From the very beginning of the Bible God’s people were blessed to be a blessing to others. God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 12) clearly shows that the Israelites were to be a blessing to all nations as bearers of God’s saving message.
. The trouble was, the people wanted the blessing of being God’s chosen people without any of the responsibilities. So they constantly paid little more than lip service to their God. a regular cyclethat included invasion, defeat, exile and captivity before the people called out to God for help…and so it was in the time of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah lived about 600 years before the time of Christ and was commissioned as a prophet during the era of the godly King Josiah. Sadly, after Josiah’s death in battle against the Egyptians, what started out as a happy alliance quickly turned into imprisonment and doom under the rapid succession of Josiah’s successors – all vassal kings, firstly to the Egyptians and then to the Babylonians.
It was in this time of Nebuchadnezzar that Babylon ruled the region unchallenged for about 70 years. This was the period of Daniel and his friends who were taken as captives to Babylon.
Taken as captives to Babylon, the Israelites began to long for home and a better time. Their priests and prophets wanted to keep their hopes up, that they would be returning to the old ways soon – but God had other plans. Jeremiah writes them a letter and tells them to settle down and get used to their circumstances – to make friends with their neighbours – to seek the welfare of the city they are living in – to make it a better place – and by blessing it then they would be blessed. He said – stop thinking about yourself and remember the covenant.
Certainly a message that has relevance for the church in Australia in the 21st century.
Now, let’s fast forward about 600 years, to the time of Christ (Luke 17) – and the remnant of Judah live in Jerusalem, Judea and Galilee and are known as the Jews. They are the pure bloods; the ones who can trace their ancestry back – who have stayed true to their understanding of the Hebrew texts
But just up the road are the non-pure bloods. The remnant of the other tribes of Israel that created their own religion when they moved away from God…they are mixed race group –the Samaritans. The Jews despised the Samaritans almost more than the gentiles and to consider any of them good was beyond belief. I wonder how many of Jesus followers really took his parable about the good Samaritan to heart…to many it would have been little more than a fairy tale. However, the story of the ten lepers highlights that a good Samaritan was myth…in fact this Samaritan easily showed up the Jews when it came to faith and gratitude towards God.
Luke’s gospel is one that highlights God’s foreign policy. Aimed at a Gentile audience, it highlights several key non-Jews as recognising Jesus as the Messiah and who Jesus recognises as having faith. So it is with the Samaritan, whose actions and sincerity are acknowledged as faith, while the nine Jewish companions are shown to be cleansed on the outside, but inside, their lack of thankfulness highlights their ingratitude, which in reality is a greater disease than leprosy – which is only a disease of the skin, not the heart!
When we compare the actions and reactions we find:
• The 9 Jews were clean on the outside, but had not received cleansing on the inside. They had missed the point.
• The foreigner was included in God’s blessing and he understood. While they ran home, he stopped because he had no home…even healed he was still and outcast with nowhere to go and no one to celebrate with. So, in that moment of recognition, he does the right thing and returns to Jesus.
• The 9 Jews saw Jesus as a healer who could help them with their immediate problem, while Samaritan saw Jesus as the answer to all of his problems.
• The 9 Jews saw Jesus as useful for them to get back their old way of life, while the Samaritan saw Jesus as the ultimate answer to his life’s questions.
• The 9 sought the blessing of a priest, while the Samaritan gave thanks to God and received God’s blessing.
Like Jeremiah’s message to those in exile – the exiled Samaritan saw things differently. He saw things clearly. He saw Jesus for who he is. He had seen God’s perspective and had left a changed man… still a foreigner,, still alienated from the Jews…but now he was a citizen of God’s kingdom, with a story to tell. On the other hand, the Jews had returned to their lives, overjoyed that they were no longer outcasts – but missing the point.
Be careful not to miss the point!
We are blessed through our encounter with Jesus– but we are meant to pass on the blessing to others and not just those who look and sound like us.
Sadly, many people give lip service to God.
We may come to worship and pray each Sunday, but do not let that impact the rest of the week. We seek the blessing of God, but do not allow Jesus to change us inside. This is why many of us struggle with inconsistency between our walk and our talk.
How are we to make a difference in the community if we do not find ways to bless it? Where are the places in our community where we can make a difference? If our attitude is gratitude for God’s gift and generosity in passing it on, then there will be a consistency with our walk and our talk.
But what happens when God’s people are silent? God will not go without a witness. He will raise up others like the Samaritan who get it and gladly take the message where it belongs – away from the holy huddles and to all peoples, everywhere – that’s God’s foreign policy. We are blessed to be a blessing – we cannot keep it to ourselves, it goes against the purpose of the church.