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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Should Jesus Have Been Disappointed?

I included this thought as a tag to yesterday’s Biblical Limerick post, as an afterthought linking back to a previous limerick. But I think it is a question that is worth a little more than a casual postscript to something as lowbrow as a limerick, so I’d like to draw it out a bit.

In Luke 17: 11 – 19 we have the story of Jesus’ encounter with a group of 10 lepers. Jesus cures them and sends them away to report their cleansing to the priests who could restore them to their places in the community. Of the ten, one came back to express his thanks. And this one was a Samaritan. “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they?” (Luke 17: 17 New Jerusalem Bible)

I’ve heard many a sermon and Sunday school lesson on the theme of these thankless lepers. And last night (providentially, perhaps) I found, the following lines in a book of poems by Commissioner Irena Arnold (an officer in The Salvation Army) – it’s not especially noteworthy poetry, but it does illustrate the tone of those multiplied sermons and Sunday school lessons.

Nine men sought Christ in their trouble sore,
Forgetting Him when their pain was o’er.
Nine men with joy to their homes returned,
They all were healed, but their Healer spurned.
Accepting all that their Savior gave;
His loving kindness, His power to save,
                But none of them gave thanks.
-from “Only One Gave Thanks” (Arnold 229)

But if we read the story of the thankless lepers while keeping in mind the parable that Luke recorded just a few verses prior perhaps we would be compelled to ask Jesus, “Why did you expect to be thanked?”

In Luke 17: 7 – 11, Jesus is recorded as telling a brief parable: “Which of you with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him, when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal at once”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper ready; fasten your belt and wait on me while I eat and drink. You yourself can eat and drink afterwards.” Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all that you have been told to do, say, “we are useless servants: we have done no more than our duty.” (New Jerusalem Bible)

If the good servant (or slave in other translations) shouldn’t expect to be thanked for doing his duty, should Jesus have been disappointed in the other nine lepers who did not stop to thank him?

Arnold, Irena. More Poems of a Salvationist. Harpeville: GA. Tyler and Company. 1945. Print.

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