Weekly Bible Reflection
Luke: Signs of the Kingdom
Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
Text: Luke 17.11-19: "Rejection or Reconciliation "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
How do you feel about people whose appearance sets them apart – who may perhaps be disfigured, physically disabled, with ‘learning difficulties’, or mentally ill? Discuss how society deals with people like these, outside its norms. Why are some rejected totally, some tolerated and some accepted? What has created these divisions?
A Window on the Text
Leprosy is an infectious skin disease that is disfiguring and ultimately physically disabling. It’s caused by bacteria and today can be easily cured with modern drugs. We don’t know for certain what exactly was meant by ‘leprosy’ in this account, but it’s thought that many different skin diseases in biblical times were described with the same word. Some were temporary, and would heal naturally or with simple treatments, others were permanent. To a Jew, any disease or disability was symbolic of uncleanness and sufferers were segregated into special communities, away from everyone else, not only for fear of spreading infection, but also because their unclean state meant they were not whole people and so not worthy of a relationship with God.
No recovered leper was permitted to rejoin fellow believers until the priest had pronounced them ‘cleansed’. In Old Testament times there was often a ritual sacrifice of doves or a lamb to celebrate this.
The ten men in the story were similarly ‘outcast’, maybe only on a temporary basis until the visible signs of their disease had gone. As they were on the border, Jews and Samaritans shared this place of exclusion. Now comes the healing by Jesus, and we see gratitude only from the Samaritan, the foreigner despised by the Jews. We are led to believe that the Jewish men hurried back to their own people, one hopes inwardly grateful, but not willing to acknowledge publicly the cause of their healing.
In most societies long ago, similar social isolation occurred for sufferers of mental illnesses. In more recent times too, unmarried mothers, for example, or the very old, or people of different races, genders or sexuality, or even with HIV/Aids, have been rejected from everyday society. Are we afraid they might infect the rest of us?
Responding as a community
- How does your community treat anyone who appears to be different and ‘not one of us’?
- How do you feel about this? Has your perspective been changed by this account in Luke's gospel?
- What might you do in response to these changed views?
- Sit together in silence for 5-10 minutes and each think about yourself, the past and the present, and relationships damaged or broken by what was done, or said, or merely by neglect. Did hurting prevent reconciliation? Do not feel under pressure to share your thoughts with each other unless you want to.
- Pray for forgiveness for isolating people because of the impact they have had on you and your community. Pray for opportunities to show reconciliation.
- End by saying the Lord’s Prayer and the Grace.