Ten lepers stand far from Jesus as He enters a village (in today’s Luke passage). These men cannot come near because of their disease, so they shout: “Jesus! Master! Have mercy on us!” (Luke 17: 14, ESV).
Before Jesus demonstrates His mercy, he tells the ten lepers to “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” As the men proceed to the temple, they are healed of their leprosy (vs. 14).
What’s going on here? A priest first had to inspect a person to ensure that the disease was healed, then declare the person ritually cleansed. Jesus is therefore asking the lepers to go on faith. After they demonstrated their faith through obedience, the men were healed indeed.
But there’s more to faith than obedience…
I love what’s next:
When one of the [men] saw that he was healed, he went back to Jesus, praising God in a loud voice. Then he bowed down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. (And this man was a Samaritan.) Jesus said, “Weren’t ten men healed? Where are the other nine? Is this Samaritan the only one who came back to thank God?” Then Jesus said to him, “Stand up and go on your way. You were healed because you believed.” (vs. 15-19)
I love this man’s response to Jesus’ mercy.
The healed leper praises God in “a loud voice” (apparently Luke uses this loud voice phrase alot, thanks, ESV Study Bible). I imagine this guy looking down at his hands in astonishment, turning back to stare at Jesus, then running to him shouting, “Thank you! Praise God! Hallelujiah!,” weeping as he goes.
As the man approaches Jesus, he falls at his feet (like others who sought healing) and continues to thank Jesus: “Oh, thank you. Bless you. Thank you!”
Both Luke and Jesus are astonished that the Samaritan in the crowd – not a Jew – is the only healed man that has returned with a grateful heart. Jesus refers to the man with a Greek word that means “foreigner.” This man was not brought up in the faith of Israel, yet he believes.
Jesus then pulls the man up (so I imagine) and tells him to go on his way (presumably to the temple for the priest to declare him ritually clean).
But not before saying, “You were healed because you believed.” Huh? Weren’t the other men healed without such a show of faith expressed through gratitude?
Not if you look at the Greek.
The obedient lepers were ALL cleansed. The Greek word translated in vs. 14 “healed,” but elsewhere “cleansed,” comes from the root katharizo which means to cure from leprosy or to pronounce clean in the Levitical sense. The lepers were both cleansed of leprosy and on the way to be ritually cleansed at the temple. (It also means to be clean from dirt and from sin, but that’s not the meaning here.)
But the grateful leper was ALSO saved. The Greek word translated “healed” in verse 19, but elsewhere “made well” or “made whole” has as its root sozo which means “to save.” Jesus healed the bodies of the nine, but did more for the one: He made the leper entirely well – not just physically, but spiritually.
What do we make of this? Did Jesus grant the grateful leper salvation because of the man’s effort to thank Him?
I think there’s a faith that recognizes what Jesus can do and there’s a faith that recognizes who Jesus is.
The Samaritan leper had both types of faith – and all who have saving faith do as well.
Jesus doesn’t just take care of our sin problem, he takes care of our Lord problem – replacing our creature-worshiping heart of stone with a God-revering heart of flesh.
And because Jesus has dealt with both of our diseases, we should run back to Him daily, bow at His feet, and thank him with shouts (at least in our heads!) – until He pulls us up and sends us on our way to carry out His will.
Today’s Readings: Judges 11:1 – 12:15, Psalm 50:7-15, Proverbs 14:28, Luke 17:1-19. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).