Samaria and Galilee border each other. There is no space literally between Samaria and Galilee. This verse can also been translated that Jesus was passing “through” the area of Samaria and Galilee. By stating both locations, Luke was telling us that He was near the border in an area of mixed population. There were Jews from Galilee and Samaritans from Samaria dwelling together - which in most other areas of Israel was highly uncommon. Jews typically looked down upon the Samaritans and shunned them.
12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him;
As Jesus was about to enter this border town, ten leprous men stood at a distance. They were outside of the village because the law forbade them to enter. Leprosy was thought to be highly contagious and those infected were forced to leave the cities in order to prevent the disease from spreading. They had to leave their families, friends, and livelihood due to their leprosy. Often, if there were multiple lepers who had been expelled from the community they would become friends. As fellow outcasts, they would dwell together outside of town rather than live alone. The law also required them to stand at a distance from those passing by.
13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
These tens lepers spoke up loudly, seeing that they were some distance away, in order to get Jesus’ attention. It is not stated how they knew His name, but apparently they had heard of Jesus and knew that this was Him. Perhaps the Lord’s reputation and fame had spread to this village. Not only did they know His name, but these lepers also called Jesus “Master”. They recognized Him as someone who had authority and power to do miracles. Thus, when they pleaded for Jesus to have mercy on them they were, in effect, asking for Him to heal them of their leprosy.
14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed.
Jesus looked at these ten lepers. Seeing their condition, he told them to go and show themselves to the priests. The Old Testament law explains that only priests could declare lepers to be healed. If someone with leprosy saw that their infection had ceased and that their skin was clear and symptoms were gone, they were required to report to the local priest. If he declared them to be clean, then and only then were they permitted to return to the community and go back to their lives.
By telling these men to go show themselves to the priests, Jesus was instructing them to go and be evaluated for cleanliness. This might seem strange considering that they were still highly leprous and had not yet been healed. Jesus chose not to heal them first, but rather challenged them to act in obedience and faith. It was only as they were going that they were healed. It might make you wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t follow Jesus’ instructions. Would they have been healed? I don’t know.
15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice,
Certainly all ten of these lepers saw that they had been healed. I’m sure that they were all very excited. Nine of them hurried on to the priest who, probably with great surprise, declared them clean. From there I’d expect that these nine joyfully returned to their families and tearful reunions followed. What a spectacular miracle!
One of the lepers, overcome with emotion, began to glorify God with a loud voice. He was shouting praises to the LORD Almighty for the healing that had taken place. As his friends rushed away into the city, this man turned back to find Jesus.
16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.
When this single leper found Jesus, he fell on his face before Him. This posture revealed that the leper understood Jesus to be more than merely a miracle worker, but rather to be the divine son of God. Bowing before the Lord, the man gave thanks to Jesus. Amazingly, this healed leper was not a Jew as one might expect, but a Samaritan. Yet he was the only one who recognized the Messiah.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”
Jesus asked these rhetorical questions to highlight the different reactions of the ten lepers. While all ten had been miraculously healed and all of them had reason to return and give thanks, only one actually did so - and it was the Samaritan no less. Jesus wasn’t necessarily upset by the actions of the other nine. After all, they were just doing what He told them to do right? He was simply calling attention to the faith of the Samaritan.
19 And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”
Jesus’ words to the Samaritan might seem strange. By this point, his leprosy had already been healed. When Jesus said “your faith has made you well” it must have meant something other than the physical healing that had already taken place. This verse can also be translated to read “your faith has saved you”. During this exchange, the tenth leper received salvation. He was spiritually healed - cleaned from the leprosy of sin that plagued his life.
APPLICATION OF THE TEXT
This story teaches us the difference between being thankful for something and being thankful to someone. As we think about all ten lepers, it is almost certain that they were all thankful for the healing that took place. I mean, how could they not be? There is no telling how long that they’d suffered in physical pain, not to mention the emotional stress of being an outcast. Suddenly this man named Jesus came by and healed them from their dreaded disease. I’m sure that all ten of them were thankful that their leprosy had been cured.
Many of us today here are thankful for various blessings in our lives. One of my family’s holiday traditions is to go around the table before we eat our Thanksgiving meal and name something that we are thankful for. Each of us names something, if not more than one thing. The truth is, when we begin to reflect upon things for a moment, there are many things for which we can be thankful. Like these lepers, Jesus has done tremendous work in our lives and we have so much to be grateful for.
But there is a difference between being thankful and actually giving thanks. If we only focus on the things that we are thankful for, we run the danger of forgetting about the one we should be thankful to. So often we act like the nine lepers who were thankful for the blessing but never took the time to personally tell Jesus “thank you”.
The compound word Thanksgiving is made up of two words - thanks and giving. Think about it - when we give something, we typically are giving it to someone. When we give there is an assumption that it will be received. And so it is with our thanks. It is to be given or directed to someone - to Jesus. When one of the ten lepers returned to give thanks to Jesus, he elevated the meaning of his thankfulness to the next level. He recognized that the gift he’d received - no matter how wonderful it may have been - paled in comparison to the Giver himself. He saw past the healing to the Healer himself. He realized that the only Priest who could make and declare him truly clean was Jesus!
This week many of us will spend time with our families and friends as we celebrate Thanksgiving. We will pause to consider the many things that we are thankful for. But I want to challenge us all to go a step further, and to focus our thoughts upon the One that we are thankful to. Let us set our minds upon Him, rather than merely the things that He has given us. Let us find satisfaction in the Lord alone, and take time to praise Him and offer thanks. May Jesus be the subject of our thanksgiving this coming Thursday, and every day to come thereafter.