Jesus tells this story as though He was an eye witness. 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.”
Here is a colony of lepers joined by their common misfortune and misery. Their only uniting characteristic is the foul disease that had cast them out of society. Every detail is true. As Jesus enters the village, these man stand afar off crying out to him for mercy. How did they know who he was? No doubt they had heard the rumors, "This man can heal lepers.” No doubt they discussed it. But even if He could, would He? What were the chances that he would ever come to their village?
But now the word spreads—"He’s here.” “Who’s here?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I don’t believe it.” “It’s true. He’s here.” “Do you think he could heal us?” “I don’t know. Let’s find out.”
There they stand, in rags and in sores, ten lepers crying out to Jesus for mercy. What a pitiful cry ever fell upon our Lord’s ears. “Have mercy. Have Mercy” came the cry from lips that had seen too little mercy and too much condemnation.
When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (14). At first glance, you might think that Jesus is simply putting them off. You might even conclude that He didn’t intend to heal them at all.
But that’s not the whole story. The last part of verse 14 says that “as they went they were cleansed.” They were healed as they went. Not before. Not after. That means that when they left to go to the priest, they still had leprosy.
How do you suppose they felt when Jesus said, “Go show yourselves to the priest?” Why go show ourselves to the priest? We are still lepers.
They didn’t have anything to show that the priest would want to see. In fact, the last thing the priest wanted to see was ten smelly, disheveled, deformed, wretched lepers. I wonder if someone said, “Why bother?” After all, “Once a leper, always a leper.” There were sores everywhere, deformed arms and fingers bitten off by rodents. You could smell the disease a quarter-mile away.
Off they go, this shuffling band of sufferers marching off to see the priest. They take one step … and they are still lepers. They take two steps … and nothing happens. They take a third step … and the leprosy clings to their limbs.
But on that fourth step … something wonderful, something unbelievable, something they never dreamed possible, happened. With that fourth step, they were healed. Instantly. Miraculously. All ten at once.
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 (15-16).
You know the story. Ten were healed and only one came back to give thanks. Luke says he fell on his face before the Lord. He had a “Shouting Fit.” And why not? He’s been healed of leprosy. For twenty years he was a leper living in this remote corner, separated from his family, forgotten by his friends, cut off from his own people. Suddenly the disease vanishes and with it the twisted limp, the crooked fingers, the atrophied muscles. In less time than it takes to tell the story the disease and all its ugly tentacles are pulled from his body, leaving not a trace behind them. He shouted and so would I. How about you?When Luke adds, “He was a Samaritan,” the shock is such that we ought to read it this way: “Think of it. A Samaritan.” (I do not have space to write about how the Jews hated the Samaritans)
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” (17-19).
The nine are gone with no word of thanks to Jesus. Ten men were healed that day, but only one came back to give thanks. Are you living with the nine or with the one? Far too many of us take our blessings for granted and groan about duties.
Praise is a choice. A thankful heart is a choice you make. No one is forced into bitterness. You choose the way you live. The one who returned to give thanks chose not to forget what Jesus had done for him. The secret of a thankful heart is a conscious choice not to forget what God has done for you. Now shout about it!!!
(Lloyd Blanton is CEO and Director of FreedomWay Ministries, a faith-based service, in Cleburne County.)