Every time the story of the 10 lepers comes around, I’m struck by the one who returns. Of course, that’s the point of the story, that we should deal with the one who returned to Jesus, so obviously it should be striking. I mean, first of all, he’s a Samaritan, which brings with it all sorts of socio-religio-political baggage, but I’m not going to deal with that today. Instead, what gets me is how he responds to his healing.
Luke tells us that the man, seeing that he was healed, “turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” (Lk 17.15b-16a)
As I read this story, I assumed that the underlying Greek word, translated as “prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet” was the word that is elsewhere translated as “worship.” As in Luke 4.7-8, when the devil tempts Jesus to worship – literally “to fall on one’s knees and touch the forehead to the ground” – him. That is one word, “proskuno”
I was surprised to see that the Samaritan former leper doesn’t “proskuno” Jesus, but instead he “fell upon his face at Jesus’ feet.” Rather than use one word, “proskuno,” Luke uses a whole phrase, “pipto epi prosopon para autos pous.”
I’m pondering the inherent difference between the two. Is it that the Samaritan was incapable of actually “worshiping” Jesus, and instead could only show reverence by falling prostrate and offering thanksgiving? Are those deep seeded socio-religio-political issues coming to the fore in this story? Or, are these perhaps just different ways of saying the same thing? Was this action of the Samaritan, former-leper, such that Luke decided that it needed to be focused upon by way of six words, rather than run past in a single, well-worn, word? When we worship the lord, are we just rushing through the motions, hoping that our three songs and didactic sermon will due? Or, are we wiling to take the time to stop and… Fall. Upon. Our. Face. At. Jesus’. Feet. ?