I can still remember what a big deal it was to get money. When I grew up in South Africa, before the days of ATM teller machines people had to queue at the bank to get cash. Sometimes it was a brutally long process. I can still remember the insides of quite a few banks, even some of the smells and especially the worn out furniture!
Then came the revolution! An easy way to get money, and instant way, a decentralized way.
Now one can get cash almost anywhere. In grocery stores in pharmacies at petrol stations – to access cash has been made so much easier. Now with internet banking, we almost never have to go to the physical bank anymore. So what? You might ask.
A few years ago I read a comment from the NT scholar NT Wright. He likened Jesus’ ministry to an ATM. Where people usually had to go to the temple (the bank) in order to obtain forgiveness (cash), they could now bypass the temple and its long queues and get it from the person of Jesus. Jesus came to become the new temple and then later on Paul calls us (people following in Jesus’ footsteps) the temple. So now we have this wonderful message of reconciliation.
I’m thinking about all of this today as I’m meditating on Luke 17: 11-19, the incident with the ten lepers. Luke tells us that Jesus is on a journey in between Galilee and Samaria. Nine of these lepers are Jews and their quite comfortable with an enemy (a foreigner, a Samaritan). The fact that they’re all outcasts creates a community of inclusion. The Jews allow the Samaritan to hang with them, and the Samaritan allows the Jews to be in his territory. It’s amazing how hardship creates bonds that supersede superficial boundaries (or how those boundaries can become even stronger). Jesus sees these lepers and tells them to go and show themselves to the priest. The Samaritan (most likely) turns to the Samaritan temple and the Jews to the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritan’s temple is much closer.
We are then told that the Samaritan saw that he was healed, turned around, fell at Jesus’ feet and then thanked God. The next phrase brings me to the thoughts on the ATM. Jesus responds saying,
"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?"
The word for foreigner, allogènes is a word that is only found here in all of the New Testament. But it is not a word that was unknown to Jews of Jesus days.
It was the same word used to make a distinction between the court of the Gentiles and the court of the Jews. Archeologists found an inscription in the ancient temple that states,
No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.
Jesus uses this same word, “foreigner” to refer to the Samaritan. I wonder if Jesus is not showing two things here:
1. He is the new High Priest (remember he told all ten of the lepers to go to the priests)
2. That he is the new temple where the wall of division is now obliterated – all are welcome.
Jesus becomes the person where temple and priest meets and unlike the degenerated Jerusalem temple with its divisions, Jesus welcomes all. Now we’re invited to also be communities of welcome and openness. Foreigners made well, inviting others into the adventure of the new kingdom!