In the ancient religious culture of Jesus’ day, there were all kinds of boundaries that determined social and religious life. Not only were certain behaviors considered inside/outside, clean/unclean, pure/impure, but even certain people were considered on either side of those boundaries. On the top of the list of outside/unclean/impure, were two kinds of people: lepers and Samaritans. The first was a social defilement that excluded a person from community, the second was a religious defilement that excluded a person from Jewish temple life.
Unfortunately for one of the main characters in the story we'll read this week, he was subject to both of these defilements: a Samaritan leper! Which is what makes this story so scandalous of course, because Jesus not only heals this man (along with 9 others) but then holds him up as an example of faith because of his response to Jesus. This story is an example of the “Great Reversal” in the book of Luke - that again and again Jesus gives his attention to those on the wrong side of the boundaries. It teaches us about what kind of people Jesus prioritizes, and how Jesus might heal and change those places within us that are in need of restoration.
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11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”