And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”
Jesus telling the man to “arise” is his exaltation. Jesus exalts the humble. The man’s humility came on several levels. First, he prayed the Kyrie. Second, he confessed Jesus as God in human flesh. Third, He thanked God in Christ. Third, He glorified God in Christ. To such as these, Jesus exalts and sends “his way.” Like the tax collector, he “went home justified.” He was made well.
Now, lets look at this a bit, because it’s interesting. Clearly, all ten lepers were “made well,” and all ten lepers had faith to a certain extent as well. Did they not all cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”? Of course they did. And to do so, were they not humbling themselves before Him? Were they not acknowledging Jesus as divine at least? Didn’t they have some sort of faith?
So, when Jesus was saying, “Your faith has made you well,” could this have been meant as a general statement for all ten lepers? Again, all ten were made well, and all ten did exhibit some sort of faith.
If we go with this interpretation, we’d be making a statement about what the essence of faith is. It’s humbling oneself before God, acknowledging our weakness and turning to Christ for help and healing. All ten lepers did that, which is why all ten were “made well.”
But somehow, this doesn’t seem right, does it. Jesus clearly singles out the Samaritan among the others. And Jesus didn’t tell the others they were “made well.” They too were healed, and they had someone declaring to them that they were made well, or clean, but it wasn’t Jesus doing so. It was a priest.
Which leads us to wonder if Jesus gave the Samaritan leper an extra grace by saying “Your faith has made you well.” And was his faith of a different quality than that of the others? We know this is true, because the Samaritan’s faith also had worship, confession, and thanksgiving involved with it.
We should run with that, because there’s good application there. How many people are quick to turn to God, or even Jesus, in times of trouble, but they don’t confess Him, glorify Him, and thank His name? That is, they don’t go to church. Such were the nine lepers, and shame on them, obviously, which is a big theme of the Gospel.
But the worst shame is what they miss out on in the Lord’s declaration that they are made well. We suspect Jesus is bestowing a greater healing here, not just the declaration of clean skin, but something more. The Samaritan has been “made well” in the soul, due to his acknowledgment that Jesus is God in flesh deserving of confession, glory, and thanksgiving.
There’s another dimension here. Part of the priest’s task was to receive the cleaned leper back into the community. The community, as we’ve meditated on before, was a type of Eden, a type of the people of God. The Church is its New Testament counterpart, and not priests, but Jesus, receives the cleansed ones into this community, through baptism and absolution.
One wonders if the Samaritan found a place to live as he went on “his way.” The Jewish lepers were received back into their communities by the priests. The Samaritan was not. Would Jewish communities make an issue of this? Would priests say, “Hey, you haven’t been received back into the community, because you went to Jesus rather than to us.” (Recall, Jesus told the man to go “his way,” and not “to the priests,” so the man likely didn’t go to the priest…unless he disobeyed Jesus again.)
Or, perhaps, being a Samaritan, his Samaritan community didn’t make an issue of his not going to a priest, because they worshiped at a different “mountain” so to speak. These are answers we cannot know the answer to.
One thing we do know, is that our Lord Jesus receives sinners cleansed of their sins in His community, and this because of their faith. And that faith, we must conclude (against the first interpretation) means more than just what all ten lepers did. It includes kyrie, but also confession of the incarnation, glory, and thanksgiving.
Some bristle at the statement that “faith makes you well.” They say, “No! Jesus makes you well!” But Jesus doesn’t say, “Go your way. I have made you well.” There is no Jesus for anyone without faith; therefore, faith makes you well.
But it is true, faith without an object is not faith, and that object is Jesus. But again, it’s not just Jesus, as all ten lepers looked to Jesus for healing. No, the faith which made the one leper truly well was a faith set to the liturgical pattern we’ve been talking about.
So, here, it would be more appropriate to say something like, “The liturgy has made you well.” Jesus makes a lot of people well this week, but only one out of ten engage in the liturgy which makes truly well. And consider, there is church for the nine lepers. There is church that’s nothing more than a place for the troubled and distressed to bellyache to God and get some sort of earthly grace. And when they hear a command from Jesus, off they go in blind obedience, thinking Jesus is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Law.
But there’s no confession of Him as the incarnate God; there’s no glorifying the Triune God; there’s no Eucharist. Jesus gave them an earthly grace; but they aren’t made truly well. Only a liturgical faith does that.
That’s quite a concept to contemplate: there’s Jesus, and then there’s the liturgy. Of those two, which makes you truly well? The account of the ten lepers gives a clear answer to this question.