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.”
In the familiar story of the ten lepers I have often wondered why this one person returned to thank Jesus when the other nine didn’t. After all it would have been so easy for him to simply follow the crowd, and the crowd he hung around felt it wasn’t necessary or important to say thank you to the one who had healed them. And being a Samaritan he could have simply used the excuse that Jews and Samaritans don’t mix and that was reason enough not to return to Jesus. Of course he could have leaned on any number of rationalizations not to return to Jesus—from seeing his family again to embracing the joys of life —and no one would have thought any lesser of him.
But he did come back. He came back praising God with a loud voice. He came back and threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And the reason he came back isn’t hard to figure out. Leprosy was one of most feared diseases of the first century. It was a disease that caused a slow, painful death which had no cure. It disfigured you in the most horrible way. But worst of all because of the infectious nature of this disease, it separated you from the people you cared about most. You were forced to live out your life in a leper colony, isolated from family and friends and society, alone, death waiting for you at the end. From this disease, from this future, Jesus rescued this man, and he responded.
But it was more than Jesus’ healing miracle that made him return with a thankful heart. It was also a heart filled with faith that could grasp the greater miracle that stood before him. Here was God in the flesh. Here was God’s burning love for sinners, outcasts, Samaritans, even lepers. Here was God’s righteousness lived for the unrighteous. Here was God’s lamb willing to be wounded and sacrificed for people that despised him. Here was God keeping his promise when the whole world had broken theirs. And this heart alive with faith responded the way faith has to respond—with a voice of praise and a life of thanksgiving.
As we enter the Lenten season we are tempted to see it as just “another season of the church year” with more services to attend and depressing songs to sing. We’re quick to rationalize that this is “church overload,” and thus we like to think that we have every reason to tune out and disengage—except one. Like the leper that returned to Jesus, hasn’t God opened our eyes to grasp the miracle that lies before us? That God would give up his own Son on a cross for sinners like us does more than just touch our hearts, it compels them to respond, to worship, to give thanks—and to look for every opportunity to do so.
Embracing with you our Lenten worship,