Summary: Jesus healed ten lepers. But Jesus was grieved because only one of the ten, a Samaritan, returned to thank Him for what He had done. Jesus then did a second thing for him—He forgave his sins. The other nine lepers were healed, but they were not saved.
Lesson: Heals Ten Lepers
(Lev. 13:44-45) Luke 17:12-19
(Luke 17:12-16) And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 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. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
Luke is the only gospel writer to report on the cure of these ten lepers. Leprosy was a disease which the Jews believed was caused by God for the punishment of some particular sin, and more than other diseases, it was considered a mark of God’s displeasure. The term leprosy was a generic name given to various skin diseases to the dreaded malady that resulted in the loss of fingers and toes.
They met Jesus as He entered a certain village. They had been declared to be unclean and untouchable by a priest, who would have diagnosed the condition. We are told in Leviticus 13:44-45, “He is a leprous man, he is unclean: the priest shall pronounce him utterly unclean; his plague is in his head. And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean.” The ten lepers were of mixed nationality. That wouldn’t be strange in a location where two regions met. Besides, misery loves company, and when one is inflicted with leprosy, nationality ceases to be a barrier to fellowship: Jew and Samaritan unite. It is not surprising that these ten lepers stood at a distance and cried out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” They don’t ask for Jesus to cure them, but for Him to have mercy on them. Jesus does have mercy on them. The compassion of Jesus is once again evident. The sight of a colony of lepers—hands and feet gone, faces marred by gray death—was common enough, and most men grew accustomed to it. But the sympathy of Jesus was instant and redemptive. He simply tells them to go and show themselves to the priests. This was required by the Law given in Leviticus 14:1-2, “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest.” Besides, once the priests pronounced them healed, they would be restored to full social and religious fellowship with the rest of the people. Perhaps the presence of the word “cleansed” means they were cleansed of more than leprosy.
Note in how many respects these ten lepers were alike:
1. All were afflicted with the dreadful disease.
2. All were determined to do something about it.
3. All had heard about Jesus, and believed that He might be able to cure them; at the very least would take pity on them.
4. All appeal to Jesus, acknowledging Him as Master or Rabbi.
5. All in obedience to Christ’s command proceed on their way to the priest.
6. All are healed.
But at this point the similarity ends.
While the ten started on their way in faith to the priests, a current of health and vigor was rushing through every tissue of their bodies. They were completely cured and they knew it. But suddenly one of the ten—turned around and walked back to Jesus. It can be assumed that he had not yet arrived at the headquarters of the priests. The account leaves the impression that the ten had not walked very far away from their Healer before this one man returned. Nothing prevented him from seeing the priest a little later.
As he returned, he praised God, thereby publically acknowledging Him as the One to whom he owed the great blessing he had just now received. Also, he fell on his face and thanked Jesus, for in the Master he recognized God’s representative, and God’s power and love operating through Jesus. That at least. How this man loved Jesus! Was not this humble love born of love?
Luke adds with emphasis, “and he was a Samaritan.” As if to say, “Think of it, a Samaritan!” A man belonging to a race hated by the Jews. Weren’t the Jews and Samaritans enemies? Didn’t the Jews look down upon the Samaritans because they were a mixed race who had an unsound theology? But this Samaritan is different; by God’s grace of course. He thanks…a Jew! Perhaps the ingratitude of the other nine was worse than leprosy, but the Samaritan, because of his praising God, was really cleansed, is his soul as well as his body, for eternity as well as for time.