Let’s take a look at Luke 17:11-19 – “The One Who Did.”
The incident of the 10 lepers is a familiar story, but perhaps one where we have stopped short of the real issue. Here the border between Galilee and Samaria is a fitting location for this event involving both Jews and a Samaritan. What Luke says here corresponds with what we know about lepers. They kept distant from non-lepers (v. 12; Lev. 13:45-46, Numbers 5:2), they formed their own colonies (2 Ki. 7:3), and they positioned themselves near roads to make appeals to charity. Showing themselves to the priest after healing was prescribed in the law (Lev. 14:2-32). It’s important to note that leprosy was a social as well as a physical disease that resulted in outcast. Ironically, it obliterated religious, political, racial and social lines. Why else would a Samaritan be living among Jews?
Make note of a couple of things here. It’s a healing story with the usual elements: a cry for help; Jesus responds; the healing occurs. But it occurs in the act of obedience rather than prior to their obedience. Next, it is only the foreigner who returns, who praises God and who expresses gratitude to Jesus. When Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well,” the blessing must refer to some benefit other than that which all, including the other nine, had received earlier.
On the surface, the story seems to be an issue of gratitude/ingratitude. The nine who were privileged didn’t return. It is true that much of the time those with the most are the least grateful. But looking closer, what did their ingratitude cost them?
- It cost them a personal encounter with Jesus. They had only seen him from a distance, and had no further connection with him. Because they didn’t return, they missed the opportunity for a relationship with him, to spend time with him, and to know him personally.
- It cost them the blessing of salvation, and that was the real issue. The verb Jesus used for “made well” (v. 19) is often translated “to be saved” (see Lk. 19:9,10, where “salvation” had come to Zacchaeus)
So what we have is a story of TEN HEALED AND ONE SAVED! And the one saved was the one with the least religious privileges. The one person who should not have gotten it, did. Jesus recognized in him the attitude that brings salvation. The other nine who should have gotten it, didn’t.
- Look at Lev. 13:45-46, Numbers 5:2, Lev. 14:2-32, and 2 Kings 7:3 for some insight into lepers. What would their lives have been like?
- Why was there such bitter tension (John 4:9) between Jews and Samaritans?
*2 kings 17:24-41 – descendants a of a mixed population with allegiances to other gods following the conquest by Assyria in 722 BC
* Ezra 4:2-5, Neh. 2:19 – they opposed rebuilding the temple and Jerusalem
*Samaritans worshiped at their own rival temple on Mt. Gerazim (John 4)
- Why would a Samaritan leper been living with Jewish lepers?
- What is unusual about the healing of the ten lepers?
- Why would Jesus instruct the lepers to go to the priest before their healing occurred?
- Read 2 Kings 5:1-14. How is Naaman’s story similar to the one in Luke 17?
- How could being ungrateful cost someone the salvation that Jesus offers?