Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19)When I was very young I caught the skin disease impetigo. And let's face it there's nothing worse than an illness you can't spell. It was itchy, and it spread into every scratch and graze on your body. And eight year olds get lots of scratches. And they treated it by treating all affected areas with gentian violet. Which meant a considerable part of me was purple.
If you got impetigo - which is annoying but not often serious - in Jesus's time you probably had more serious problems. And not just impetigo but probably ringworm or psoriasis as well. You would be called a "leper". To be a leper was to be an outcast. Leviticus 13 laid down the law:
The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean; his sore is on his head. “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.The priest declared the leper unclean, and it was the priests' job to declare lepers clean again. But they had to stay away - so they wandered out in the country asking for assistance.
When Jesus heals the lepers, he's not just making them better in a physical way. He's also restoring their place in society. They can go to the priests now. They can be called " clean". They can go to worship. They can see their families. Their whole lives are restored.
A massive turnaround in their lives. And they run off to enjoy it.
All except one. The one who turns round, comes back, and says thanks. And that one is a Samaritan, one who the Jews thought as unclean as a leper. In Harry Potter terms, a mudblood - not actually Jewish, but having the same God.
He comes back to the Jewish rabbi who has healed him - and says thanks.
So some questions:
Did the Samaritan come back because he'd been doubly excluded - and therefore doubly blessed by Jesus?
What does this do to our ideas of the right and wrong people - whom we like to see worshipping with us, and whom we don't?
What does it tell us when churches so often line up with the powerful and not the excluded? Are we called to the marginalized or to power?
What further blessing was it that the Jewish lepers missed out on, because they never said thanks?
And if Jesus blesssd the Samaritan leper because he came back and said thanks for being healed: how much more should we give thanks, to the one who died to heal the divison between God and human beings, and through his resurrection lifts us up to heaven?