The One Unchosen

canstockphoto24289811One day Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he is approached by ten men who had a highly contagious skin condition known back then as leprosy. They approached him but kept their distance. This was because for a long time leprosy was thought to be highly contagious. We know now that it isn’t. If what the ten men had was highly contagious, it wasn’t leprosy; if it was leprosy, it wasn’t highly contagious. But it doesn’t matter the reality. All that mattered was what everyone believed.

Everyone believed that what they had, nobody wanted. And if you can’t get rid of what nobody wants, then it pretty much feels like you are unwanted as well.

They were forbidden to come close to anyone. It was the law.

So at some distance away they called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

Which is interesting. They don’t say, “Heal us!” Why would they ask for mercy when it was healing they needed? Because their condition showed that there was something wrong with them—not just physically, but spiritually. God was displeased with them for some reason. Really displeased. If he’s a little put off he might give you a cold, but if you’ve got leprosy you must’ve really done something. And if you’ve done something that bad, you need mercy. You need forgiveness. You need pity.

If you’re sick because he’s angry at something you’ve done, you’ll get well when he’s forgiven you. That’s what they are asking for.

So Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests, which is what lepers were supposed to do when they were healed and wanted to be restored to their families and communities. By the time they get there, they were.

And one of them returned to thank Jesus, falling to his feet. The one who praised God was a Samaritan. Luke makes sure we know that. “And he was a Samaritan.” It’s not just a detail. It’s an important point in the story.

In first century Palestine Samaria was the province that comprised much of the former northern kingdom of Israel. Destroyed as a nation by the Assyrians, it retained the provincial name given it by the Persians. It’s population was a mix of former Israelites who did not go into exile and of foreign groups resettled in the area by the Assyrians.

Samaritans did not worship at the temple in Jerusalem, and their version of the Law of Moses differed from the Jew’s version, particularly those passages that denigrated the northern tribes and/or made Judah look good.

Samaritans weren’t Jews. The Jews were chosen. The Samaritans…not so much.

So why did these nine Jews let this Samaritan hang around with them? Well, when your own community won’t have you, you’ll find community among any kind of people.

Even Samaritans.

Jesus asked aloud why the other nine didn’t return to praise God. “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

Why didn’t they come back to Jesus? I always thought that it was just because they were ungrateful, but on closer examination I think it was because they had someplace to go. See, they were healed as they were on the way to see the priests, which they had to do in order to be restored to community.

They kept going after they were healed because they had a community to go back to.

This guy never made it to the priest because had no community to receive him, no home to go back to. He was a foreigner in every sense of the word.

So he went to the only home he had—Jesus.

There were nine Chosen, but the one Unchosen is the one who made his way to Jesus.

There’s a connection between thankfulness and forgiveness. Between thankfulness and acceptance. Between thankfulness and community.

All too often we make a connection between thankfulness and bounty, but in the Bible those who have the most tend to be the least thankful.

Those who have the least, who are made to feel that there is something wrong with them, are most grateful to finally have a place—and a people—to call home.

Photo by © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Nikki24

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