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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Today’s Reading | Luke 17:11–19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, 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 made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” (NRSV)

Although less known than the story of the Good Samaritan, this story of a Samaritan leper returning to praise God would have held a similar shock value for Jesus’ original audience. Samaritans were closely related to the Jewish community, but they derived their worship and religiosity exclusively from the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Old Testament—and did not accept the religious developments of “Second Temple” Judaism that would have been common and prominent in Jesus’ day. There were also regional differences at play as well, as Samaritans were connected to the former Northern Kingdom that was destroyed by the Assyrians around 722 BCE and were roundly rejected by those who returned to Jerusalem and the Southern Kingdom following the exile.

One of the important hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry, though, is that he has not come specifically for the people of Israel, but he instead came to share God’s message with all the peoples. This story fits in right beside stories like Jesus meeting with the Canaanite woman and proclaims boldly that God’s grace is not limited to one people, but instead extends to all who come before God in gratitude and thanks.

It can be tempting, particularly for those of us steeped in the traditions that we grew up in, to assume that we know what true faith and devotion looks like or how one is supposed to worship and act. But in this story Jesus challenges us, just as he challenged his first-century Jewish audience, to expand our understanding of who is a part of God’s kingdom. Jesus has not come just for those who look and act like us. Instead, he has come for all!

Dear God, I thank you for your wide-reaching love that challenges me to expand my understanding of what it means to love and follow you. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Minister for Children and Families

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