Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Camping out for the Clean Life

Sermon Text: Luke 17:11-19
Thankgiving Eve

In the X Name of Jesus.  AMEN!

Beloved in the Lord,

Steadfast Sermons GraphicThe lepers in our text weren’t hoping for the good life.  They weren’t dreaming of camping out in front of the local shops in order to hoard more and more things they didn’t need.  They weren’t concerned with such trivial things. Thanks to their suffering, these ten had other things on their minds. They weren’t concerned about the good life, they just wanted to be made clean.

The clean life is much different from the good life.  The clean life is a life of liberty; freedom to travel about the countryside without having to yell – “unclean, unclean”.  The clean life is a life of joy – joy in one’s family gathered together, embracing one another, holding tiny children in their arm, eating meals around a crowded table, sharing life’s ups and downs, learning to love, learning to forgive.  The clean life is a life of worship, entering into God’s presence, receiving from Him mercy, life and salvation despite all the times we’ve dirtied ourselves, trusting that He’s not forgotten or forsaken His children.

Yes, beloved the lepers in our text weren’t sitting around the camp fire dreaming of what they would do if they won the lottery, how they spend their new found riches, what they would buy or what they would wear.  To them life and death had greater meaning.  Yet, for them any hope of cleansing, was but a mere dream.  And without such a cleansing there would be no such hope, no such life.

And then Jesus approaches.  Funny how that always seems to be the case.  Whenever someone is in trouble in the gospels, whenever someone is hurting, in need or a simple touch, or a gentle word, or a mighty deed, Jesus isn’t too far off.  That’s the point really, in the midst of broken lives, Jesus isn’t too far off.  In fact, He’s very near.  He’s near on purpose.

Jesus approaches and these lepers don’t wait for an invitation. They’ve heard about him.  Some of their own kind have been cleansed, have been changed, have become completely different people because of Him.  Their only hope draws near as He journeys toward Jerusalem and these ten aren’t going to miss the opportunity.

And, maybe they planned it that way.  I wonder if, . . . I wonder if these ten, having heard about Jesus decided to camp out along the road heading to Jerusalem.  I mean, what would you have done?  Imagine suffering the pains of leprosy, feeling the weight of your own mortality, the isolation brought upon because of your uncleanness.  What would have done if you were one of them?  What would you have done, knowing what you know about this man Jesus? Wouldn’t you find any which way you can to get yourself to Jesus, to get as close as you can, to ask Him, beg Him, beseech Him to make you clean?  Of course you would because being clean would be the most important thing in your life for your life, so that you can have life.

Then why do you struggle to be here where Jesus is?  Why do our brothers and sisters in Christ, our family, our friends, our own children stay afar off and not camp out to meet Jesus?  No, instead they camp out at Best Buy. They can’t wait to get to Meijer’s doorbuster Christmas sales on Thanksgiving morning!  They plan their whole life around the wrong things; chasing the wrong things, embracing the wrong things, carrying around the wrong things, giving the wrong things.  The American dream is their dream.  And we must confess we succumb to such dreams as well.  We want the American dream but in truth the American dream has become a nightmare.

In this nightmare we betray our families as moms and dads trade places with one another.  We break our families apart and try to patch them back together like sewing fig leaves to cover our shame.   We shrink our families, purposely have small families, exchanging the blessing of children for possessions.  We have more fun holding a gameboy in the palm of our hands than a little boy or girl in our arms.  We feast and get fat in the flesh while the bread of life is left for the dogs.  Trivial things become important things.  We get up early and camp out for them believing that these give the good life. And important things, especially the eternal things have become trivial, assuming that we can always get them some other day, some other time or that they’re not really that important anyway, they don’t really give the good life.

Unlike the ten lepers our culture and our people has lost its perspective.  We’ve forgotten who we are and we ignore what we’ve become.  Thus we suffer more than they did.  We hurt more because we hurt spiritually as well as physically.  Our sins weigh heavy upon us because we’re more isolated from one another than ever.  We have lots of things and yet we are so lonely.  It’s sad really, we don’t see this because we don’t believe God’s Word.  What we see is what we don’t have and we believe we should have more, but anything less is not enough, not for our Old Adam.

Whether Jesus approached these lepers or these lepers camped out waiting for Him doesn’t matter.  Jesus shows up.  When Jesus shows up, we should be there and we should ask Him for things, important things, eternal things.  The lepers are wonderful example.  They’re a lot like us, only they have their priorities straight.  They know their plight. They feel it in the depths of their flesh.  Suffering does this. Suffering makes us feel our frailty and urges us to focus on the sort of things that don’t break down, rust, fade away or die.

The Lepers asked Jesus, not for a good life, but for a clean one.  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Jesus knew what they wanted, what they needed, and He gave it to them in His Word.  “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  Now, lepers who were still lepers couldn’t go to the priests unless the lepers were no longer lepers, unless the lepers were made clean.  Believing the promise, holding on to His Words, these ten departed.  They knew that before they made it to the temple priests, they would be cleansed.  And it happened, just as Jesus said.

That’s how things go with Jesus.  They happen just as Jesus says.  That’s why we should always be where Jesus is and that’s why we should always be asking Jesus for the important things, for eternal things, things that give the clean life.  When Jesus speaks His word of promise to the lepers the lepers were as good as clean.  When Jesus speaks His word of promise in absolution to you in the Divine Service He is cleansing you, giving you life, maybe not the good life, but most certainly eternal life.  And what sort of life could be better than the one that lasts forever and ever and ever in joy, happiness and blessedness with Jesus?

Now, all 10 of the lepers were cleansed and 9 out of 10 did exactly what Jesus told them to do.  It’s always a good idea to do what Jesus tells you to do.  I don’t fault these guys for going to the priests.  They were doing what they were told to do by the guy who healed them.  The one who returned was a Samaritan.  He couldn’t go to the temple anyway. So he goes back to Jesus to worship Jesus. The others should have come back to Jesus too.  That’s where they fail. They did what they were told but they didn’t come back to Jesus which was the whole point of the miracle.

When Jesus forgives your sins He doesn’t send you away never to come back.  He forgives you your sins so that you do come back, worship Him, thank Him, ask Him for more things, important things, eternal things, things you need for this life and the next.  This is why He’s come and this is why He’s on His way to Jerusalem.  Jerusalem is the place where Jesus will camp out, pray in garden, beg His Father on your behalf and then enter the world’s business, to bring down the world’s business, to suffer the world’s business and redeem the whole world by offering, exchanging, His own flesh and blood, for yours.  The real black Friday is actually better known as Good Friday.  On Good Fridayour God and Redeemer Jesus Christ traded Himself for you.  He stood in your place, purchased your life, body and soul, for eternity. He paid the price, the full price, exactly what was demanded by our sins.  He paid it in full, covered over the debts we owe and stamped out the accusations against us.  This is an important thing, an eternal thing, because this Jesus – though crucified, dead and buried – is risen from the dead.

And this Jesus now presents Himself to you, not to give you the good life, but to cleanse you, forgive you, and pledge within you the resurrection of your own bodies.  These are things we can and should be thankful for because these are things we would not receive, cannot receive, apart from Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Beloved in the Lord, when the leper returned to Jesus He fell on face at Jesus’ feet.  His return led to worship and His worship was full of gratitude.  In thanksgiving He worshipped Jesus.  Thus the Christian’s life always one of thanksgiving at the feet of Jesus.  There, at the feet of Jesus Jesus gives us more.  He’s always wanting to give us more, more of Himself, more of the important things, the eternal things, but also even more of things temporal, good things, things He wishes us to enjoy like friends and family, children, tiny ones, loud ones, playful ones, messy ones. Jesus delights to give His love through His people as they share with one another His bounty; good food, good drink, good beer and wine to gladden the heart and times of leisure, relaxation, times of play and times of conversation. These are all good things when coming from Jesus, things we receive only after we gather around Jesus’ feet and listen to His Word and believe His Word.

Thanks be to God for His Word and for His gifts both eternal and temporal.  AMEN!

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!