“Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” (Luke 17:11-13)
They were on the border where two cultures converged. The Jews were God’s chosen people - steeped in tradition and knowledge of God’s Law. Their survival as a people was testimony to God’s covenant relationship with them. The Samaritans were looked upon with disdain by the Jews. They were considered Gentiles, although they were actually biracial, a mixture of Jewish and non-Jewish heritage. Cultural norms prevented the two cultures to intermingle. Racial segregation was the norm.
Luke records that existing outside a border town were ten lepers, infected with a disease that slowly disfigured people as their flesh rotted away. Because of the horrible physical effects of the disease and its possibility of spreading, lepers were legally exiled from residing within the town limits.
It was commonly thought by most in both cultures that leprosy was some sort of punishment from God for evil. Lepers were outcasts socially, dying physically and felt rejected spiritually because of their disease. Their meeting with Jesus changed all that for them.
These ten, outcast from their friends and families, found each other and formed their own pitiful community. As Jesus approached the gates to their town they didn’t dare come near to Him because of the law. But here was an opportunity they couldn’t let pass. Keeping their distance they called out to Him to show them mercy.
In His compassion He simply told them to go to the priest, before they were healed. To return to society a leper first had to go to the local priest for an examination. With simple yet amazing faith they did as He said and as they walked, and with every step their diseased skin and limbs were being healed. By that by the time they found a priest they were disease free.
One of the ten, a Samaritan, not a Jew, sensing his healing take place turned around to go back to Jesus to thank Him. He fell down on the ground before Jesus and worshipped Him. The other nine? Maybe they thought about coming back after seeing the priest to give thanks. Maybe they were too excited about reuniting with their families and friends again that they hurried to the priest and wouldn’t take the time to stop and give thanks.
Jesus told this one that his faith had made him well. But the others were healed, too, right? And they were healed because of their faith, too, right? Yes. They simply believed Jesus and by acting on that faith their leprosy was healed. So what’s the difference between them and him?
Our faith that saves us, gives us eternal life and forgives our sins is simple belief that Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again to be our Savior. But apparently that faith that saves us should also prompt us to be thankful. There’s something about being thankful that says we genuinely appreciate what God has done for us. Those other men were healed, but this man was healed beyond his skin disease. He showed that his heart was healed as well. His faith was followed with an action of worship and thanks.
Paul wrote to the church at the city of Colossae these words in Colossians 2:7b: “Let your lives overflow with thanksgiving for all he has done.” When a container overflows it spills its contents on everything around. What a great witness it would be, for those of us who were healed by faith in Christ of our sin disease to be so thankful that it spills over on our neighbors and co-workers and friends.
We’re lepers – all of us. Wouldn’t it be great if more than ten percent of us allowed our thanks to overflow and share the life-changing power of Christ’s grace?