As Jesus entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well."
Lepers were outcasts, required by the law to stand at a distance from people (Leviticus 13:45f). But in the story of the Ten Lepers, shared misery had brought Jewish and Samaritan lepers together. Had they not been lepers, they would never have been found in one another's company. There was deep religious hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans were heretics and foreigners in the eyes of the Jews, and their region a melting-pot of different cults and customs; Jews despised it as a blot on their country.
It was a very inconveniently situated blot: right in the middle. So when Jews wanted to travel between Galilee in the north and Judea in the south, they had either to pass through Samaritan country or to skirt it. Things could be unpleasant for them if they passed through, but the journey was twice as long if they went around.
Doesn't everyone have Samaritan territory in the middle of his or her life? It is the part of your life that is a mess: where you are at your very weakest and worst, where your thoughts and motives are all mixed up and unclear, where you have never had peace and hardly dare to hope for it. It is the part of you where the baptismal waters have not soaked in.
But many of the heroes and heroines of Jesus' stories were Samaritans – the one leper, the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan woman. There’s hope for us all.
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