Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers but, in our familiarity, it’s easy to miss the profound lessons tucked away in this story. Life-changing lessons on faith and gratitude are woven throughout the story. We find the story in Luke 17:11-19. Unlike other stories of Jesus’ miracles, the focus of this story is not on the healing itself but on what happens before and after the miraculous healing.
Open your Bible to the gospel of Luke, chapter 11, and take a look.
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and was walking along the border between Samaria and Galilee. It’s significant to note that Jesus was on His way to the cross. He knew what lie before Him in Jerusalem, the greatest most horrific sacrifice of His ministry. Yet, Jesus was able to look beyond His own horror to give hope to ten lepers who approached Him.
Leprosy is a horrendous illness that affects the skin, eyes, nose, and peripheral nerves. Highly contagious, those who were diagnosed with leprosy were quarantined and isolated from the rest of society. Jewish law required that those with leprosy shout, “Unclean, unclean” when people approached, to avoid contaminating others. At the time of Jesus, there was no known cure which left those with leprosy without hope.
Jesus saw and heard the lepers crying out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:13). Moved with compassion, Jesus responded with “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14). Instead of healing them immediately, Jesus asked them to go to the priests. It was the priests who would make the determination whether they were healed and declared clean. What’s interesting is that Jesus didn’t hear them first! He gave them a command which would test their faith in Him. “As they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14b).
Don’t you wonder what might have been going through their minds as they turned and headed towards a meeting with the priest? Was the healing gradual or did it happen the moment they turned and obeyed? We don’t know, because Scripture doesn’t tell us. However, what we do know is all the leper’s exercised faith in turning to go. The lepers had taken Jesus at His word. What happens next is pivotal for our spiritual journeys.
One out of the ten realized he had been completely healed and filled with gratitude ran back to Jesus, praised God in a loud voice, and threw himself at the
feet of Jesus to thank Him (Luke17:15-16). Interestingly enough, he was a Samaritan. The Jews hated the Samaritans and considered them to be half-breeds and very unspiritual! At this point in the story, Jesus asked a profound question, “Were not all ten lepers cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God other than this foreigner?” (Luke17:17-18).
While there are many lessons, there are three primary lessons that stand out.
God Values the Least
In our culture of platform building and rising celebrity status, we forget that God values the least. He places honour on the poor, the broken, the messy, and the marginalized. The 10 Lepers were outcasts of society. Beyond just having leprosy at least one was from Samaria which would have made him the lowest of the low. He had absolutely no status and was looked down on as an untouchable. Yet, Jesus treasured each one, even the Samaritan, heard their cries, and healed them.
God Honours Faith
The 10 lepers weren’t healed until they acted in faith and turned to head to the priest. Did they have lots of faith or just a little faith? We don’t know. What we do know is they acted on the faith they had and started out on the journey to show themselves to the priests. In your life and mind, God will never let us off the hook of faith. As the writer of Hebrews wrote, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). God rewarded the 10 lepers’ faith by healing them.
God Cherishes Gratitude
Even more than the measure of our faith, God cherishes gratitude. Only one of the 10 lepers turned back, fell at Jesus’ feet, and thanked Him with a loud voice. Though Jesus was Almighty God, He was sensitive. His sensitivity didn’t make Him weak. It was a powerful gift. Since Jesus came to reveal the Father to us, we can assume that our heavenly Father is also sensitive. I believe we offend Him when we take His gifts for granted and forget to say, “Thank you.” The Apostle Paul alluded to this when He wrote to the church in Thessalonica, instructing them to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude is a core discipleship issue for the believer and it’s God’s will that we learn to be grateful in every situation.