The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
Sir Isaac Newton (a faithful Lutheran) posited in his First Law of Motion that an object in motion will stay in motion unless an external force acts upon it, while an object at rest will remain at rest unless an unbalanced force acts upon it. Before anyone starts having a bad flashback to high school physics class, understand that I only mention Newton’s Law of Motion because, in a way, it aptly applies to our lessons appointed for today. Just look at how everyone is in motion in these three texts. Everyone is walking/moving. Notice, too, how no one is at rest or idle or sedentary. One is always in motion, either moving towards God or away from God. Whether in faith or unbelief, no one is ever sedentary. You’re always moving. It just comes down to what direction you’re going. The faithful walk in the Spirit, always moving in repentant thanksgiving towards God and His goodness. Conversely, those who don’t walk in repentant faith and Divine wisdom and thanksgiving are just as much in motion and on the go. They’re just headed the opposite way. They walk away from God. They walk in evil. They are led by the ways of the world, walking in darkness.
Let’s turn our attention specifically to the Gospel lesson. Everyone is in motion. The ten lepers are on the go. “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And they go. Keep in mind: They aren’t healed during their interaction with Jesus. They go in blind faith, still leprous. They’re healed only after they’re on their way. Only the one Samaritan leper, however, returns to Jesus, praising God and falling on his face. (Interesting note: The Samaritan praises God by falling on his face and praising Jesus. How’s that for a confession of Christ?) Jesus, too, is on the go. St. Luke tells us with the very first verse that Jesus was poruomai-ing (journeying) to Jerusalem. This is important. In fact, this is of the utmost importance. You see, this word cues us in on the fact that Jesus isn’t simply “on His way” to somewhere else. He is traveling with intent. He’s purposefully journeying to Jerusalem. In fact, this is the third time that Luke tells us that Jesus has “set His face to Jerusalem,” journeying there for the express purpose of laying down His life as the all-atoning sacrifice for sin. This three-fold statement of intent lets us know that the crucifixion of Christ wasn’t some tragic, terrible surprise. Jesus wasn’t caught off-guard on Maundy Thursday/Good Friday! Rather, the cross was the plan all along. From chapter 9:51 on, Jesus is purposefully journeying towards Jerusalem in order to die for the sins of the world.
Now, as I said, everyone is in motion in this text. Everyone is journeying. We begin with Jesus’ purposeful journey to Jerusalem (and we know what that’s all about), and we end with Jesus commanding the Samaritan leper (the only one who returned to Him to render thanks and praise unto God) to also journey. I want you to think about this. When Jesus tells the Samaritan leper to rise and journey, He isn’t merely reasserting that this guy should get on his way and catch up with the other nine, nor is He telling the guy that since he’s now better, he can arise and go do whatever his little heart desires. It’s such a poor English translation to say, “Rise and go your way.” We like that translation, though, because deep-down we like to believe that Jesus is perfectly fine with us going our own way and doing our own thing, so long as we doff the hat to Him along the way. This is NOT what Jesus is saying here! “Rise and paroumai. Rise and journey.” By using this very specific word, Jesus, as God’s Messiah in the flesh, is calling this guy to rise and journey in saving faith with Him on His purposeful journey to His cross. He’s calling this guy to bear witness to Him as He, the heavenly High Priest Himself, presents Himself to His God and Father as the all-atoning sacrifice for all sin for all time. Jesus is calling this man to bear witness to the Lord of Life in all his journeys; in all his comings and goings throughout the remainder of his life.
Take careful note: Jesus never promises the Samaritan a cross-less, pain-free, worry-free journey. He promises him salvation. This is so important for us to remember. The Christian journey in this fallen and sinful world—the journey of faith— is a journey fraught with danger, despair, fear, suffering and sorrow. It’s a journey that involves bearing crosses. No one should be surprised or shocked by this. No one should be caught off-guard. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death….” God never promises a tip-toe through the tulip patch. He promises to be the light unto your feet. He promises to be with you always. He promises to guide you, lead you, protect you, and nourish you all along the way of sorrows until that blessed day when He calls you out of this sinful rat race, calling you home to your eternal rest; calling you to recline at the heavenly side of His feast table for the rest of all eternity.
Now, I want you to think about all the “movement and motion” in your own life. Remember: Everyone is always in motion, either heading towards God and walking in His light/wisdom, or heading away from Him, walking in sinful darkness and evil. No one is ever idle or sedentary. Examine your life, and you may as well be honest, because God already knows the Truth. You’re not going to fool Him. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Examine yourself: Do you walk in this cruciform Way—always—or do you sometimes/oftentimes prefer to go your own way, expecting God to tag along and bless whatever your heart desires? Do you walk by faith? Do you keep moving forward in faith, even when things get difficult/scary, or do you get going when the going gets tough? What if the narrow path of God’s Wisdom doesn’t gratify your desires; doesn’t make you happy? Is it okay to go your own way in those instances; to follow your heart instead of your Lord? What if you’re not seeing the results you want to see? You know… we journey with Christ, and yet we still suffer. We still fear and worry. It’s so demoralizing when you find out that being a Christian doesn’t make you magically immune from suffering or sickness or fear or even death. It feels like you’re just spinning your wheels and wasting your time. We journey with Christ, and all we have to show for it is a lousy cross!? Don’t we deserve a little better?! How easy and tempting it is to stray from the path of cruciform wisdom! How easy it is to veer off the narrow path of Christ’s peace, seeking instead our own more comfortable version of peace. And none of this takes into account the simple fact that we’re always on the go. We eat on the go. We talk and text and e-mail on the go. We wouldn’t think of going anywhere without our phones. We’re always on the go… but where are we going? Where does all this busy-ness and distraction lead us? Look around: Where has it already led us?
Enough! I could go on, but I won’t. You get the picture. We need to turn around/change direction. But rather than put all the focus on our sinful misdirections and motions, let us focus on the purposeful motions of our Lord and Savior. Consider, again, how He gave up heaven’s majesty for you; how He gave up Paradise to come down and journey this shadowy valley of death for you. Consider the true exodus that is His death and resurrection. In a very real way, our Lord Christ journeyed into bondage and death, to not only suffer the Father’s well-earned wrath against our sin in our place, but to vanquish the wicked foes of sin, death, and the devil; to pick us up and carry us out from death to life.
Consider how your God and Lord continues to come to you. Consider the Word you hear in your ears today. The Good Shepherd still comes to you, calling out to you, seeking you, reproving you and absolving you. He comes to you to pick you up in the midst of your sin and darkness, to put you on His shoulders, and carry you back to the path of Wisdom, Light, and Life. Look to this font. Look to this rail. Here is this same victorious Christ! He still comes to us in order to bring us His unmerited gifts of mercy, grace, and peace. Just look at what’s going on here today! Here is the One who has made you pure and presented you to His God and Father as righteous and redeemed and holy; who continues to hold out His cruciform wounds to our heavenly Father as proof that It Is Finished, and He has paid our price in full. Here is where He Himself calls us out of the darkness and into His marvelous light, calling us and gathering us at this side of His feast table in order to feed us and nourish us with His own life-giving Word and Sacrament. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Ps 23:5).
With all this in mind, how can you not want to turn and flee to Him and fall on your face in reverent repentance and humble joy, thanking and praising and giving glory to God? May this Christ-centered presence give you joy and peace in believing as you continue to bear your crosses as you journey through this veil of tears in the humility of saving faith. May God grant you patient faith and endurance to remain walking unafraid in His Way of wisdom and grace until that blessed day when you, too, are called home to your eternal rest to recline at the heavenly side of His feast table for the rest of all eternity. Until that blessed day, though, may the Good News and real presence of the crucified and resurrected Christ guard you and keep you in the path of His righteousness and His Way of Wisdom. AMEN.
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