The Story of the Ten Lepers, Luke 17:12-19
780 words, read time 3 minutes
Jesus entered a certain village and was met by ten lepers who kept their distance from the Savior, a standard protocol for those afflicted by this disease. The Jewish law required lepers to live segregated from the general population not just because they were contagious, but also because they were seen as unclean. (Leviticus 13:45-46) In fact, many Jews at the time believed that leprosy was a disease inflicted by God for punishment of some sin and that it was a mark of God’s displeasure.
While distance kept the ten lepers from running up to Jesus, they were determined to get his attention nonetheless. Lepers lived together in community and shared their lives of abandonment with one another. It is believed that this small clique of outcasts knew of Jesus planned arrival and they were just waiting for the opportunity to get his attention. You can imagine the game plan, “Ok, on the count of three, we will all cry out together, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!'” And with the thunder of a surprise birthday party cheer their voices were raised in one accord grabbing the attention of Jesus.
In obedience to the law, Jesus sent them directly to the priests. The priests were responsible for determining if a person was healed of leprosy and providing a certificate that allowed for a return to society. (Leviticus 14:2-3) As they were on their way, something strange happened. Their skin began to heal and their bodies were restored to wholeness. (Luke 17:14)
Chalk up another miracle for Jesus!
Nine of these men continued on their way, presumably to the priests, while one stopped in his tracks and decided to turn back. “Hey, where are you going? It’s this way to the temple.” This grateful man could not continue forward before he first returned to Jesus. Finding Jesus he fell down on his face and gave thanks to God. (Luke 17:16) The Scriptures distinguish this man not only by his gratitude, but also because of his heritage. He was a Samaritan.
Samaritans were half breeds, partially of Jewish descent, whose religion was also a mix of Old Testament Judaism and idolatry. A deep and long abiding animosity existed between the Jews and Samaritans. The Jews considered Samaritans as an inferior and idolatrous people. Jesus himself was disappointment that only a Samaritan returned to give glory to God. (Luke 17:17-18)
Then he said to him, “Get up, and go your way. Your faith has healed you.” (Luke 17:19) Interestingly, the word “healed” in this passage comes from the Greek word sozo (Strong’s #4982) which means to save, preserve, heal and make whole. The same word is used primarily throughout the New Testament to describe salvation. (see all references below) It seems plausible that this man’s faith not only brought him health and restoration physically, but spiritual health, wholeness and salvation!
For the most part, the Bible instructs us to avoid looking back to the former days, but instead moving forward to what God has planned for our future. “Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17:32) The practice of looking back and giving thanks to God is the one great exception to this rule. God doesn’t want us to sit and sorrow or even tell glory day stories of our old life before Christ. (1 Peter 4:2-3) What He does desire is for us to recall all the blessings He has bestowed upon us and to give Him thanks.
At the end of every day, or the start of every morning, it is spiritually healthy to look back and thank God for what He has done. If we will just take the time to review our day, we will be reminded of countless blessings for which we can give thanks. His mercies truly are new every morning. (La 3:22-23) Let’s not be like the nine lepers who were healed, but showed no appreciation. Let’s instead cultivate a spirit of thanksgiving and praise as we reflect on the goodness of God in the land of the living. (Ps 27:13)
(The Word Sozo is used in the following passages in the New Testament. Mt 1:21; 8:25; 9:21-22; 10:22; 14:30; 16:25; 18:11; 19:25; 24:13,22; 27:40,42,49; Mr 3:4; 5:23,28,34; 6:56; 8:35; 10:26,52; 13:13,20; 15:30-31; 16:16; Luke 6:9; 7:50; 8:12,36,48,50; 9:24,56; 13:23; 17:19,33; 18:26,42; 19:10; 23:35,37,39; John 3:17; 5:34; 10:9; 11:12; 12:27,47; Ac 2:21,40,47; 4:9,12; 11:14; 14:9; 15:1,11; 16:30-31; 27:20,31; Ro 5:9-10; 8:24; 9:27; 10:9,13; 11:14,26; 1Co 1:18,21; 3:15; 5:5; 7:16; 9:22; 10:33; 15:2; 2Co 2:15; Eph 2:5,8; 1Th 2:16; 2Th 2:10; 1Ti 1:15; 2:4,15; 4:16; 2Ti 1:9; 4:18; Tit 3:5; Heb 5:7; 7:25; Jas 1:21; 2:14; 4:12; 5:15,20; 1Pe 3:21; 4:18; Jude 1:5,23; Re 21:24)