Found on my sermon site, LCMSsermons.com:
Text: Luke 17:11-19
Hear the frustration in Christ our Lord’s voice: “Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” The Great Teacher must experience what all teachers find: Even when they faithfully instruct, discipline, and admonish, they must expect that some will do their duty and others will not. For he who wants to teach well must expect that it is done in vain, and that his good teaching is poorly used, because the number of those who spurn good advice is always greater than the number of those who follow it. We should be satisfied when the good we do has not been entirely lost. It is enough if one of the ten lepers returns.
He who desires to be a Christian should also be prepared to earn ingratitude for all his faithfulness and service. But beware that you do not become discouraged from serving others any more. Put up with the unthankful and nevertheless help people whenever you can.
For there is One in heaven who will thank you, who accepts all your service as if done to Him. His thanks will be more pleasing to you than that of anyone on earth.
Although in our vocations we are masks of Christ to give His blessings, yet as sinners we are but lepers begging for His mercy, worthy of nothing. So we learn well by considering the example of these ten who received His cleansing.
For them, the great culmination of the ages came in human flesh. One greater than Moses was before them. For the cleansing of Christ is greater than all the cleansings of the old Temple, and His Blood greater than all the blood of all the animals shed upon every altar through history.
In the flesh of the Son of Mary, the old way was being made obsolete. The ceremonial law of Moses (which was really from God, not Moses) was being replaced and superceded when God stood upon the earth. As soon as Christ came, the true Temple was no longer in Jerusalem, but in the body of Christ.
Yet Christ told the ten lepers to go show themselves to the priests. He did not command them to kneel at His feet. He did not tell them to forget about the priests because the ultimate and final High Priest was in their presence. No, Christ sent them back to Moses and the old Temple. For now, Christ allowed the old law to serve its purpose as the gateway of the lepers to reenter society.
Yet what should stop those lepers from returning to the Incarnate Lord? What should stop them from kneeling at the feet of God? If, in faith, they saw that Christ was more than merely a cleanser of lepers, why should they delay to worship Him?
One of them did. The rest did not.
What temptations did they face to not return to Christ? They surely looked forward to family and friends, parted from them, who knows how many years? Now they had the opportunity to return to life and acceptance in society. How wonderful the prospect to no longer be outcasts! How glorious the opportunity Christ had opened for them, to talk to people face to face, not from a distance!
How easily these things could distract and draw them to forget the One who had cleansed them.
Perhaps the greatest temptation was from the priests. They would surely work to convince the ex-lepers that the old religion was surely the reason for their cleansing, not that vagabond Preacher. “Here, come offer the sacrifices prescribed by Moses,” they would say, “or else you might go back to becoming a leper.” Surely they would preach mightily to try to make those former lepers into their disciples and disciples of the law.
But one leper was so outcast that even when he was cleansed he could not enter the Temple itself. As a Samaritan, perhaps he had that advantage that he would not fall back upon the ceremonial law, but returned to the true Source and Author of his healing. For this ex-leper, the entire law with all its requirements ended with Christ. There was no longer any earning or working to make himself worthy, but there was only Christ.
We also have the same Healer. For we have come to the Priest who declares us clean, not by the merits of the Law, but by His Word of Gospel. He is the Master of all, who commands even diseases to obey His all-powerful Word.
He uses this mighty Word for your benefit. You have come to this House of God where the eternal High Priest has proclaimed that you are clean before God. The leprosy of your sin must flee before the Lamb who shed His Blood as the sacrifice for you. He surrendered His life so that life in its fullness is yours – everlasting health that will not be vulnerable to any disease.
Remember this sacrificial Lamb today. As you gather, no doubt, around the carcass of an animal slaughtered for your sustenance, recall also who it was who was willingly slaughtered for you.
And how will His saints resist giving thanks to Him when He has done so much? How can we not return to kneel at His feet, here in His House? For us, it is not a command, but it is only the natural reaction to the riches of His grace toward us poor, wretched beggars.
In His Name and to His glory. Amen.
Rev. Andrew Eckert
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church