By Pastor Jerry Donovan
Luke 17:11: “On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!””
This chapter of Luke is based on a collection of sayings by Jesus on his final journey to Jerusalem. He began that journey in Capernaum his home in Galilee where he healed a Centurion’s slave. They are now probably just South of Nazareth near Nain, where he had resurrected a widow’s son.
It was in the land between Jesus’ home in Galilee and the home of their enemies in Samaria. The borderland if you will. That in between place between accepted society and the marginalized, the citizen and the emigrant, our world and the Kingdom of God.
The Lepers were probably from both Galilee and Samaria banding together for mutual protection because you see, they were outcasts. Lepers were outcasts because of disease and of “unclean spirits.” They were one of the outcast groups of that society, along with tax collectors, prostitutes, street beggars, and sinners. These outcast groups were a special focus of Jesus’ ministry.
Leprosy or Hansen’s disease is different than “Leprosy” in the Bible. The Book of Leviticus lists a number of skin diseases, and even molds that affect clothing and houses considered to be Leprosy in chapters 13 and 14. The suffering of the leper in biblical times was caused, in many cases, not so much by the severity of the disease but by the way the leper was treated by religious society.
Luke 17:14: “When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.” Jesus sends the lepers off to the priests before they have been cleansed, but they are cleansed on the way. Perhaps it took some faith for the lepers to begin the journey to the priests before the healing. This demonstrates that social isolation is a major issue in this culture. It is through a priestly ritual that the person can be publicly recognized as clean and reintegrated into society as listed in Leviticus 14:1-32. Only then will the healing be complete, because you see the sickness is not only physical but also social.
Luke 17:15: “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”” Only one of the ten laid at Jesus’ feet as a sign of submission recognizing him as his master and offering him his obedience; only one and he was considered an enemy, a low life, a non-person in the Jewish culture.
How often do I take God for granted after receiving his blessing and continue on my way in my very busy life doing all those very necessary things that must be done? Making God wait?
Luke 17:19: “Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.” Your faith has made you well. All the lepers had faith even as small as a mustard seed, and that faith can cure even the cruelest of illnesses. But the story is saying more, Jesus contrasts the Samaritan’s response to his healing with that of the other nine lepers. The Samaritan shared with the other lepers enough faith to respond to Jesus’ command, but his faith, unlike theirs, has blossomed into joyful praise of God and gratitude to Jesus, who makes God’s saving power available.
The Samaritan alone returned and gave praise to God. Why is it necessary to return and praise God? God can be praised anywhere. This scene shows the bond of gratitude that arises between Jesus and those who receive the benefit from his work. Perhaps the salvation the Samaritan received is more than physical healing or an end to social isolation; it is a powerful experience of God, whose saving power is present in Jesus.
Now “get up and go!” Go forth in this border land, this land of the marginalized, and do the Kingdom Work that God is calling you to do. Go “on your way” because now there is no difference between your way and “The Way”.
May God Bless you and your family!