Summary: Lessons we can learn from Jesus’ healing of the 10 lepers
Luke 17:1-19 Lessons Learned from Lepers
As we continue our study of the book of Luke, we come to one of the more famous stories from this gospel. You probably learned this story in Bible school, the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. Let’s read this story:
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? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Let’s get a little background here. In the ancient world, leprosy was a feared disease. We have leprosy today, though it’s now called Hanson’s disease and is not as widespread as it was. It’s a terrible disease in which one loses all sensitivity in the members of the body. The person injures themself, yet does not know it. They literally destroy their own body.
What the Bible calls leprosy was not always Hanson’s disease. The term seems to have been applied to any number of diseases of the skin. Yet the outcome was the same: to prevent contagion, these people were isolated, having to live away from healthy people, having to cover their faces and cry "Unclean, unclean!" whenever others came around. They were cut off from society, isolated from family and friends.
We also need to understand the term "Samaritan." The Samaritans were a mixed race, made up of Jews who were not taken into captivity who later married people of other nations. The Samaritans took in many of the beliefs of these people, distorting the religion of their fathers to accommodate these other beliefs. They even modified the Scriptures to claim that all major events occurred in Samaria and not in Judea. They had their own temple where they worshipped. They were hated by the Jews. It’s interesting that this group of lepers had a mix of Jews and Samaritans.
Who do we learn about here? Jesus? No, not really. We do see His compassion, but the focus isn’t really on Him. We learn about the men Jesus healed. We learn our lessons from the lepers.
9 of them did exactly what Jesus told them to do.
9 of them did exactly what the Law told them to do.
9 of them didn’t do the right thing.
The Old Testament is full of teachings about how God was frustrated with the worship of His people. They came and did sacrifices, kept feast days, and did all the rituals they were asked to do, yet they did not give Him their hearts. They did not truly worship Him. They only "did all the right things." Yet in doing those "right things," they missed the main thing, God Himself.
In Jesus’ day there was a group that specialized in keeping the Law. The Pharisees had it down to an art, keeping the letter of the Law to the tiniest point. But the spirit of the Law? It fell by the wayside.
As I read this story, I like to think that I’m the Samaritan, the one who came back. But in my heart, I know that I’m more like those that continued on their way. It’s been months since I’ve seen my friends and family... Jesus will understand. Besides, I have to go to the priest. I’ll thank Jesus... someday... if I ever see Him again. If I meet up with Him, I’ll buy Him dinner and thank Him right. But for now, well I’ve got things to take care of. Besides, I’m doing exactly what He told me, aren’t I?
We can do “right things” and still be wrong.
Back to the lepers...
1 of them was a foreigner.
1 of them came back to thank Jesus.
1 of them threw himself at Jesus’ feet and praised God.
Notice that this is no "High Five and Hallelujah" response, no "Thanks good buddy!". He threw himself at Jesus’ feet. In the Bible when people come to realize that they are in the presence of God, they throw themselves at His feet. This is reverence, this is holy fear. Jesus is not our buddy. He is our Lord.
This is also another affirmation of the deity of Jesus. Godly men in the Bible never accept worship. Even the angels rejected the thought of men worshipping them: "We are but servants of God as you are." But Jesus never rebuked anyone for worshipping Him. It was the right thing to do.