Like John McCain, had the nine lepers died after Frank Sinatra recorded “My Way,” they probably would’ve included it in their funeral service, too.
For Christians, “I did it my way” shouldn’t be the last words said at your funeral, they should be the last words you’d ever say—meaning, you should never say them.
Tinlee didn’t do things her way when she was baptized a few minutes ago. And, regarding salvation, that’s the best thing you can ever say. You’re saved not because of your way but because of the Way, Jesus the Christ.
Baptism, for example, is efficacious—it has the power to do what God says it does—not because you chose it but because God is true to His promises, and in Holy Baptism, God promises to save.
God’s Word and promise—not your word and promise—give Baptism its power to save.
Now, today, in the comparison between the one and the nine, we need to realize that the experience of being healed doesn’t save.
Nor does the outward show of piety.
Consider the nine.
They appear to do exactly what Jesus commands.
As they go, they’re healed. And we safely assume that they went and showed themselves to the priests, exactly as Jesus commanded.
That fulfills the Law. A leper, desiring to be restored to the community, must be deemed clean by the priest.
They go to do so.
But they—are scolded for it.
Jesus says, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18).
They appear to do exactly as Jesus says, but they’re wrong.
And then consider the one.
He appears to do exactly not as Jesus commands.
“When he saw that he was healed, [he] turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks” (Luke 17:15-16).
Jesus said, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14), but he doesn’t do it.
And he—is rewarded. Commended.
“Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19).
How strange! But this is how it is.
The nine are examples of outward piety.
At church, they have their assigned parking places. There’s no sign, nothing’s written down, but everyone knows they park there, inside the church and out.
Their Amen! is loud and long. Their singing, off-key.
All the better for you to hear them, right?
At home, they have a Bible, somewhere, that was given to them to commemorate something no longer remembered.
They don’t read it, but they know where it is.
With money, they tithe ten percent of what they get—net not gross, of course—or they make a show of it all.
The nine look the part, but the heart is bad.
If they have faith, it may be said that they have an immature faith, but as soon as they get what they want, as soon as their skin no longer shames them in the eyes of men, their immature faith vanishes.
Realize that those who look the part may not be saved.
The nine look the part. But we know nothing of their salvation—and that is of no comfort at all.
Job looked the part, but—as we’ve been reading in Sunday School for the past five months—he was so full of pride, that thing we like to be, that it took utter poverty, the death of his ten children, the abandonment of his servants and family, extreme un-wellness, three unhelpful idiot friends, one young zealot, and God Almighty speaking from a whirlwind to bring Job to repentance.
Those who look the part may not be saved.
That’s a warning to the pews we sit on. To you and me.
The outward show of piety doesn’t save.
It isn’t equal to faith.
You’re saved by grace through faith in Christ alone and not by pious-looking works, lest any man boast.
Jesus says, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14), and as the one goes, as he’s healed, he realizes that the priest, our High Priest, Jesus, is the one he should go to first.
So he goes, praising God, thanking Him, and worshipping Him. Worshipping God, worshipping Jesus.
Jesus is our High Priest who stands between us and God, making the necessary sacrifice for our salvation.
Jesus is the priest who gives His body and sheds His blood to deem the world clean.
Jesus is the Giver, and He is, Himself, the Gift.
And so, we receive from God, our High Priest, healing different from that of the nine.
All ten were cleansed of their leprosy—the nine were cleansed that way.
But to only the one does Jesus say, “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:19).
The word there is saved not healed.
For what it’s worth, I checked twenty-eight English translations of that verse to see how many translated the word correctly.
Out of twenty-eight. Four.
The Christian Standard Bible, the Aramaic Bible in Plain English, the Jubilee Bible 2000, and, aptly, Young’s Literal Translation.
The ESV, the NIV, the King James, you name it—editors have a hard time confessing that this one, who hasn’t done anything to “get saved,” is saved.
But that’s what Jesus says.
Faith and salvation is a gift from God to all who hope in Christ.
Faith recognizes Jesus as the Lord who saves.
It’s not the show of piety but faith that trusts the all-availing sacrifice of Jesus to accomplish our salvation…
It’s not the show of piety but faith that trusts God to search and find and forgive and save sinners…
It’s not the show of piety but faith…this mature faith…that saves.
That’s the faith you were baptized into—the faith Tinlee was baptized into.
Jesus saves. Baptism saves. Not your immature piety.
Then, and it’s safe to assume this, the one went and showed himself to the priests.
Of course he did.
The High Priest, Jesus Christ, deems the one clean, healed, and saved because he recognizes Jesus as God.
The one, when cleansed, rejoices and thanks God, going to the High Priest, to lay hold of the Giver and the Gift.
The one then goes, we can be sure of it, to show himself to the priests.
They need to know the Way, too.
With the one, then, and with all the saints, and with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, let’s rejoice in Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Together, let’s confess our sins.
Together, let’s rejoice in the shed blood of Jesus which purchased and redeemed us all.
Together, let’s share with joy the bounty God has given us.
So that at our funerals, it’ll be said of us that we lived according to His way, the Way, and not our own.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!
Trinity 14 Sermon, 2018
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt