Just before I ceased contemplation, I worked through the chapter about Scripture praying in Soul at Rest. Rhodes asked me to read Luke 17:11–19, the cleansing of the ten lepers. It’s about the kingdom.
Jesus had been in Galilee to the north and was now heading south through Samaria “on his way” to Jerusalem in Judea (v. 11). The passage ends with the healed and inherited Samaritan “going” his way (v. 19). In between, Jesus heals him and nine other outcasts.
In the verses preceding this passage, Jesus defines the true servant to whom the kingdom of God is coming as:
- undivided (16:13),
- justified in God’s sight (16:15),
- hearing and obeying without waiting for a supernatural zap (16:31),
- forgiving (17:4), and
- doing her duty without exceptional expectation (17:10).
In the verses following my passage, Jesus answers two questions: “How is the kingdom coming?” Not with observable signs (17:20). And “Where is it coming?” It’s not located here or there. It’s among you (17:21). This is a redirection of the Pharisees’ actual question: “When is the kingdom coming?” (17:20).
The story of the ten men with skin diseases fleshes out, so to speak, the teaching on either side.
To whom is the kingdom coming? To the most un-kingdom-like person the Pharisees and disciples could imagine: a foreigner with leprosy (17:17–18). When Jesus sends the Samaritan to an Israelite priest to pass through a Levitical inspection and cleansing (Lev 14:1–11), he not only transforms an unclean man into a holy man, able to enter the Presence, but he transforms a foreigner into one of God’s Chosen.
I identify with this guy, sort of. I have a patch of eczema on my ring finger, which is sufficient to drive me insane with itchiness, but not sufficient to ban me from polite society. No one has required me to “stand at a distance” as I grocery shop (Luke 17:12). However, as a missionary kid, I definitely feel like a foreigner wherever I am, and as an American of Scottish descent, I am most assuredly not a born Chosen One.
When will the kingdom arrive? Not when Jesus reaches his destination (17:11), but while he’s passing through. During the transition.
In my own transition, I frequently catch myself thinking “if I can just get through today.” Because of my passage, I remind myself just as frequently that “through today” is exactly when the kingdom comes to me. Miracles may or may not happen, but a minute-by-minute trust in Jesus must largely define my salvation. Like the Samaritan I am cleansed and inherited by Jesus work.
On the way from Boston to Minneapolis, how have I been undivided, satisfied with justification in God’s sight, hearing and obeying, forgiving, and doing my duty? How have I failed to be a true servant?
How about you? What was your last transition? The train-ride from home to work? A pregnancy? A death? A job loss? How have your transitions drawn you to Jesus’ healing or pushed you away?