Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord

By Jennifer Woodruff Tait

October 8, 2022

Scripture — Luke 17:11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he 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.”


This story challenges me in a number of ways, but one of them is this: look for Jesus where you least expect to find him. Another is this: you may not remember that Jesus is standing in relationship to the cross when you find him, but he will. And a final one is this: when you find Jesus there, he will heal. Are you ready?


When the Gospel writers sat down to compose their accounts of Jesus’s life, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they had three things they wanted to do. They wanted to tell the story of Jesus’s life—not a strict biography as we understand the term, or even as ancient Greco-Roman culture would have understood it, but enough of the basic facts to make the whole thing make sense. They wanted to explain the history of the early church (this is particularly evident with Luke, who had a whole second volume to his story—the book of Acts—but it lies behind the other Gospels as well.) And they wanted to make a theological point about who Jesus was. Some Gospels do more of these things than the others—with John being the most theological and Mark, perhaps, the closest to simply telling a fast-paced story—but they all do all three.

Given that all four of them want to start at the beginning (Jesus’s birth in Matthew and Luke, the beginning of his public ministry in Mark and John) and end at the ending (the cross and resurrection), they had an awful lot of material to arrange in the middle. Jesus was frequently walking around from place to place, preaching, teaching, and healing. How should they tell that story and also make a theological point?

Mostly, they decided to arrange the material by geography. So I find that an interesting thing to think about when reading any given Gospel story is where Jesus is. Is he in the synagogue? Out among the people? Has he sat down (like a good first-century rabbi) to give a teaching? Is he on his way somewhere? If so, where? As we draw closer in each gospel to the stories of Holy Week (in Luke that narrative begins at Luke 19:28), we see Jesus pointing himself towards Jerusalem, and the teachings he gives and the miracles he performs begin to focus around the ultimate end of the story at the cross and the empty tomb.

That’s where we find Jesus in this passage. He’s still doing a fair amount of wandering about, but with his ultimate goal in mind, “on the way to Jerusalem.” And an interesting thing about his location when he performs this miracle is that it’s said to be “between Samaria and Galilee”—and Samaria and Galilee bordered each other! Was Jesus walking down the boundary line (like people who go to the Four Corners boundary of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico in the U.S. and try to put a hand and/or foot in each corner all at once?) Did Luke (who was, after all, a Gentile) make a mistake about the geography of the area?

I suppose either of those things could be true, but I was captivated by a sermon which I read online while writing this devotion, called “Between Samaria and Galilee” and preached by Rev. Elizabeth Sigmon in 2016:

Although it would be unlikely for a Jew to choose to go into Samaria on the way to anywhere, Jesus’s ministry is full of borders—barriers that he crosses.  But it is quite possible that Luke is not making a point about the physical location where this encounter occurs—Jesus is on his way to the cross and those he encounters along the way reveal something to us about the nature of the kingdom that he has come to establish.  It is well known that the people of Samaria and those of Galilee held strong and hostile convictions about each other.  In any region or area that was between them would be a middle space where you would expect the tension between the ethnic and religious differences between the people to be palpable.  It would be a type of no man’s land or twilight zone where boundaries are fuzzy.  In such a space—what God inaugurates through Jesus is made manifest.

Here in this boundary place full of tension and uncertainty, where his destination of self-sacrificial crucifixion is clear to him but perhaps not yet to those he is traveling with, Jesus heals. It was not necessary for the lepers to come back and thank him—what was required by law was that they show themselves to the priest as Jesus instructs them to do, and we can assume that the other lepers were on the way to follow instructions—but one, who is clearly a Samaritan, does come back. As Rev. Sigmon says:

As he is going to the priest this Samaritan has seen what has happened…and it has made a difference to him.  Because he sees what has happened in a different way, this leper recognizes in this Jewish man, his reign and his power.  Because he sees what has happened, the former leper has something for which to be thankful, praising God with a loud voice.  Because he sees what has happened he changes direction, veering from his course toward a priest to first return to Jesus.  In this land between—where borders are fuzzy— where Jew and Samaritan are together—we find healing which does not recognize borders.

This story challenges me in a number of ways, but one of them is this: look for Jesus where you least expect to find him. Another is this: you may not remember that Jesus is standing in relationship to the cross when you find him, but he will. And a final one is this: when you find Jesus there, he will heal. Are you ready?


Where have you encountered Jesus?

Where have you encountered boundaries?

Where have you encountered healing?


After yesterday’s devotional, I have another great song from _Godspell _on the brain: the simple chorus “Prepare Ye The Way of the Lord” which opens the show. This time I’ve chosen a very different arrangement, recorded in a church with a full orchestra and operatic soloists. They give haunting life to the simple sentence which forms the entirety of the lyrics (drawn from Matthew 3:3 and Isaiah 40:3). Listen and ponder how you can prepare the way for our boundary-crossing Christ and meet him on the way to the cross.


Lord, change my direction. Point me towards your cross. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: How Often We Forget!.

Subscribe to Life for Leaders

Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Jennifer Woodruff Tait

Editorial Coordinator

Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the

More on Jennifer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Learn Learn Learn Learn

the Life for Leaders newsletter

Learn Learn Learn Learn