The Ten Lepers

My pastor recently delivered a sermon on the ten lepers.  The main thrust of his message was to make us think about how thankful are we for the things we have.  He encouraged us to be thankful for everything in our life – even the “bad” things that happen.

When I got home, I read this passage and then read it again and the more I read it, the more interesting it became, so I am bringing you my thoughts.  Here’s Luke 17:11-19 – I’ll take it verse by verse.

Luke 17:11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the middle of Samaria and Galilee

On his way to Jerusalem from Galilee, Jesus either had to walk through Samaria or take a road that ran along the border of the two provinces. The way the passage is worded, this seems to be the more likely case.

Samaria was inhabited by people who were at odds with the Jews. They were largely of Assyrian by descent and probably some of them were of mixed marriages between Israelites and the original people of Canaan.  They worshiped a host of  strange entities and had some stranger ideas about Judaism. For the Jew, Samaritans were unclean and despised and Jews would not normally associate with them – in fact they probably wouldn’t greet them if they met in the road and certainly wouldn’t be caught traveling with a Samaritan. They were considered to be ignorant – no better than heathens – people who worshiped through a corrupted religion.

As Jesus showed however, in this instance and in at least one parable, the compassion and the sense of honor that some Samaritans have out-shone that of the Jew.

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

This was most likely just outside the village, because lepers were required to stay a certain distance from uninfected people.  Also, they were probably walking toward him if they were not standing off to the side of the road.  Regardless, they stayed away from him, adhering to the rules of the day.

This did not deter them, however.  When they saw Jesus …

13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

This verse testifies to the popularity and the notoriety of Jesus through-out the land.  They knew who he was by sight, or perhaps he was accompanied by his disciples – the bible doesn’t give any indication that the disciples were with him – or perhaps God opened their eyes and revealed who it was that they were meeting.  The bible doesn’t elaborate.

There are a couple more things we should look at in these last two verses.

Note that the lepers didn’t come running up, grabbing onto him.  We, too, ought to be as careful when we approach God.  When we really consider our sin, aren’t we like lepers?  Sin cannot exist in the presence of God, so this means that as we approach him in prayer, we need to ask for forgiveness and repent. This is why our prayers often begin with a confession of sin and an asking for forgiveness.  We must stand off  “afar” and cry out to him.

Then, they asked for his mercy: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  Why?

Why didn’t they didn’t ask for the obvious – to be cured of their leprosy?  Because what they needed was his mercy.  Had they preplanned this meeting, they would have had a list of requests in hand, but they didn’t.  The most important thing they could have, they asked for: mercy.  With mercy comes grace and if we have the Lord’s mercy and grace covering us, then what more do we need?

14 And when he saw them, he said to them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

Jesus didn’t say, “Be healed,” did he?  When he spoke to them he gave them instructions – not words of healing. He simply told them to show themselves to the priests.  These men had faith that something was going to happen to them, because the priests were the only ones who could proclaim them cleansed, which would allow them back into the community.  For these ten to head off to the nearest synagogue to see the priest took trust in Jesus and faith.

The Greek word for cleansed in this passage is katharizo (καθαριζω) which means to make clean.  Keep this in mind, because we will be exploring some related words.

But these guys didn’t even get as far as the temple!  As they went, they were cleansed, and they once again had smooth, fresh skin.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

One of the ten, upon finding himself cured, turned back to Jesus and shouted praises to God, glorifying Him. The bible, in this verse uses the word cured.  The Greek word used here is iaomai (ιαομαι) which means to cure, heal; to make whole, free from errors and sins, to bring about one’s salvation. This is definitely more than being cleansed.  When we wash our hands they are being cleansed. It is a superficial, outward type of action. It doesn’t get deep down to rid the hands of warts, for instance.  This man was cleansed, yes, but it goes even further.  This man was cured, simply by acknowledging Jesus and the mercy he gave to them.

16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan

This time, he didn’t stay away, he ran to Jesus, fell on his face before Him and gave Him thanks.  Look at this:  He was a Samaritan!  This means the others were, in all probability, Jews.  Adversity often levels the playing field, doesn’t it?

17 And Jesus answering said,”Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

18“Were there none found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger? “

So Jesus, seeing only the one return to give thanks, questions the whereabouts of the other nine.  Do we give enough thanks to God for everything that He gives us – for the situations he allows us to enter so that we might grow and become better?  Have we, after accepting the Lord Jesus and becoming Christians, stayed on the path or have we strayed?

19And he said to him, “Arise, go your way: your faith has made you whole.”

Finally, Jesus tells the Samaritan: Go on your way.  The faith of this Samaritan had made him whole.  This was more mercy from Jesus – it wasn’t achieved through any works by the Samaritan. Jesus told him his faith had made him whole.  The Greek word used here is sozo, (σοζω), meaning to save, to keep safe, to rescue from danger or destruction; to save a suffering one – as from disease; and in the biblical sense to deliver from the Messianic judgement, to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance.

And Jesus didn’t tell him to go to the priests, did He? It was by the authority of God, Himself – Jesus – that this Samaritan was made whole. At this point, the priests were not needed.  He was restored not only in his body, but also in his mind and his soul.  His restored wholeness was the result of a) asking for God’s mercy; b) acting on God’s instructions; and c) giving praise and thanks to Him.  Jesus restored the Samaritan’s wholeness simply because he did these three things.   Most importantly, he was healed, because he gave praise and thanks to the Healer.

Let us not be like the nine who were merely cleansed and chose to go about their own way, but let’s be like the one who praised God and gave Him the Glory and were made whole.

Thank you and God bless.


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