Study 1: Jesus cleanses ten lepers
O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever! Thank you, Lord, that we can be together today studying your Word. Send us your Holy Spirit and guide our meditation and discussion. Give us thankful hearts for all your blessings. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Read Luke 17:11–19
What stands out to you as you read and hear this read today? Are there any surprises? What sorts of questions come to mind?
In the Lutheran tradition, there is no such thing as an atheist. This is because Luther, in his catechism, defined a god in this way: ‘Anything you set your heart on and rely on is really your god’. Under this definition everyone has something that is a god for them, whether it be their family, their country, or their money and possessions.
A similar dynamic is at work when it comes to gratitude and thankfulness. The experience of gratitude is an almost universal one. Almost all people feel thankful for various things in life, and sometimes overwhelmingly so. But what do we do with that? Where do we take our gratitude and thanks? The answer to that question will also reveal something about who or what our true God is. At the heart of this text is to whom we can give thanks. First though, let’s look at a few other details in the text.
Notice the group of ten lepers is made up of Jews and Samaritans who were normally enemies.
Do you think there is something about sickness that draws people together? Why do you think this is?
Read the first few verses of Leviticus 14 and cast your eye over the rest of that chapter. This gives the context for being sent to the priests after being cleansed. What would it be like to not be able to join your community in worship?
Notice the ‘body language’ of the one who is cleansed. What sort of posture does he put himself in? Have you ever seen something like this? Why is it so striking?
In the Gospels thanksgiving is always reserved for God. This would seem to be the only place where thanksgiving is given specifically to Jesus. What is this saying about Jesus?
Why do you think the other nine didn’t return and thank Jesus? Do you think they gave thanks to God generally?
Notice the progression of words that are used for the leper’s situation and compare your translations. In v14 he is ‘cleansed’, and in v15 he is ‘healed’, and in v19 he is ‘saved’ (‘made well’ is the same word). What could be the significance of this progression of words?
This text shows us that Jesus is the one to whom we rightly bring our thanksgiving and gratitude. He is ‘on the way to Jerusalem’ (v11) where he will die and rise again to open the way to the Father and bring salvation. This is why the leper is saved by faith in Jesus, expressed in thanksgiving. Jesus is alive and with us as we gather, so that we can bring our thanks to him, and he in turn brings them to the Father (Colossians 3:17).
We have many worries and anxieties in life, often borne from real suffering. However, we also have many good gifts for which we can bring our thanksgiving to the Father through Jesus. St Paul, in fact, implies that thanksgiving can be an antidote to these anxieties (Philippians 4:6).
Take a few moments now to silently reflect on some things you are grateful for, and then share one or two each with others present.
Finish with a prayer, either as a group or by a nominated person, which brings these thanksgivings to God our Father through Jesus and pray together the Lord’s prayer.