A SAMARITAN SAVED
This well-known and wonderful passage, unique to Luke’s Gospel, gives us (first) an account of the cleansing of ten lepers. Second, it celebrates the gratitude of one of them (who happened to be a Samaritan). Thirdly, it tells us of the Samaritan’s salvation by faith.
The passage begins, “And it came to pass” – a frequent phrase in the Scripture, which might otherwise be translated, “and it (just so) happened” (Luke 17:11). This phrase is often left out in modern translations - which is a pity because rightly understood it demonstrates the sovereignty of God over the ‘happenstances’ of life. It happened that, as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem to die for our salvation, that He passed through the borderlands between Samaria and Galilee.
Notice the sense of purpose about everything that Jesus was doing (cf. John 4:4). The passage continues, “And on His entering a certain village ten leprous men stood afar off” (Luke 17:12). This little community of suffering kept their distance: which was appropriate to their condition, and in keeping with the Law (Leviticus 13:45-46).
These ten men collectively lifted up their voice saying, “Jesus, Master, have compassion on us” (Luke 17:13). It is good that we recognize that ‘our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 121:2). The Lord knows our situation, and sometimes a simple ‘Lord have mercy’ is sufficient (cf. Psalm 123:3).
Upon seeing their condition Jesus said, “Having gone show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14). It is no use prevaricating over whether or not we have ‘enough’ faith: this seemed to call for urgent and immediate action. They went, and ‘it just so happened’ that “in going they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).
Just one of these former lepers, in seeing that he was healed, “turned back (and) with a loud voice (was) glorifying God” (Luke 17:15). Prostrating himself face-down at the feet of Jesus, this man gave thanks to Him. At this point Luke emphasizes that this man was a Samaritan (Luke 17:16).
Jesus' answer to all this was, “Were not ten cleansed? So where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17). It seemed amazing to Jesus that the only one returning to give glory to God was this outsider (Luke 17:18).
First, Jesus spoke to this man in resurrection terms: “Having risen” go forth. Second, Jesus spoke of a faith that saves: “your faith” has made you whole. Then, finally, more than physical healing had happened to this man: your faith has “saved” you (Luke 17:19).
All ten of these patients were healed of their leprosy, but only one was “made whole” - and he was the one who returned to give thanks. There was something more which the Samaritan had received: he had received holistic healing. Or, as is evidenced from his faithful response to Jesus, he was “saved” (Luke 17:19).