The Ten Lepers
The Ten Lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
Jesus is now taking his final tour of Israel before his death. His ultimate goal is Jerusalem, but before going there he goes along the border of Samaria and Galilee. At one village he is met by ten lepers. The law requires that lepers not come close to people (Leviticus 13:45-46; Numbers 5:2-3), so they stood at a distance and called to Jesus.
Seeing them, Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priest. This also is a requirement of the law – that when a person is cleansed from leprosy, he must have a priest declare him clean, go through certain rituals, and offer sacrifices to God (Leviticus 14:2-32). This required faith on their part, for as of yet they were still with leprosy. But as they went to see the priest, they became cleansed of their leprosy.
One of the men, seeing himself cleansed, turned around and returned to Jesus. He gave loud praised to God and fell at Jesus’ feet to thank him for his gift (Psalm 107:20-22; 103:1-4). Thankfulness is not just politeness, it is something expected of all people (Ephesians 5:20). Too often we are like the nine, happy that we are healed but forgetting to thank the one who healed us (Hebrews 13:15; Psalms 100:4).
Luke goes out of the way to tell us that the one who returned was a Samaritan. The implication is that the other nine were Jews. Once again we see illustrated for us that the Jews, who saw themselves as righteous, doing less than what the Law taught them while the Samaritans, who followed a corrupted form of worship under the Law, have a better grasp of the Law’s demands in day-to-day living. Jesus makes the contrast striking: “Where are the nine?” Only the non-Jew was humble in heart. Only the Samaritan was willing to show his thankfulness. Having this difference made plain would rankle any Jew who witnessed the event or who heard it retold.
Jesus told the man to get up and return to seeing the priest and thus complete his obligations under the law. He was made well by his faith and he needed to continue to obey in accordance to his faith.
Thankfulness is important because it shows that we remember where the blessings that we receive have come (Psalm 103:1-5). That was the downfall of the Jews – their forgetfulness (Jeremiah 2:32; 3:21; 13:25). The nine lepers show us that the people of God had not changed all that much over the years. We honor God by our thanksgiving (Psalm 50:22-23).
“I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Psalm 34:1-3).