February 22, 2018

Crossing Borders

Luke 17:11-19

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

—  Luke 17:16

This was not the first time Jesus traveled along the border of Samaria. He often crossed this border and others—and his critics might call it “crossing the line.” The Samaritans were half-breed cousins of the people of Judah and Galilee. To the Jews, the border with Samaria defined who deserved God’s mercy and who did not.

Borders were not only geographical. There were also dividing lines set up to avoid the spread of disease. The lepers in today’s story, for example, knew how to maintain their distance. Leprosy was dangerous. Lepers were forced to stay outside the community so that others wouldn’t get the disease.

The lepers begged Jesus to heal them. And he did so, cleansing them as they went to the priests, who were authorized to declare them “clean” again.

One of the lepers was a Samari­tan. He trusted that God could be merciful even to a non-Jew. And as this man was healed, a flood of gratitude overcame him. He just had to give thanks to the Master, so he ran back as fast as he could and threw himself at Jesus’ feet in a posture of worship. He thanked Jesus for the healing he did not deserve, for hearing even the plea of an outsider.

Jesus always crossed borders for people in need of help and healing—in body and soul. Are we willing to do the same?

Gracious Master, thank you for crossing the border of sin and death for our sake so that we can be freed to have new life. In gratitude, and for your sake, may I do the same for others. Amen.

About the author — Reginald Smith

Dr. Reginald Smith is senior pastor at Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for seventeen years. He has also served as a pastor in Paterson, New Jersey. He and his wife, Sharon, have three daughters, Janelle, Katrina, and Mariah.

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