When people hear this story, they often think that the Samaritan was thankful and the other nine lepers weren't. They suppose that the Samaritan has the good manners enough to come back and say thanks to Jesus. And, they suppose, that's what Jesus wants: people to come back and show Him some good manners. But that's not what Jesus says. He says, “Did only one come back to give glory to God?” Give glory to God? What is that? Does that mean the Samaritan came back and told Jesus how great He is? Is that giving glory to God? Telling Him how great He is? A lot of what passes for “worship” in the church today is just that: people getting all worked up and telling God how great He is. Is the Lord really so vain? Does He really need us to remind Him of how awesome and wonderful He is? Is the Lord so insecure that He has to wonder why only one guy came back to tell Him how great He is? Of course not. But that means that giving glory to God means something other than us just complimenting God and having good manners. No, to glorify the Lord is to come and receive what He has for us because He always has more for us. He never stops giving and our receiving His gifts is what His glory is all about. You, receiving from the Lord's gracious hand, forgiveness, life and salvation, are what God's glory is all about. God is most thanked, most glorified, when you receive and enjoy the gifts He has for you!
The problem with the other nine isn't that they aren't happy or satisfied or thankful. They were healed of their leprosy, after all. Do we think they didn't know that? They got from Jesus what they wanted. But the sad thing about them is not that they didn't write Jesus some thank-you notes but that they didn't seem to realize that Jesus was the one with more than just healing. He also had forgiveness and life. The thing that the other nine miss out on is the joyous proclamation that Jesus spoke to the Samaritan: “Arise, go, your faith has saved you.” What the nine lepers who didn't come back missed out on is the absolution for their sins that Jesus had for this Samaritan who was confessing that there was more to Jesus than just curing their leprosy. Yes, they got what they wanted. They were made better. They were healed of the awful disease of leprosy. And that was enough for them. Or else they didn't think Jesus had any more beyond what they wanted. But with the Lord there is always more. With the Lord it's not: receive what you need and then go on your merry way. With the Lord it's: receive His healing. Receive His forgiveness. His life. His salvation. Everything and more that He has for you!
Jesus has healed you. He has healed you by dying for you. On the cross, Jesus was afflicted with the leprosy of your sin, that is, covered in your sins and under the burden of God's judgment. As a leper must be kept away from people, so Jesus was hung outside the city while people kept their distance and shouted at Him and mocked him like a common criminal or dirty leper. On Calvary, Jesus became the man no one wanted to be around, the one who was unclean with our sins. And by taking on human flesh to suffer and die, the Son of God cleanses us from our sinful flesh, healing us, making us new and making us clean. In the waters of Holy baptism, Jesus speaks the word that we are healed. By absolution and the Supper He cleanses us from our sins. Over and over. Not just once but your whole life. God's glory isn't that He lays upon you the burden of telling Him how great He is all the time. His glory is that you are saved! Rescued from sin and death. Cleansed from the leprosy of sin. It is the glory of Almighty God, His very delight, that you have come to faith in His Son and live by His Word and gifts. And that is our life as Christians, to live as this leper: to receive from the Lord His gifts and keep coming back for more. Each Sunday. Now on Wednesday. Wherever and whenever His Word is preached and His body and blood given out, come and receive it.
So what about the other nine? What about them? Are they saved? Are their sins forgiven? I don't know. All I know is what the Gospel says: The Samaritan came back and Jesus told Him He was saved. As for the other nine? The Bible doesn't say anything else about them so how can we? What we can say and know for sure is that the Samaritan was saved because Jesus' word told Him that. What then of those who come to receive something from Jesus and then disappear? What of those who have been baptized and taught the faith and confirmed and they just stop coming? What of them? I don't know. There are many who will tell you they believe in Jesus and are Christians and yet they never come to the place where Jesus is saying, “Arise, go, your faith has saved you.” There are many who claim they've gotten something from Jesus and yet they never come back to glorify God by receiving more. I can't say anything about them other than that they aren't here and so they can't hear the absolution. But for you who are here, here is more Jesus. Here is the absolution that says you are saved through faith in Christ Jesus. Here is the preaching that declares that you are the Lord's. Here is the clean and pure flesh of Christ given you to eat and His blood to drink to cleanse you from all your sins. And after that? After today? There's always more. Always more Jesus with always more of His forgiveness and gifts of life and salvation. To live as a Christian is not to get what you need from God and go your merry way. It is to be called back to Jesus over and over because He is the One who has all that you need for this life and the life to come, given to you as a gift.
Today we rejoice that the Lord has brought these new members into His church and into this congregation. But He's not doing it so that we can yell how great He is even louder. As if the Lord needs more cheerleaders! Besides, Jesse is a football player, not a cheerleader! No, He has brought them to us because they, like us, need what the Samaritan leper needed: healing from our sickness, healing from our sins. They, like we, have been gathered here by the Lord to hear these words of Good News: “Arise. Be alive. Be clean. Your faith has saved you.” Jesus has saved you. Now we kneel at the Lord's altar as the Samaritan did, to give thanks, that is, to have the Eucharist. And that is to glorify God: to receive from Him the good things He has for you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.