Summary: One of the last miracles our Lord performed was healing a group of ten lepers. Jesus healed all of them, but how many were grateful for this gift?

Background: This isn’t the first time Jesus healed a leper but it was probably the last. When this event took place, Jesus is heading towards Jerusalem, passing through Samaria and Galilee. The events in this passage happened just days before He was crucified and had risen from the dead. Chronologically this event happened before He had healed Bartimaeus, as Jesus hadn’t yet come to Jericho. Also this is the last time we read that Jesus went through Samaria. Contrast this encounter with other times when Jesus and the disciples went through Samaria, such as John 4!

The text is from Luke 17:11-19:

[Luke 17:11-19 KJV] 11 And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up [their] voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw [them], he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on [his] face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where [are] the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Leprosy was a dreaded disease in Bible times. In the Law of Moses, God gave very detailed instructions how to deal with people and/or things that had contracted that disease. Anyone who had become a leper was basically dead while alive: he or she had to remain out of contact with others, and should anyone who wasn’t a leper came near, the leper had to exclaim, “Unclean! Unclean! (Lev. 13:45)”.

Jesus had healed at least one leper before this event took place. In fact, one of the first miracles He ever performed was just after He had preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In Matthew 8 we read that a leper approached Jesus and stated, perhaps boldly, that Jesus could heal him if Jesus were willing. Happily, Jesus agreed and healed that man. Also, we read in many places where Jesus healed people but we’re not given any details. Regardless, I don’t read of anyone who had come to Jesus for healing but went away in the same condition. Our Lord was very much in the business of healing in those days.

It’s also interesting that one of the last miracles our Lord performed was also healing a leper, ten of them in this case. Even more so, He’s heading through Samaria, and at least one of the lepers was a Samaritan (v 16). Leprosy was an equal opportunity destroyer, but Jesus was and is an equal opportunity restorer. Even though the Jews “ . . . had no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9)”, Jesus didn’t let man-made cultural barriers stop Him from responding to those who asked for His assistance.

Their request

These lepers were following the code or protocol of that day. Even though we aren’t told what, if anything, they were wearing, they did stand “afar off”, away from any possible contact with non-lepers. Note that they didn’t ask for anything “over the top”, such as health or new clothes or a bag of money or anything like that. They only asked Jesus to “have mercy on [them] (v 13).

Sometimes, I think believers try to demand things from the Lord, if not outright trying to gouge Him into giving all they demand. This has been a danger from the early days of the Church. James even “told it like it is” when he wrote that A, we don’t have because we don’t ask, and B, we don’t receive because we ask with wrong motives. If that was the case in those early days, how much worse it is in these days!

And we can make a contrast between the group’s request with that of another leper. In Matthew 8, the man who met Jesus after He came down from the mountain was a leper—even Matthew the tax-collector could see that—but he came close to Jesus and asked, “If You are willing, You can make me whole”. In that case, Jesus did indeed touch the man after saying, “I am willing, be cleansed (paraphrased)”. Here these 10 lepers didn’t even do that. They simply stayed away, within sight and within the range of sound, but far enough away to keep from infecting (for lack of a better term) anyone else with their disease. Then, one man approached, even coming within touching distance; now, they stayed away. Then, he asked for healing or cleansing, specifically; now, 10 men asked for mercy, generally. Then, Jesus spoke and touched the man; now, Jesus only—what would and did Jesus do?

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