”Rize, your faith has made you well”, Lk.17:11-19

posted Sep 24, 2019, 6:50 AM by Sorin-Horia Trifa

The sermon from the Confirmation Service of the Tsakmalis family, Katerini, Greece.

This Bible passage about the healing of the ten lepers is a well-known one and, at the same time, is a very simple one. However, it is full of special teaching for us and it is wonderful related to the special spiritual event that you are experiencing today. It is about your confirmation as members of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Of course, many sermons can be written, and were written, based on this particular passage, most of them speaking of how Christ brought healing to these people. This passage ends with a special affirmation of the Lord Jesus Christ, on which I wish to reflect today. These words of our Lord are the follows: rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Lk.17,19).

My dears, even if in the narrow context of this passage these words were spoken to a man cured of the leprosy that destroyed his life, in the broad context of the Church of Christ these words are addressed to each of you, today.

During the Lord Jesus Christ time, as throughout the Old Testament, especially in Israel, leprosy was a very scary disease. The leprosy was a terrible disease from two points of view. First of all, it is known that leprosy causes terrible and very painful wounds. Basically, the leper's body simply decomposes to his death. On the other hand, leprosy was considered as being the God's punishment for the sins of the man in question. Therefore, the leper was considered impure from a spiritual point of view, being isolated from the rest of the people and forced to live far from his family, from his friends and especially far from the spiritual life of Israel. The man with leprosy could not participate in the worship of God at the Temple in Jerusalem nor in the spiritual life of the synagogue. Here's how the Law of Moses speaks about the situation of a leper in Israel: the leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean'. He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Lev.13,45-46). For the leper, life was a truly drama. I would like to say one more important thing. At that time (as it is today), leprosy had no cure. There was no way for a man to be cured of leprosy. Only a miracle could do this, but this miracle could not be done by the sick person or by any other man. The only cure could come exclusively from God. That is why, my dears, the Old Testament speaks of leprosy exclusively as a "spiritual" disease even if it affects the body. I remind you that only the priests were mandated to recognize the existence of this disease and the only ones who could pronounce the isolation of the sick one from society. At the opposite pole, in the case of a miraculous cure, only the priests could examine the regression of the disease and could invite the man to regain his place in society.

I have already said that the leprosy is a biblical symbol for sin and the bondage of sin. This understanding is extremely important to us. Paul says in his letter to the Romans the following: “the wages of sin is death” (Rom.6,23). The sin leads each of us into the bondage of death, as Paul says: „you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Ef.2,1). Also, a few verses later, Paul affirms that our sins put us under God's condemnation, by saying: “[we] were by nature children of wrath” (Ef.2,3). You have probably stated that I’m speaking at the first person, plural. I do this because the problem of the sin is not isolated to some people or groups, or nations but is a problem of the whole humanity, as Paul says: "none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom.3,10-11). These words of Paul leave no ways for doubt: “all have sinned” (Rom.3,23), in Greek: “πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον”. Therefore, because of our sin, we are the true spiritual lepers. And this bondage of sin makes us spiritually unclean, isolates all of us from God, putting us under the wrath of God and chaining us in the power of the devil. As in the case of leprosy, there is no human remedy for sin. The obedience to the Law is an impossible solution for the sinful man. The Law cannot save us, but it can only show us the illness we suffer and it can only pronounce the sentence for us, as Paul says: “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom.3,20). So, in conclusion, no one can save himself from this bondage of sin regardless of the effort he makes, and, as long as we are in this situation, we are under the curse of the Law that says: “cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them” (Deut.27,26). For the sinner, the hope of salvation is only in the hand of God, in fact in the mercy of God.

The ten lepers knew they could do nothing to heal themselves and they came and begged the mercy of Christ and received the healing from him. Christ is our only possibility of salvation from this bondage of sin, as Peter says: “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4,12). About our salvation from the bondage of sin, Scripture says: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jo.3,7). So, this salvation is only the work of God, so it is one that does not come from us.

But how was this salvation obtained by God for us? John tells us thus: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jo.1, 14). The Son of God came here in the world of sin, took upon himself the human nature and completely fulfilled the Law of God, which neither of us is capable of doing. But then it happened something difficult to penetrate by human reason. Paul says this: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal.3,13). We receive the details from the Prophet Isaiah, who says: “he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” and then we found the following: „he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is.53, 4-5). The Prophet Isaiah tells us that the Son of God has taken upon him the leprosy we suffered because of our sins. He became a leper by taking our leprosy on him so by this we might be cleansed of our leprosy. The Lord Jesus Christ took all our sins upon himself and, dying on the cross in Jerusalem, he received the punishment of God for each of the sins of each of us, in our place.

I wish very much that on this day, the day of your confirmation, to remember what God has done for you in Christ. If you confess today your faith in Christ is because, as Paul says: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom.5,8). When Jesus died on the cross, he gave his life to work the forgiveness for the sins of the world. But Jesus also gave himself personally for you. God has placed us in Christ through our Baptism and brought us to a new life, as Paul says: we were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom.6,4). In your Baptism, God created the faith in your heart because the Baptism is pure Gospel. Baptism is our supernatural birth from the water and the Word. In our Baptism we were freed from the bondage of the devil and became the property of God through Christ. Through Baptism, Christ was washed us from the leprosy of sin and cleansed us of our mortal illness and gave us the saving faith as gift, as Paul says: “for by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ef.2, 8).

This is the faith you will confess today, the saving faith that Christ has born in you in your Baptism and through the Word of the Gospel that you heard and meditated on it in your catechesis time. Then, because we remain in this body of sin and continue our life here, into a world where sin will continue to attract and to hurt us, our Lord Jesus Christ will put you at his holy table with his saints in what the Apostolic Creed calls "the communion of saints". It is about the table of heaven where God offers us to eat and drink the true body and true blood of his Son as a medicine against sin, for the forgiveness of our sins and for the strengthening of our faith, and to give us eternal life. God feed our saving faith through the Sacrament of the Altar, as Paul says: for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes” (1Cor.11, 26). When we partake in the Sacrament of the true body and blood of Christ, God strengthens our faith by telling us what Christ has done for our salvation. The Lord's Supper is the true Gospel that we receive with our entire person, by hearing and believing the words of the Lord Jesus Christ that say "this is my body which is for you", “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor.11,24-25) and by actually eating what those words say. This is the way in which Christ saves our souls from the bondage of sin, from our leprosy, and keeps us - through the Word of the Gospel and through the Sacraments -, healthy in a world infested by leprosy of sin.

Only a faith born by the Gospel of Christ, in Word and Sacraments, is the true faith in Christ. This is the faith that you will confess today before the witnesses of the Church of Christ and, as a result of this confession, you will receive the Sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, the Lord's Supper. And then, you will hear the same words that the Samaritan leper heard: "rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Lk.17,19). Our church teaches that salvation is only by faith alone, and through the Word of the Gospel and the Sacraments, Christ himself gives us and maintains in us exactly this faith through which the salvation is. Therefore, you are now part of the Church of Christ, which is the real participation in the eternal Kingdom of God, and you are save for eternal life as Christ himself assures us through the words: I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk.22,18). And, my dear ones, allow me to say to you with all confidence the same words that Jesus Christ said in the beginning of his mission: “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing(Lk.4,21), you are now in the Kingdom of God for the eternal life!

AMEN! 

Rev. Sorin H.Trifa

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