[Luke 17:11-19] On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
“Without Any Merit or Worthiness in Me”
Not trusting in ourselves, but having faith in another. Not boasting in ourselves, but giving thanks to another. We acknowledge daily that all good things have come from God without any merit or worthiness in ourselves. It’s not me. It’s Him.
Directly after the sermon, we are going to confess our faith in God our Father using words from the Small Catechism – the Explanation of the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed. “I believe in God the Father Almighty” who has done what?
God the Father is Maker and Provider. We are going to confess in these words – words drawn from Scripture – that God the Father “has made me and all creatures.” That God the Father has given me “my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses” – and that He “still takes care of them.”
“He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have.” We will each confess, “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” “He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.”
And then, brothers and sisters, we will confess why He does all of this. What will be the reason we give? Why does God do all of this?
I know what reason we’ll give in these words we’re about to say. I wonder, though, what reason do you usually give on other days? Why do you have house and land, food and drink, clothes and shoes, car and bank account? From where did you get all that? Why do you have what you have?
To what degree, brothers and sisters, have we been trained to boast in ourselves? “I have it because I worked hard for it. All those years.” Me. “I deserve it.” “I earned it.” Me. Forgetting that without God we couldn’t even take our next breath – and that without a thousand things God has done and provided for us outside of our control – including the people He gave us who shaped and formed us – we would be just the same as others far worse off.
What reason do we give according to our Christian faith? We point only to God and not at all to ourselves. We will confess today, “All this HE DOES only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”
All of it, He does. Without any merit or worthiness in me. Instead, it is only out of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy.
I only have hands and ability and a mind and reason because He chooses to give it. And I am a sinner. I am guilty of sin. You each are guilty of sin. Sin merits, deserves death and hell. “All have sinned”. It is only out of His mercy that the earth doesn’t simply swallow us up. Instead of daily punishment, He has daily and richly provided for me, a sinner, and still takes care of me.
Even totally wicked persons, scoffers, and unbelievers often work hard and have good work ethic – even as they reject God – and some others don’t. None of your work or work ethic justifies you before God. It is out of fatherly, diving goodness and mercy that God is providing for you – and you are called to believe in and acknowledge Him for ALL the good you receive.
We will confess, “For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.” God does not give and provide because you’ve served and obeyed Him. Instead, we confess, it’s the other way around. He does good in mercy. We serve and obey Him because of all this that He has done for us. We are thankful.
Faith in Him, not in ourselves. Boasting in His goodness, not in our work. Giving thanks to Him.
We are thankful for all these earthly benefits God our Father has given us. He gives them through His Son.
In today’s Gospel, we see the earthly benefit, the cleansing of leprosy, that God gives to ten lepers through Jesus His Son. What God has provided these ten bodily points also to what He has provided through Jesus eternally. Most of all, we give thanks to God for salvation.
Ten have leprosy. Ten cry out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” “Have pity on us” – ten are healed, not by what they give or do, but by pity. Ten made clean.
“Go, show yourselves to the priests” – these are words of promise – “You can go. You’ll be cleansed – you can go show the priests.” Jesus’ words hold true. On the way, they are cleansed. Now they can be declared clean by the priests in the Temple.
Nine keep going. One knows His true Priest, Jesus. He returns, believing, rejoicing – and giving thanks at the feet of Jesus. “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him.”
Jesus responded, “Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Your faith has made you well. Faith – not trust in oneself or in one’s own actions – faith, which knows and trusts another – faith in Jesus. “Your faith has made you well” – or, literally, “Your faith has saved you.” In the text, in the original Greek, that word for “made well” is the word for salvation – “has saved you”.
Everywhere Scripture speaks to us about faith and not one’s own works or doing. “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” [Romans 4].
Righteousness before God is by faith in what Christ has done. “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him….” [John 3:16].
Jesus, the one who has done well, has died for the sins of those who haven’t. Without any merit or worthiness in you, He has saved you. He has made you well. He was made unwell for you. And now He is raised for you.
Jesus lives and reigns so that – for the sake of Him who died for you and whose blood has atoned for every sin – God continues to daily and richly do good to you through Him. So, we daily and richly celebrate “Thanksgiving” – not just feeling thankful, but throwing ourselves before Jesus and speaking thanks to Him with our lips.
And daily and richly we live toward Him in obedience to His commands with our body and life – not to earn anything; not to measure up – but in praise and thanksgiving for what He has done for us without our merit or worthiness. Amen.