Luke 17 - 10 Lepers Cleansed

Luke 17 – July 19

In recent days my notes have been a bit long. I will be attempting to be deliberately more brief moving forward. Today our focus is going to be on one story tucked in the center of this chapter – verses 11-19.

The narrative in focus is about ten lepers. Leprosy was the medical death sentence in the ancient near-east. It started with the loss of one’s sense of touch and progressed to boils and scales and rotting flesh. The reason that these ten men approached Jesus outside of the city is owing to the fact that they were not permitted inside. They had been declared unclean. According to Leviticus 13, lepers were required to inform you of their disease by putting their hand over their mouth and shouting from a distance “UNCLEAN!” Lepers were forced out of society and into a colony alongside others who were likewise descending slowly into death.

The news of Jesus’ power had traveled outside of the cities, through the countryside, and even into the leper colonies. These men trusted that the stories about Jesus were true, so they broke protocol and refused to adhere to their mandated quarantine in order to approach Jesus. They asked Him to have mercy on them. This request is very interesting because it indicates that they truly believed that the man standing in front of them could do what no doctor or priest had ever been able to accomplish for them. 

It is interesting that Jesus does not say to them, “You are healed” or something of that nature. Instead, Jesus tells them to go and show themselves to the priest. The priest would be the only one who would be able to examine them and give them the green light to re-enter society. (The intricate testing ritual can be found in Leviticus 14:1-9.) Verse 14 includes one of those sentences that begs the reader to enter into rich contemplation with full imagination of this unfolding miracle. It simply states, “And as they went they were cleansed.” It seems as though with each step toward the priest their skin was being restored. Their boils and scales were disappearing. Their feeling was returning. Imagine the shouts and tears of joy that must have been flowing from them.

Many of those men were probably thinking of reuniting with their families and friends and began to speed up as they made their way to the priest. There was one of the ten, a Samaritan, who stopped in his tracks and returned to Jesus. But notice that there has been a shift in his understanding. Earlier the lepers referred to Jesus using the term of respect, “Master.” Look at verse 15 closely. “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks.” This man likely didn’t have all of his theology ironed out. He could not have defined the hypostatic union or the Trinity. But he did understand that God worked through Jesus. He understood that giving thanks to Jesus was synonymous with praising God. 

Ten were cleansed. One gave thanks. All of them were healed of leprosy. But, look closely again at verse 19. After this Samaritan man had already been healed of his disease, then the Lord tells him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” In what way was he made well or “healed you” as some translations say it. The word we translate as “heal” and “save” is the same word – sozo (σῴζω). That is one of the reasons healing and salvation are so often intentionally paralleled. This occasion is no different. Jesus is not saying that his faith healed his body. He informs him that his faith in Jesus has saved him.

Brothers and sisters, you and I have been likewise saved from a fate worse than leprosy. We were not in a leper colony, we were a citizen of the kingdom of darkness. And Jesus saved us. The only appropriate response for the Christian is to give thanks to God. We should do so expressively and continually. It should be displayed in the way we gather, the way we sing praises, and the way we devote time to Him. Are you thankful? If so, then notice that there is never a biblical example of thankfulness that remains hidden away in the heart of a person. Thankfulness is displayed through words and actions. Let today be a day filled with prayerful, verbal, expressive thanks to the Lord.

Here might be a good place to start.