“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, ”rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:15-19) Luke’s single tradition recording of ‘The Healing of Ten Lepers’. Luke, again, stands alone in the telling of this miracle healing faith event in the life and ministry of Jesus. Noteworthy is the returning leper “falling on his face”.
One of my favorite Bibles for study is The ‘Oxford Complete Parallel Bible with the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books’. It is so very handy in that it is an interlinear of four well used English Translations: NRSV=New Revised Stan-dard Version; REB=Revised English Bible; NAB=New American Bible; and the NJB=New Jerusalem Bible. There is no exchange for having the Apocryphal, especially the Books of The Maccabees available for reading. Yet, this tool is complete, for me, only with the additional use of The ‘Interpreter’s Bible’ which interlinears the KJV=King James Version and the RSV=(original)Revised Standard Version. In case you missed this, we are talking six (6) English Translations of scripture! Of which, yours may or may not be included. I believe that every Christian should ‘know all/ or something?’ about the translators of ‘your Bible’. That said, a closer look is needed in seeing the faith of the returning leper ‘falling on his face’.
The discussion on the meaning of ‘prosopon/face’ as used here is one that we take for granted in our modern religiosity. To be sure, the ‘seeking God’s face’ gave meaning to daily living in the Old Testament. The ‘face’, the ‘countenance’, the ‘presence’ of God, the ‘face to face’ encounter with God is the prayer and longing of the believer in securing the grace and peace given in a right relationship with God.
When I first entered the Seminary I was in my days of ‘cover girl’— so professional in my daily make-up ritual. One day I was accosted in the hall by a young man of the ??? persuasion who put his finger in my face ‘to rebuke the sin’, as he saw it, in the ‘lipstick’ (et al) on my face. Needless to say he ‘got out of my face’! But within the following year of Biblical studies, I came to learn the importance of the face as it relates to ‘countenance’. I made a personal choice in discontinuing the daily ‘ritual’ of usingå make-up on my face.
The Face is the gateway to WHO we are. People identify us immediately by our… Face. How many times have you said to someone “you look familiar to me??” because it is a face that you have seen before even without a name to the face. The Eyes, with it’s lids and lashes; perhaps the most important of all our power —the ability to see… the world and all that is in it. The Nose, that power that we so take for granted until sight is no longer there. The Mouth…piece where, among so many other things, we ‘feed our Face’.
When we consider all the studies done on the face— ‘Chinese Face Wisdom’ teachings; ‘Eyes of Wisdom’ teachings, Ears, Cheeks, Tongue, Teeth, et al, there is something greater to be said about this act of ‘contrition’ this act of respect, humility, homage and veneration— ‘falling on one’s face’. To surrender the most important part of the body— while in praise and thanksgiving to God for cleansing from disease.
Ten were healed. One came back. But then, ‘face to face’… with Jesus, he ‘falls on his face’!
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