Love Your Neighbor
This weekend my daughter and I watched the movie “Hairspray” as homework for her class. The story centers on a teen dance show in the 60’s during a time of deep racial prejudice and segregation. The struggle of the story is to integrate more than the stereotype of society into the dance. The movie ends with a dance in which varied races, sizes, and ages participate in celebration. The prejudiced actions of the cruel are brought to humiliation, and after a long struggle, the dream of a young African American girl is met when she wins a dance-off.
Pick up a newspaper or scroll though social media and it won’t take very long to see we still fall very short in treating all people as the loved creation of God. It can be racial, ageist, religious, or the judgement of someone that differs from our own political views or social and economic status. It can be as simple as bullying the school mate or co-worker that just seems “different”. Prejudice is not new, and just as we think we’ve brought justice to one matter, it seems to rear it’s ugly head in another.
Prejudice was also alive and well in New Testament times. There were three major land areas, Samaria, Judea, and Galilee. Samaria was the region between Galilee and Judea though which Jews avoided traveling. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, they were looked down on as an inferior mixed breed. After being conquered by Assyria, Sargon II had moved foreigners into the land. Samaritans in the New Testament would be the descendants of both the foreigners and the northern Israelites that had originated there- neither fully Jewish or Gentile. John 9 tells us that it was not customary for Jews and Gentiles to eat or drink from the same vessel as it would render them ritually unclean. Sort of a separate drinking fountain situation as we saw in our country not so long ago.
Whether it be done in large or small ways, being treated unfairly for who we are or what we cannot change is no picnic. And yet, even heartache and injustice can somehow become a birthplace of blessing. Such is the case of a man in Luke 17:11-19, who acted differently than his 9 counterparts. Check out the story here (NLT):
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
When Jesus says “Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner” it’s safe to assume at least a portion of the men who were healed were from Galilee rather than Samaria, if not all. What was it about this man that made his response so grateful in contrast to the other nine men? Humility- he knew it well. Not only was this man despised for his heritage, but he was a leper- making him physically a social outcast. Lepers were required to keep a distance from the community, which is why this group of men would have been “between "Samaria and Galilee, just outside of both. United now in illness, a group forms of men from both Galilee and Samaria, a group that would not have otherwise become friends. Perhaps upon their healing this Samaritan man felt once agin humbled not only by his heritage and illness- but in being left behind by his group of Jewish friends, being treated once again as Samaritans often were: with prejudice. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine these men would not want to return to their families and social circles with a Samaritan tagging along.
Overwhelmed in gratitude, this one man returns. To Jesus. The curious Jew who loved him. When this humbled Samaritan leper had cried out with his friends “Jesus, master have mercy on us!” Jesus saw & acknowledged him, healing despite all his humbling circumstances.
And this man believed. Imagine the hope that may have welled up within this man as they first came across Jesus traveling to Jerusalem. Perhaps he’d heard rumors of the Samaritan woman that Jesus had tenderly ministered to at a well. A woman drawing water at an unusual time of day, because her promiscuous reputation left her unwanted even by her own people. Or perhaps he’d heard the parable of the Good Samaritan in which the moral hero is neither the a Levite or the priest. It is the Samaritan who expressed the love of God and had mercy by helping the victimized man.
History seems to show Samaritans in general to possess a desire to follow God. On the return from exile, Jews had refused the Samaritan participation in worship at Jerusalem, so they built a temple for themselves on Mount Gerizim. They used a system of worship similar to that of Jerusalem, using copies of the Pentateuch but being careful to call it “The Law” , these first five books were the only parts of the Old Testament accepted by the Samaritans. Samaritans believed Mt Gerizim was God’s chosen worship site, not Zion. The Samaritans also held the belief that there will be a “returning one” who will guide Samaritans to repentance and reestablish proper worship.
My thoughts- I wonder how far the ten leper’s walked before they experienced the healing. We don’t know here- but my guess is they hadn’t walked very far at all, because if they had entered the town as a group still unclean, there would have been outrage from the public. It appears to me it wouldn’t have taken them much time to turn around and thank Jesus- yet only one did.
The one healed leper who returned is praised here by Jesus for his expression of gratitude. Could it be that like the other nine, we can robotically go though the motions of obedience, but miss the deeper blessings of meeting with the Savior in the midst of acting in His will, and of allowing our obedience to be drenched in gratitude? Luke 17:19 says the Samaritan’s faith has made him “well”. The Greek verb used here says “saved Him” indicating this healing was more than physical (ESV Bible Study notes) While Jesus has the power for physical healing, his desire is a makeover of the heart. For spiritual healing. For a life of obedience that springs from a heart of gratitude and faith.
Racial prejudice is not dead today- perhaps you have sadly been it’s victim. Or maybe today you don’t feel loved or respected by others for other reasons: You aren’t a socially acceptable size or weight. You didn’t come from the same upbringing as those around you. Or maybe you go to work every day, just hoping you can hang onto that job knowing you’ll never be the smartest one in the room- feeling sure that everyone knows it, and treats you differently for it. Or perhaps you’d do anything to change the actions of your history- and you carry the shame of knowing everyone knows what you did. Take heart friend, the love of Jesus goes out to all of us. He sees your value. He knows your pain. He seeks a relationship with you, and has the power heal these wounds.
Repeated from my Facebook post 3/30/2020