when your mother changed your diapers and fed you when you were young, that was God at work caring for you in the messiest of places. And yet you ignore and refuse to thank God for all of these gifts He showers upon you.
Now if you are IN one of those positions, where you are giving, sacrificing, and plodding along for the cause, whatever the cause may be, your temptation is to become impatient. Why can’t we get more people to help? Don’t people realize how important this is? They should be jumping up and down to help. Now you and I both know that if you’ve ever done something kind for someone and been rebuffed or ignored, you get bitter about it. You may even get angry about it.
But now we are starting to come around to the point of our text. Do you remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer?
Give us this day our daily bread. What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
You see, it is God who is at work taking care of you, loving you, and providing for you every day of our lives. He does not work like you and I work. You and I get impatient. We forget that nine out of every ten people that you help in this life will never thank you for it. You may never see them again. They may ignore you, they may even ridicule you for your kindness and generosity. That is how people are, dear friends.
But we say with St. Paul, let us not grow weary in doing good. Jesus knew that the nine would not give glory to God. He knows that most of the world will mock and ridicule His death and resurrection. He knows. But you know what? He still loves them. And He still loves you. He continues to heal and bring about His great salvation.
You see, God’s love never fails. He gently, patiently invites you to come and be healed by him, and to remember that you do not do good because people will give you thanks or so that you receive praise and adoration. We do what is good and kind and right because of what Christ did for us on the cross and in the empty tomb. You know, helping others, doing good as St. Paul puts it, is really what Christ is all about. He does it better than anyone. He forgives your sins. His patience and love for you never ends. So when you are down, when you are at the end of your rope because of ingratitude or because of weakness of faith, look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. His work for you will never fail. Amen.