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.” Lk 17:11-19 (NIV)
As we read through this Scripture, we can see this is a beautiful story of expectant faith and physical healing, thankfulness and spiritual redemption. It shows us how to be truly thankful for all that Jesus has done for us.
As we start off in Luke chapter 17, we see that Jesus and His disciples are on the move traveling toward Jerusalem. Their journey takes them to a small village located between Samaria and Galilee. This part of the story is one that is often overlooked and honestly it is one that we perhaps quickly dismiss. But it is an important one.
See, Galilee was a land where Jesus spent quite a bit of time with His ministry and it was made up of mostly Jewish people. Samaria, on the other hand, was made up almost entirely of foreigners who did not worship God.
It is here that our story picks up and Jesus encounters ten lepers. Scripture tells us in Luke 17:12-13 (NIV):
They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
These lepers called out to Jesus, aware of their leprosy and their brokenness. They cried out for help from the One who could help them.
LEPROSY IN BIBLICAL TIMES
Now, the Bible specifically talks about leprosy as a disease in great detail. It can be described as a type of defiling skin disease. The book of Leviticus goes on to describe the various degrees of leprosy for several pages.
We don’t really see much of this type of disease today in our society, so I think we have a hard time understanding the magnitude of this disease. At least, I know that I do.
Pastor Andy Cook describes leprosy as this:
Leprosy attacks the body, leaving sores, missing fingers, missing toes, damaged limbs. In many cases, the initial pain of leprosy gives way to something more terrible than that—a loss of sensation in nerve endings, leading to more damage to more body parts. The disease can take thirty years to run its course, and in that time span, entire limbs can simply fall off. It is, assuredly, a most horrible disease. We have nearly an impossible task in trying to fathom what it was like 2,000 years ago, when medical treatment as we know it today was almost non-existent.”
Leviticus 13 reminds us of the sad punishments that lepers faced among their communities.
Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” Lev 13:45-46 (NIV)
Can you imagine? Not only were these lepers suffering from enormous physical pain from their disease, they undoubtedly were living with great emotional pain as well. They were outcast from their families, separated from their spouses, children, friends and entire communities. They were forced to cut off all communication from those who were a part of their lives. They faced isolation, shame, rejection and mistreatment.
If we stop for a moment and really think about this, I think we all might find that we are similar to these lepers.
Haven’t we all dealt with a form of leprosy of our own at some point in our lives?
One in which we were treated as lepers?
Rejected. Criticized. Mistreated. Isolated.
I can think of a time that I was. How about you?
It’s hard stuff, isn’t it friends?
But here’s the thing… just like back in that tiny village near Samaria, Jesus shows up in our lives and that is when the miracles begin to happen.
JESUS HEALS BY HIS WORDS
I love this next Scripture and how the story takes an amazing turn. In Luke 17:14 (NIV) we hear the ten lepers calling out to Jesus.
Can you imagine the extent of their pain and desperation as they cried out to Him?
I love His response to them. We see Jesus’ compassion as he says:
Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And, as they went, they were cleansed.”
Did you see what just happened there?
They were immediately healed.
Jesus had such great compassion on these men that He healed them immediately. He simply said, “Go,” and the healing began! We see that Jesus heals with only His words. Just as God speaks the world into being in Genesis and it is so, Jesus heals these ten lepers by only His holy words.
But while Jesus’ words can heal any situation, it took expectant faith from the ten lepers in order for their physical healing to occur. For lepers to be pronounced clean, they had to show themselves to the priests. Then and only then could the priests examine those with leprosy and deem them cured. In order for the lepers to believe that Jesus’ words were truth and that healing would occur, they had to act on their faith in Him.
They had to believe that at some point along the journey to see the priests, physical healing would take place. That transformation would occur. That a miracle would be performed.
Otherwise, their journey to see the priests would be for nothing. It would be in vain.
But we see a simple and beautiful trusting faith from these ten lepers, an expectant faith as they immediately set out to see the priests to be set free from their diseases. They could have doubted or questioned the “how’s” and details but they chose faith in the One who can and does heal.
Jesus healed them and did so from a distance. He didn’t even need to be present to do so. He spoke and it was done.
We see healing come and then the story takes a very interesting turn. In Luke 17:15-16 (NIV), Scripture tells us:
One of them, when 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.”
Sadly, sometimes it is the people who haven’t chosen to follow Christ who are more responsive than God’s own people, as it was here in this story.
It was a Samaritan who chose thankfulness and gratitude to God for everything He had done for him. Here is where we see how thankfulness is lived out as true faith in God.
We see the importance of being thankful as God works through us. That thankfulness is a form of worship in and of itself. Even in the midst of difficult circumstances.
All of the ten lepers were healed physically and I would guess all were thankful for that healing. But only one returned to show his gratitude to Jesus.
How often do we act as the other nine did?
Praying and praying for healing of some sort and when it comes… we forget the magnitude of the gift that we just received from God.
In Psalms 107, we hear great praise offered to God for His goodness and I think it is important for us to stop and remember all that God has done for us as well. All that Jesus has done for us. And sing His praises.
Just as the one had done.
Just as this particular Samaritan had done.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of his works with songs of joy.” Ps 107:19-22 (NIV)
Nowhere in this entire story does Jesus say that a condition of healing was to show yourself to the priest and be thankful for your healing. But if we look closely, it becomes clear that Jesus appreciates our gratitude.
We see this in His disappointment in the other nine lepers in Luke 17:17-18 (NIV) as He speaks directly to the Samaritan who returned:
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
While it is easy to say, “I sure don’t want to be like the other nine running off and forgetting to thank God for His blessings,” I think if we are honest with ourselves we can all relate to times in which we selfishly only acknowledge the gift and forget to thank the giver.
I know I have.
Why do you think that is such an easy trap for us to fall into?
YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WHOLE
We ended this last section with Jesus’ disappointment that the other nine never returned to show God gratitude for the physical healing they received. All ten were physically healed because of their faith in Jesus and in His great mercy and compassion. Physical healing occurred for all ten.
But in the next part of the story, the Samaritan receives an extra blessing because of his deep gratitude and his heart of thankfulness. In Luke 17:19 (NIV), Jesus says to him:
Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
The Samaritan exhibited gratitude and appreciation toward God for his physical healing and, because of that, Jesus proceeded to give him an even greater gift than He gave to the other nine. He brought this man spiritual healing. He made him whole, leading to his salvation in Christ.
It’s amazing to think about how all of that stemmed from a Samaritan man’s heart of gratitude. His lifestyle of thankfulness led to a lifestyle of complete healing and wellness. Jesus not only healed him physically, but also spiritually. And this led him to salvation through Jesus.
Thank you for your goodness and we ask that you help us to be more thankful for your gifts in our lives. Help us to see that all gifts come from You and to show gratitude for them. Show us how to have expectant faith, trusting You to move in the areas of our lives that need changing. Thank you for all You are doing in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.