For the 20th Sunday after Pentecost, the scheduled Series C readings are Ruth 1:1-19a; 2 Timothy 2:1-13 and Luke 17:11-19. For the sermon the text chosen to peach about is Luke 17:19, “And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’”
This well-known pericope about the cleansing of the Ten Lepers does cause a host of questions. What is the specific point? It appears that one point would be the fact that the only cleansed leper that returns to Jeus to give Him thanks is a hated Samaritan from a Jewish point of view. When Jesus said that “your faith has made you well” does He mean that it was His faith that healed him? But if that is true, how were the other nine healed? Did they also have faith when they asked Jesus as Master to have mercy on them? And if they did, why did they not return to give thanks? But if they did not have faith, why would they obey Jesus’ words to go to the priests?
The first point to be made is that even unbelievers can become the recipients of the miracles of Jesus. For example, at the feedings of the 4,000 and 5,000 not just the believers but also those outside the faith received fish and bread. One could also surmise that the 9 ungrateful lepers were cleansed by the power of Jesus alone while the believing Samaritan was also cleansed in light of his faith that Jesus was more than “Master” (verse 13); He was also God Himself (verse 18).
The second point is to examine the word in English translated as “well” or “whole.” The Greek word is not only used for physical healing but also for spiritual salvation from eternal death, judgment and sin. See Matthew 18:11; Romans 11:14; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 7:25 and 1 Peter 3:21. What Jesus could be saying then is that the faith the cleansed leper has in Jesus as both Master and God Himself “has made you well” or “has saved you.”
The point of the sermon would be that not our works, not our thoughts, not our words and not even our gratitude saves us. For none of these can even occur until we are fully saved. How so? That by the power of the Holy Spirit we are given the gift of faith; that is, believing in the gracious promises of Jesus Christ being fulfilled in our lives notwithstanding all the evidence that appears to contradict such promises. The poster boy for such faith would be the impoverished beggar Lazarus destitute and poor during his entire life while here on earth but fully restored to the original creation after death.