Luke 17:11-19 (ESV)
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 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. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
It may seem odd that Jesus is disappointed in the nine who didn’t return, since He told them to, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” They stay on task, while the Samaritan, in an emotional outburst, runs back to Jesus praising God. It’s also odd that the Samaritan was hanging out with non-Samaritans in the first place.
The Samaritan being with the rest is actually normal in this case. Being a leper makes you such a pariah that also being a Samaritan doesn’t matter; they’re all quarantined together. It also makes sense that the Samaritan was less focused on getting to the priests. They may have refused to see him. And he may have been unfamiliar with the Levitical law concerning lepers.
“This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person …” – Leviticus 14:2-3
But why does Jesus criticize the nine who didn’t return? It’s because they’re being legalistic and selfish. They’re focused on their own healing, and on the legal procedures needed to get back into normal society.
That’s understandable. Leprosy is a social catastrophe and emotionally crushing. Still, miraculous deliverance from this scourge should have been cause for unselfish celebration. Instead, the nine only thought of themselves.
The idea of praising the God who delivered them hadn’t even crossed their minds.
Leprosy still exists and infects hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. It is a bacterial disease with known cures. It is contagious, though not highly, and that has led to the abolishment of leper colonies.
Modern medicine is an amazing gift. Just think, only a few decades ago there were no joint replacements or organ transplants. Who can even imagine what medicine was like 2000 years ago when this was written?
So, are we appreciative, like the Samaritan leper, or do we just take it for granted and go on about our business, like the other nine?
There’s no “right” way to thank God for the many blessings we have. We couldn’t even name them all if we wanted to; there are just too many.
We should try though.
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