Gospel of Luke, 17th chapter (New International Version)
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
12 As he was going into a into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance
13a and called out in a loud voice,
It was a desperate move on the part of the ten lepers to approach Jesus, but they were desperate men, outcast from their religion, from their countrymen, and treated as outcasts of God. But they must have heard that Jesus might be able to help them. It was dangerous for the unclean to approach the miracle worker, but what worse could happen to them? Did they even know he could heal them?
14a When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
Lepers showing themselves to the priests was the one way to satisfy all the Jewish people that individuals were no longer dangers to health, souls, or communities. This command must have lifted the hopes of the lepers. And of course, they gladly started out immediately. They simply had nothing to lose.
What joy they must have experienced! Cleansed, each received the opportunities of normal life, normal friendships, community life and work, family back together; perhaps marriage and children! Not to mention a normal appearance! They must have danced down the road with each other and sang and made their plans like modern-day winners of big lotteries!
16b —and he was a Samaritan.
Of course he was a Samaritan! Did God’s chosen people ever behave as they ought? This man was not just joyous, he was grateful! He knew that this gift was given with love, respect, and complete disregard for the woeful reputation of his nation in Jewish minds. This Samaritan leper, even more despised than Jewish lepers, knew that gifts, blessings—undeserved, freely given—call for him to share his joy and relief and new hope in the form of gratitude.
Was he even a little concerned that disobeying the command to show himself to the priests would trigger a reversal of his cure? Or to show insult to his disdained nation that he throw himself at the feet of Jesus, thanking him and praising God?
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?
18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
This response has troubled some people. Did Jesus not just command them to go show themselves to the priests? What were those happy men to think? The Master only asked that they do this one thing. Being obedient, as the Jewish people were always being admonished to be, wouldn’t negate the clear option to come back and praise God and thank Jesus. Isn’t this just as clear an option as the impulse of the man at Jesus feet?
No. This is a moment of humanity meeting it’s Maker—gratitude answering graciousness.
And Jesus’ words sound like a rebuke.
“Was no one found to return… except this foreigner?” Well! From Jesus’ perspective, he certainly expected God’s chosen people not to worry about rebuke or punishment if they delayed fulfilling his command in order to give thanks and praise! Hark, even the Samaritans, this foreigner, felt more at one with God than did God’s own people!
And so this is the crux of the matter. There are rules, and there are duties, and there are responsibilities, and there are expectations.
And then there are genuine, soul-communing opportunities to be one with God.
As God blesses us, a response of gratitude to God, with an expression of thanks to the hand of God, is such a freely given grace to those on both sides of the gift! We don’t just take it and go dancing joyously into the future. We take the time, stop the time, and say “Thank you,” and even without words—just knowing—it becomes praise, the acknowledgement of God’s powerful love and goodness.
Heavenly Father, I know that I have neglected to thank you for so many blessings. You’ve blessed me and waited for me to run back to you with thanks, and I’ve gone my way. I’ve taken you for granted. Please forgive me. Put thankfulness into my heart and soul. Let me speak it, sing it, and live it. That I might be a visible not silent example of one whom you have healed. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.