James R. Edwards: Act Proleptically

Home » Meditations » Meditations » James R. Edwards: Act Proleptically

Now on His way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When He saw them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him — and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then He said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19

“The lepers do not plead for healing — perhaps they have long abandoned such hope. Their plea, though, is a virtual prayer, “Have pity on us.” The Greek expression is a petition befitting God, and for the grace and mercy only God can give. Jesus does not touch them (as he does, for example in Mark 1:41), promise them healing, or directly acknowledge their request. Rather, he orders them to present themselves to the priests…

The command itself is curious, for self-presentation to priests was the legal prescription for those who had already been healed (Leviticus 14:2-4). Jesus commands the men to act proleptically, in other words, to act on a reality that is not yet actual. In doing so, He repeats an idea taught in the Lord’s Prayer, the petition to live in the presence of the promises. As the lepers acted on Jesus’ commandment, “they were cleansed.”…

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.”… Here the concrete act of returning is also symbolic of converting to faith. The man returned to praise Jesus not when he had been declared clean by a priest, but when he “saw that he was healed.”… The description of his returning to praise God is remarkably close in wording to the shepherds praising God after returning to visit the infant Jesus (Luke 2:20). “To praise (or glorify) God” is a quintessential Lukan expression…”

James R. Edwards in The Gospel According to Luke (PNTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015) 483-484.

I have decided to shift from gain to gratitude and explore its relationship to generosity. In Luke’s Gospel, gratitude is about praising God. Giving thanks and credit to God for all that is good (such as the sunset last night, pictured above). As Edwards notes, we live into this reality when we “act proleptically” which is “to act on a reality that is not yet actual.”

In plain terms, this means we get to wake up everyday with thankfulness to God. We don’t wait for something to happen. We live in the reality of His goodness that never ceases toward us and acknowledge it with praise. Or, as Edwards describes it, we “live in the presence of the promises.” What a privilege! We a generous God we serve.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of another day to enjoy and share. By the Holy Spirit, help us act proleptically, in the presence of Your promises. Like the tenth leper, may our gratitude show the world Your generosity. We were once foreigners, and now we are family, thanks to Your grace, mercy, and love. Hear our praise in the name of Jesus. Amen.