You can turn to Luke 17 and verse 11. This is the final stage in Jesus’ journey as he makes his way to Jerusalem for his appointment with the cross. This is in the 17th chapter of Luke’s gospel, and it starts in verse 11, Luke 17:11.
Ever since Luke 9:51, we have been in a section that we call the travel section of the gospel of Luke or sometimes the Jerusalem journey. It’s a section that comes to its fulfillment in Luke 19:28, as he enters into Jerusalem for the final time before atoning for the sins of his people, which he accomplished when he died on the cross, when his body was buried in the tomb, and when he rose from the dead, and then from there ascended into heaven. So Luke 9:51 through 19:28. That’s a big chunk of Luke’s gospel, and it’s the travel section. It’s the Jerusalem journey.
Back in Luke 9, Peter had confessed in Luke 9:20 the true identity of Jesus, that he is none other than the Christ of God. And then immediately following that confession, Jesus strictly charged the apostles to tell that to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and then on the third day to be raised.”
Jesus had discerned his mission as Messiah from passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, passages that foretold of the Messiah’s suffering and death for the sins of his people. But now, by special revelation, the Spirit has revealed to him that the time is near to make that appointment with the cross.
So in Luke 9:51, it says there that “when the days drew near for him to be taken up.” That is referring to his ascension and everything that precedes it immediately: death, burial, resurrection. “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” And since that time, Luke has, as the author, he’s been reminding us, the readers of this Jerusalem journey, we see that in chapter 10, verse 38, a mark, a note about the, the travel, Luke 13:22, Luke 13:33, Luke 14:25, this one in Luke 17:11, and there are more to come as he marks points along the journey, and here Luke brings us into the final leg of the Jerusalem journey in Luke 17:11. Let’s start reading the text there:
“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.’”
This may at first appear to be another account of a miraculous healing. We’ve seen one already in Luke’s gospel, in Chapter 5 verses 12 and following, the healing of a leper. But here is the cleansing of ten lepers. So maybe we’re seeing this miracle, this healing, recorded here by Luke, as remarkable in its multiplicity, the same power but multiplied ten times over. We can even see the kind of healing that it was, that he didn’t say, “Be healed.” He didn’t touch the man, he, there was no fanfare, no, nothing to draw attention to it. He just told them to “go and show yourselves to the priests,” as if the healing had already taken place.
It’s not until Luke draws our attention to the one who returns to give thanks and then inserts this brief narrative comment at the end of verse 16: “Now he was a Samaritan.” It’s not until we see that that we discern the true point of this narrative, this story. That note for the reader shocks the reader, especially the Jewish reader. But it also prepares us for the main point of this account, verse 18: “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” That’s the point of the text. That is the main point we’re supposed to see.
As I said, Luke has already shown us the miraculous power of Jesus Christ, revealing his true identity as a divine person. We have no doubt that we’re reading about the God-man. We have no doubt this is God incarnate. This is the incarnate Son of God with a human nature and a divine nature together in one person.
We have no doubt that we’ve seen his divine authority already exercised in unhindered dominion that he has over this earth, even over this fallen world, disease, sin, demons, death. We also see his divine authority in teaching, as he is the true revealer of the, we might call it the “true truth” about God in a world that has a whole mixture of opinions about who God is and what he’s like. Jesus cuts through the middle of that and gives the truth.
And he teaches with power. He teaches with authority. He doesn’t teach like any of the scribes, any of the Pharisees, any of the teachers of the law, any of the lawyers. He is clearly set apart from all of them because of his authority. So we might say that this Jesus we have seen already in Luke’s gospel, he commands both general and special revelation. He is, as we come to this point in the story, we have no doubt Jesus is Lord.
Why is it, then, that we can see that so clearly, sitting here today, but only one in ten lepers, and I should say, former lepers, lepers who have personally, themselves in their own bodies, been miraculously cleansed of their leprosy, why can only one in ten see this?
Well, it’s because all of us gathered here together, all of us in Christ, we are the one in ten. We’ve just found our way into one another’s company, here united together in this church. We are those who’ve been favored by divine grace through no merit of our own, nothing to commend ourselves before God or to God, nothing to commend ourselves in the sight of anybody else. We know that we’re guilty.
But we also know that we have been specially favored, chosen by God from before the foundation of the world. And by his grace in time and space, we’ve been granted the faith to believe. We’ve repented of our sins. We put our trust in him. We know who he is. This Jesus is Lord. He is the Christ of God.
So in Luke’s wisdom and under the inspiration of God by the Spirit, this account forms a natural bridge from what we have been learning already in Luke 17, and it prepares us, really, for the rest of the travel section, so that we can finish out the travel section with what we’re going to learn here firmly in our minds. It readies us for the salvific story that awaits us in Jerusalem.
Our discernment along the way has been growing, hasn’t it? We’ve been able to discern and tell one from the other. So far we’ve seen that true disciples watch out for the little ones. True disciples get rid of stumbling blocks in their midst. True disciples deal with sin straightforwardly, directly. They confront sin in others that they see. They, they do that out of true love, and they repent when they themselves are confronted in their sins.
True disciples forgive, even when they are personally offended, even when repeatedly offended. True disciples forgive. They are patient with the repenting brother or sister. True disciples trust and obey. That’s what marks their lives, trusting in Jesus’ word and obeying him and doing what he says.
In and through our lives, lived in obedience to the Lord’s commands, God does in and through us the amazing, the remarkable, the astounding, what we might, might even say is the impossible. We see that in retrospect, as we’ve talked about, but God does amazing things through our, what we might say, is common, mundane, everyday obedience. Just trust and obey. That marks true disciples as well.
Now we see in this account, true disciples of Jesus Christ, they are not content to take the gifts of his mercy and just walk away into the sunset. When true disciples receive the gift of mercy and kindness and goodness from God, true disciples are not ungrateful. They’re not inconsiderate. They’re not unreflective. Rather, true disciples glorify God and give thanks to Christ. True disciples are marked by worshipping in words, speaking words of worship, words of praise, words of gratitude. You see someone who’s a self-centered ingrate, someone who thinks nothing of what’s been given to him or her, hard to see that as fitting the description, here, of a true disciple.
So with that in mind, let’s work our way through this fascinating text, which, as I said, is forming a bridge from what we’ve already been learning, and points the way to the rest of the travel section, and really prepares us for the end of Luke’s gospel as well.
Here’s the first point, if you’re taking notes. Just two points for today, but it, first note is this: ten lepers are cleansed but not truly saved. Ten lepers are cleansed but not truly saved. And see there again in verse 11, where Luke sets the scene for us, it says, “On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee.”
Now that’s not only a reminder about the fact that Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem with his disciples. It’s, something else is going on here. Luke isn’t specific. This is actually a pretty subtle comment, a subtle literary device, here. He’s foreshadowing a bit, here. He’s setting the mood by telling us that Jesus is passing along between Samaria and Galilee. We know by harmonizing gospel accounts and, and from John 11 in particular, you can write that down in your notes, John 11, very key, Jesus had raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, and he did that in a, in a little town called Bethany. Bethany is very close to Jerusalem, just a few miles away.
And the people, as you know, rejoiced in this amazing miracle. I mean, who raises the dead? Who has power to do that but God and God alone? So many of the people believed, at least at some level, but the Jewish leaders, shockingly, later on in the narrative, in John 11, we find out that they, they choose to convene the Sanhedrin, which is the ruling body of the Jews, and they decide together at the Sanhedrin council to kill Jesus. Says in John 11:53, “From that day on they made plans to put him to death.”
Couldn’t deny the miracle of Lazarus being four days in the tomb; now he’s up, walking around, everybody’s talking to him. They can’t deny the miracle, so instead of accepting the miracle and embracing Jesus Christ and bowing on their knees before him in humility, admitting that they were wrong in their judgments against Jesus, no, they don’t do that. They say, “Let’s not only get rid of,” they also want to kill Lazarus, by the way, so “let’s not only get rid of the evidence of the miracle, but let’s get rid of the miracle worker himself.” Can you believe it?
So to avoid an untimely death, one that’s not according to his Father’s timetable, Jesus left Jerusalem. Jesus travelled north to Galilee again, and before coming back to Jerusalem for his final Passover and his appointment to the cross, we find him here.
Here is where Luke drops us into the story, as Jesus is making his way from Galilee in the north and passing along between Samaria and Galilee and into the region of Perea on the east side of the Jordan River, and from there, on the east side of the Jordan River, he’ll come back west through Jericho, which we’re going to find in Luke 18. He’ll cross the Jordan one more time on his final approach up to the city of Jerusalem.
As Jesus, here, walks on his way to Jerusalem, Luke wants us to know an additional piece of information, namely, that he’s passing along between Samaria and Galilee. As I said, he’s foreshadowing. He’s setting a mood for us.
The region that he is referring to is one that separates the borders of Samaria and Galilee, and this is the region of the Decapolis. The Decapolis is mostly on the east side of the Jordan River, but here there is a jutting piece of, portion of the Decapolis that crosses over the Jordan and then juts into the west and cuts between Samaria to the south and Galilee to the north.
What’s the significance of this? In the Jewish mind, in the faithful Jewish mind, this is no-man’s land. It’s what many people in that day would call “a god-forsaken part of the country.” Luke’s note reminds us of the historic animosity that existed between Samaritans and Jews. It goes all the way back to the second temple that was built. The Samaritans: a mixed breed between unfaithful, idolatrous northern tribes of Israel Jews and the Assyrian transplants into their region. They intermarried, they set up a temple, their own temple in Ger, on Mount Gerizim, and they worshiped God according to almost kind of a distorted version of the Torah. But that’s all they accepted, is the Torah. They said that that is the true place of worship.
So there’s a historic animosity. By the way, the Samaritans persecuted the Jews ruthlessly. You can see that if you read Ezra and Nehemiah, how, how much Sanballat and all the Samaritans were opposed to the Jews returning into the land. They hated them, and this started a, a long period of animosity that existed for centuries between Samaritans and Jews. And this is represented here by this borderland between Samaria to the south and Galilee to the north.
“True disciples get rid of stumbling blocks in their midst. True disciples deal with sin straightforwardly, directly. “Travis Allen
Samaritans historically persecuted the Jews, hated the Jews. The Jews hated them right back. Historic animosity, historic prejudices, historic hurts, offenses, all those are carried forward, and each people treated the other with contempt, hatred, as bitter, bitter enemies.
So any Jews who lived in these border regions, this nether world, they kind of mixed with these Samaritan dogs. Throw in the Gentile people of the Decapolis, which is, it’s a mostly Gentile region, and the picture of, is of this defiled, unclean rabble, with the land itself polluted by their presence. So this is a people, where Jesus is right now, this is a people who’ve really been written off. They’ve been erased from the record, dismissed, tossed into the dustbin of history. They represent shame and compromise and theological heresy and corrupt, false worship.
Jesus and his band of disciples, they’re traveling through here. And verse 12 tells us they’re about to enter into a village, and this is a village, by the way, where no decent, self-respecting good Jewish boy, much less one pretending to be a Messiah, this is where no one like that should be.
Why are they about to enter into this village in the first place? I mean, in this corrupt, defiled, unclean place, what’s Jesus doing here with his feet, with his disciples, and why are they about to enter into this village? Why not just pass by? Look back at Luke 10 verse 1. Luke 10 verse 1: “The Lord appointed seventy-two, and he sent them on ahead of him two by two into every town and place where he was about to go.”
So we got this group of ambassadors who were going out, seventy-two of them, paired up, two by two, and he is leaving Galilee in Luke 9:51. As we get into chapter 10, he’s leaving Galilee. He’s going to send out all these ambassadors into Judea and Perea and go into all the towns and villages.
They’re there to preach the gospel. They’re there to heal and proclaim the kingdom. They’re there as kind of a preparation for Jesus’ arrival as they announce his coming. And according to verse 6, these two disciples who enter a particular village, they entered this village some months ago, they were received by at least one believer. Jesus calls him, there, “a son of peace.” This is someone who believed, who listened to the message of the coming kingdom of God, and they were ready to meet Jesus whenever it was he came.
So this is their moment. This village is on his itinerary as these seventy-two went out two by two, checking all the different villages, and they marked them down and said, “Okay, we’ve got to go here, here and here. These are receptive villages and these ones over here have rejected us, and we’re shaking the dust off our feet and turning away.”
Here’s one of these villages. Jesus is returning now to meet these people. But before he can enter into the village, as he’s drawing near, as he’s going with his mission in mind, Luke tells us in verse 12 he was met there by ten lepers who stood at a distance. So tiny, nondescript village, probably more like a hamlet, just a group of houses. They’ve come together, maybe for protection, for cooperation in farming or shepherding or whatever it is they were doing in that area. It’s very much like hundreds of little hamlets that dotted the countryside.
Not only is this in an unfavorable location, the very borderlands of Galilee and Samaria and the Gentile Decapolis, this val, village itself had a dubious honor of being neighbor to a small leper col, colony. These ten leprous men had taken up residence nearby. Evidently they thought, “What does it matter? Who’s going to notice?”
For the Jewish reader, again this is another red flag. Compromising Jews of southern Galilee are pictured in their minds. Heterodox enemies of Samaria, bitter enemies of the Jews, they’re involved in this. Defiled Gentiles of the Decapolis, they’re there. And now the wretched sight of these unclean lepers.
Again, for the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, leaders in Jerusalem, the religious establishment, this is exactly how they have been discrediting Jesus all along. “No one follows him anymore. I mean, come on, people, really? Look, the scribes, the lawyers, we know the law. We see exact, we see through this guy. We see what he’s up to. I mean, look, nobody’s following him except ignorant Galileans, compromising Jews, heretic Samaritans, social outcasts, the lepers, the diseased, the forsaken. Just the rabble.”
Doesn’t that remind us of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26 and following? “For consider your calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” But God did that on purpose, didn’t he? “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
That’s the point. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He’s in this written-off region. He’s there to seek and save the lost. And he sought out his own people from among the compromising Jews, the despised Samaritans, the defiled lepers, and he did so to the glory of his Father’s grace.
So here he is. He’s met by ten lepers who stood at a distance. Why are they standing at a distance? Why are they standing away and apart? Because Leviticus 13:45-46 required them to do so. They had to remain, as lepers, at a great distance from anybody in society who’s not infected by leprosy. This is a true quarantine. This is how quarantines are done, by the way, Americans. This is how we do quarantines. You quarantine the sick, not the healthy.
God used, God used leprosy, the skin disease, which is a, a wide variety of different skin diseases that are described there in Leviticus 13:14. But he uses leprosy as a picture of sin, of its defilement, of the isolation that sin causes, of the corruption that it brings, of the defiling that it brings. Leprosy has always been used as a picture like that.
Not only Hansen’s disease, which is what we know as modern-day leprosy, which is the, the numbing of the nerve endings and then the nerve endings without any feeling. The leper doesn’t die of leprosy; he dies of some cut or infection because he can’t feel it, and he, he bleeds, and it turns gangrenous or whatever, and they have to amputate, and that’s how he dies, is usually of a blood poison or something like that.
So Hansen’s disease is all part of leprosy, but leprosy in the Bible, scripturally speaking, is a broader category of all kinds of skin disease, and all of it is meant to picture and symbolize sin. So these lepers, to avoid infecting others, to avoid defiling others, it was a leper’s duty to alert everyone around him to the presence of his disease. They had to intentionally wear torn clothing, not their very best, but torn, messed-up clothing, an unkempt appearance. And they had to cry out in a loud voice, covering their upper lip, which is basically a picture of them covering their mouth. They had to cry out “Unclean! Unclean!”
Think about it, you walking into a crowded mall or something like that and yelling, “Unclean! Unclean.” It’s embarrassing. You’re drawing everybody’s attention to what you don’t want to draw their attention to.
Got members of my family who sometimes they get a cold sore. You can’t even see it, but they’re like, “Cold sore, here,” and “Oh, stay away! They’re all seeing it. They can see it! It’s,” you know. When you have something, it feels like it’s this big, like a cartoon and it’s throbbing, you know. But we want to hide all those things, cover it over with makeup and all that stuff.
Here, they have to completely defy that, go against their natural impulse to hide, and expose. That’s another picture of what we need to do with sin, isn’t it? Not hide it, expose it.
You can learn more about this terrible disease and how it was dealt with by the priests, how it was dealt with when someone thought they were healed from it. Look back to the two sermons I preached on Luke 5:12-16, when Jesus healed the leper. That’ll fill in a lot of gaps for you, but just suffice it to say for now, that leprosy itself was a lonely, isolating experience. Leprosy made you impure. It made you ceremonially defiled. It made you ritually unclean. There was obviously shame in having the disease itself, just the appearance of it.
But further than that, adding insult to injury, there was isolation from the community, being cut off from family and friends, shunned and excluded from society, kept out of worship itself. You couldn’t come to the temple; you couldn’t gather with believers.
So these lepers, they’re standing at a distance, they’re following the law, following custom. Verse 13 says, “They lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” In the original, it’s just four words: “Jesus, Master, mercy us.” They knew, that they knew from a distance that it’s Jesus coming to them, that they knew who Jesus was, this indicates that Jesus’ reputation had preceded him.
And as they cry out the, the four words, the way they are arranged there, it shows him being emphatic and calling attention, calling his attention to themselves. Their address is an emotional plea. There’s pathos in this passage. You, you need to see these as pitiable men in a pitiable situation. Should break your heart as you hear them crying out to Jesus.
But no doubt they’d heard rumors of his miracles, supernatural power that he wielded over demons, disease, over natural forces and supernatural forces alike. Perhaps even, we know later there’s a Samaritan among them, and so perhaps this Samaritan leper had relayed the reports that he himself had heard about Jesus in his own area of Sychar near Samaria, Jesus’ early ministry in Samaria.
Remember John 4, his meeting with the woman at the well? There’s this adulterous woman who first met Jesus while she’s drawing water from Jacob’s well, and she’s doing it in the heat of the day because she’s shunned from society, but he talks to her about living water. And he says, “There is coming in time, dear woman, where it’s not on this mountain or that mountain that we’re going to worship. God is looking for worshipers who will worship him in spirit and in truth.”
He tells her about things that only she knew, verbalizes issues of her own sin. She knows this is someone different. She runs back to her village and tells all of them, and they, they come flooding out of the village to come and meet him. Sparked a somewhat of a revival among the Samaritans, of a belief, of faith in this Messiah.
So they know his name, Jesus. They also know about his authority. They call him “Master,” here. “Master.” They heard about his teaching. They heard about the authority, the power of his message that he preached. They heard about him besting the greatest minds of Jerusalem. “Master” is the word epistate, epistate. It’s kind of like taking “Lord,” “teacher,” “Rabbi,” “Master,” rolling them all up into one, and that’s how they address him. They acknowledge Jesus as Lord, as master, which is what encourages them to petition him for mercy. They know that this Jesus, as epistate, he has the power from God to show compassion, to heal them if he will.
They know he has authority from God to pronounce something, to heal them, and so the only question for them is, “Is he willing to heal us? Will he do it? Will he look upon us with compassion, with mercy? Does he want to?” Luke doesn’t leave us wondering for long, verse 14: “When he saw them.” So his eyes turn upon them. He takes the input that he sees, the sensory input. His heart is moved with compassion. It’s not in the text that says that, but we know from previous texts his heart is moved with compassion for the plight of people in pain and suffering and sinners.
When he saw them, it indicates, and Jesus hadn’t noticed them on his initial approach in the village, but now he does. They saw him before he saw them, and they cry out, and now he sees them. And seeing them, having compassion, discerning their request, he answers their needs, saying, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Not “go and show yourself to the priest,” singular, but “priests,” plural.
What’s that about? Leviticus 13-14, the priests were public health inspectors, so they are the ones responsible to examine and inspect and identify, diagnose, pronounce in, a person infected and unclean, or cleansed and restored back into society. So they are there to authorize a quarantine for the infected. They’re there to examine claims of cleansing and then allow a truly cleansed person to reenter into society and the community.
So Jesus’ command, here, is a promise of cleansing. His command is an ironclad guarantee of what he intends to do. His command is a promise that he intends to accomplish exactly what they’ve asked for.
How I wish we could all remember that. Whenever we come across a command of Jesus Christ, it just stands for us to obey it, because if he commands us, what he commands us to do he intends to accomplish in us. Are any of his commands bad commands? “Go cut yourself into a million pieces and suffer?” No. Everything he’s commanded is righteousness, holiness, love, purity. Everything he intends to accomplish in us, they’re all good things. Why do we resist? Oh, that we could never resist, that we see all of Christ’s commands to us as a portent, a promise of blessing if only we’ll obey him without any hesitation, without any holding back, but just run to him in faith.
If only we practiced the simple faith that these ten lepers had on this occasion. Remember, Jesus didn’t touch them, he didn’t examine them, doesn’t interact with them, he doesn’t question them. He just commands them as if the cleansing is as good as done, and on, end of verse 14 it says, “As they went, they were cleansed.”
Pretty simple comment on Luke’s part, right? We’d like to kind of know more, like to be there, see. We don’t know if they struggled with doubt. I mean, did they? “He didn’t ask any questions, and he didn’t even touch us, didn’t check, didn’t interact, nothing.” We don’t know if maybe they talked about this command that he’d given them, disputed among themselves, maybe reasoned it out.
Maybe they remembered the story of Naaman in the Bible, 2 Kings 5, Naaman, the Syrian official who was plagued with leprosy, but when he obeyed the word of Elijah, the prophet, remember what happened? He was cured. It says, “His skin became like the skin of a small child.” Smooth, pure. You might call Naaman the patron saint of lepers. He’s the one that gives them hope.
We really don’t know how this went down exactly. All we know is this simple fact: “As they went, they were cleansed.” “As they went, they were cleansed.” They obeyed, and along the way to their respective priests, by the way, that’s why the plural “priests.” They didn’t have one priest that they would go see. They had a group of priests because the Jews went to their village priests and then off to the temple of Jerusalem to observe the proper sacrifices. And the Samaritan went to his village priest and then off to the temple at Mount Gerizim to ob, observe his proper sacrifices.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t get caught up in which is the right temple or the wrong temple to go to. From Jesus’ perspective, having cleansed the temple once in his early ministry, and he’s going to do it again when he comes back in Jerusalem, both are equally corrupt.
So he’s just telling them, “Observe the law.” And on the way, as they do, poof! Cleansed. “Cleansed” is katharizo. It’s in the passive voice, here, and that indicates a divine passive. “They were cleansed,” not “God cleansed them,” but God is certainly involved there. It’s a divine passive. He’s the hidden agent behind their healing, and divine power, here, is clearly at work.
In some measure, we see, initially, all of these men believe. And in their belief, they obey. And in the course of their obedience to Jesus the Master, God cleansed them all of leprosy. God honors the word of Jesus Christ, his Son. Cleanses them.
So ten lepers cleansed, is our first point, ten lepers cleansed, but we said ten lepers are cleansed, but not all are truly saved. Not all are truly saved. We know they’re not saved. Why do we know they’re not saved in contrast to the one of them who was? So we get into a second point. Second point, point number two, one leper is cleansed and also truly saved. One leper is cleansed and also truly saved.
We see, Luke shows us here, this account of the miracle itself is intentionally brief. It’s because this is where Luke wants to take us, is into verses 15-16. This is what’s remarkable to Luke. This is what stands out. Cleansing lepers: that’s old hat. Cleansing lepers: done, not even worth really delving into at this point.
Here’s what’s remarkable: verse 15, “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, he turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.” We’ve seen that posture before, haven’t we? Falling on the face before Jesus’ feet. Who did that? Remember the sinful, notoriously sinful woman at the end of Luke 7? She, too, fell at Jesus’ feet on her face. She’s weeping, anointing and washing his feet with her tears, and she breaks open an alabaster flask of, of ointments and scented perfume and anoints his feet. It’s true love. “Those who love much have been forgiven much.”
Let’s stop there. This man, too, fell on his face, on his face at Jesus’ feet, gave him thanks. Let’s consider what’s happened and see how this man reacted. Backing up a little bit, we think about this man walking along with his companions, and we don’t know how much time passed when Jesus gave the command, and they started maybe reasoning it out, and then they started walking. We don’t know how much time passed. Doesn’t seem like they’ve really gotten far, far down the road before they realize they’re cleansed.
So as they walk along, it dawns on them that they have been cleansed, and you think they talked about it at all? I, I think so. So do you think they said, “Hey, hey, yours gone? Mine is. Hey, check this out.” I believe they talked about it, and this one man, when he saw that he was healed, he had the good sense to turn back. Verse 13, he’d joined the others in lifting up his voice to ask for mercy, but now it says he’s on his own. He’s praising God with a loud voice, phones megales, a large, booming, strong voice. Reminds me of the voice I hear behind me when I sit in front of Chuck Fisher, strong, booming baritone voice singing praises of God.
Men, when you sing in church, men when you’re with your families, when you sing, those around you, you’re leading them. Lead out with a long, a loud voice. A phones megales. Let it rip, unless you’re tone deaf, then just do video. Just give us video, but make it a passionate video.
This man immediately knew the power of his healing. This is none other than divine power. Only God could do this. Only God can perform this kind of healing through, this thorough of a cleansing, purifying all the tissues of his flesh and leaving this man spotless and cleansed and healed, ceremonially clean. He’s got no hesitation, now, to stand before the inspecting priest, no anxiety and anticipating getting examined by this guy. He knows what’s happened. The evidence is plain.
So he turns back praising God. The verb is doxazo. So he glorified God, that’s better translation, “glorified God with a loud voice.” Then it says, verse 16, he comes back to Jesus and the verb, there, is eucharisteo, to give thanks. This man is giving glory to God, praising God for who he is, praising him for his power, for his mercy, for his goodness. He glorifies God for who he is.
And then most appropriately, the man returns to fall at Jesus’ feet and give thanks because of what Jesus has done. Common reaction to those who’ve received great mercy. Those who’ve been forgiven much, they love much. Those who know the depth of what mercy has been shown to them, they’re effusive in praising God and giving thanks to Jesus Christ.
And giving thanks to Jesus, in giving thanks to him, we see this man is seeing much, much more here. He can see that Jesus is God’s chosen instrument, that Jesus is the conduit of divine power, of divine blessing, and he thanks Jesus for what God has done through him. He knows Jesus, here, is the chosen Messiah that he’d heard about, so it’s true. He’s come back, fall down at his feet in worship.
This man, appropriately, as every true Christian does, this man has recognized both gift and Giver. He doesn’t separate the two out. He sees them as part and parcel of the same grace. This is the blessing of the Blessed One. It’s the benefaction and the Benefactor. He praises the source of the blessing and the means by which the blessing has come. By his posture, falling on his face, he bows at his feet, he refuses to look directly at the Holy One standing before him. He’s acknowledging himself as sinner and Jesus as sovereign Lord.
This man has been given more than cleansing. We can see clearly he’s got the theological insight and perception to see unity between God and God’s agent, Jesus Christ. They are one and the same. You don’t get that kind of reaction out of having clean and healthy skin. Whatever’s happened to this guy goes way further than skin deep. Divine grace has penetrated this man’s heart. He has been changed. He’s been profoundly changed. And we know from verse 19 he has been saved by God. He’s been redeemed by Jesus Christ, who, by the way, is his new and true Master.
The telltale signs of genuine salvation are these, at least: praise for who God is, and gratitude for what God has done. And let me tell you, folks, you never get over it. Not ever. And you who are saved, who’ve been redeemed, you know what I’m talking about. You see the deep salvation that’s happened to you, but you see how that salvation is worked out in your life to bring the fruit of the Spirit, transforming your life, changing your relationships, giving you wisdom beyond any degree that you’ve ever known, setting your path on an upward trajectory toward heaven, to be Christ-like in your dealings with people in how you speak, how you behave.
You know what full salvation is. Forgiven sin, that’s not the end of the matter. That’s only the commencement of this relationship, an eternal relationship with the Holy God who is there. Oh, what joy fills the soul! What gratitude fills the heart! What worship and praise pour forth! What jubilation, what contentment! That “I am forever God’s, and God is forever mine.” What else can matter? What else matters on earth? Football games? Barbecues? Family squabbles? Politics? An uncertain future and economic uncertainty? Political uncertainty? Does that, does that matter when this has been sorted out for you? That happened to this man.
And now we come to the end of verse 16. “Now he was a Samaritan.” The sense is, as Luke writes it, “Now he, this guy, he was a Samaritan.” I can imagine as Luke writes it, he’s got a smile on his face as he knows Jewish readers are going to be like, “What?!” For the Jewish reader of this gospel, reading in the first century, reading this for the first time, he would not be able to stifle that reaction. This is shocking, and for an unregenerate Jew, this is blasphemous and enraging for him.
But there’s a more pertinent reason for true indignation. Not Jewish prejudice, not historical animosity and hatred between peoples. But there’s a pertinent front-and-center reason for true indignation in what Luke has recorded here. Ten lepers are cleansed; one leper is born again, saved. But in the midst of all of this, don’t forget to notice the great injustice that has just taken place.
We come to verse 17, and we see this strikes a tragic note in the text on our own hearts, those of us who have been born again. When we really think about this and reflect on this, we grieve for the way that our Lord has been ignored, how our Savior has been treated with indifference by the other nine, how he’s been spurned by the majority of those who’ve benefited from his kindness.
Can you imagine standing there to hear Jesus ask, verse 17, almost in a quiet voice, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” Comes across as almost like this heartbroken expression of dismay, puzzlement. First question’s rhetorical, by the way. I mean, Jesus does know that all ten men are cleansed and fully healed. He’s not asking for information. It expects a positive answer that yes, they’re cleansed. He knows all ten of these men, these lepers, are recipients of his Father’s grace at the utterance of his own word, by the effectual power of the Spirit. As soon as it left his mouth, he knew: deed’s done. All ten lepers receive blessing, grace, unmerited favor, kindness, mercy from God, from the triune God.
Next question, though, verse 18. “Was there no one found to return, give praise to God, except this foreigner?” First, it’s “Were not ten cleansed?” and literally in the, in the language, “The nine, where?” And then, “Was no one found to return to give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Notice he’s completely theocentric in his thinking. He’s completely God-focused. He doesn’t say, there’s no thought for himself. He’s not, he’s not, you know, pining for some praise and, from them, like some adulation. “Why, why didn’t everybody come and thank me? You know, I, I’m the one who spoke the words.” His only concern is for his Father’s glory, and it seems, here, to hurt his heart that the kindness of his loving Father has been ignored and spurned by these nine.
The other tragedy besides the offense to God that we feel, that we know our Lord felt, the other tragedy is that these are Jewish lepers. Jewish. Boys who’ve been healed and restored. Jesus has come to be their Messiah, their Savior. “He came into the world and the world did not know him,” John 1. “He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.” They rejected him. His own people. His own people.
These Jews seemed content to take the healing, grab the gift of mercy that they sought, that they asked for, and get back to the priest and get back to the authoritative pronouncement that would come. They would give them a clean bill of health and allow them to reenter the, the life that they had left behind. You know what they want? They want to go back to life as normal.
When the pandemic happened and churches had to be, you know, because everybody was in kind of a bit of a confusion, not knowing what we were dealing with, and churches had to shut down, I heard many people say, and I understand what they’re saying, I’m not condemning them for this, but I heard them say, “I just want to get back to life as normal.”
And I remember saying to myself, “You know what? I don’t want to get back to life as normal. I want to, I want to live forever, the rest of my life, knowing this feeling of being cut off from the church, cut off from the Lord’s table. I, I want that to ache. I don’t ever want to take this for granted ever, ever again.”
These guys, they just want life as normal. They want to go back to the way things were. They want ease and comfort and reentry into society. They want everything to just, to be, be good again. Don’t they know, don’t they know that the grace of God in Christ, that this changes everything? Don’t they know that there’s no life to go back to once you’ve been exposed to the grace of God in Christ? Don’t they know leaving Christ behind is the most foolish thing they could ever, ever do? For the one, life going forward from here on out, it’s about “Christ in me.”
And again, these are Jewish lepers. These are those who should know better than to take God’s grace for granted. They’ve got the historical record. They see the promise in the law of Moses itself as the people are being brought together as one people, as a nation, and all the laws and the promises, the moral, ceremonial, civil aspects of the law, all of them given to them by God, revealed from heaven. They are the most wise nation on the earth just by having the law.
But there are warnings in there, aren’t there? One day you’re going to depart. One day you’re going to disobey. One day you’re going to love stuff more than God. These are Jewish boys. They’ve got all this history. They’ve got the teaching. They know. They know better than to take God’s grace for granted. They know what that’s cost them in their history and their people.
And they kept walking and allowed this Samaritan, this arch-heretic, this no-good foreigner, to take their place in glorifying the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They allowed him to take their place and move in to give thanks to their Jewish Messiah. How utterly unconscionable.
Again, that Samaritan leper, once cleansed, he couldn’t have left his nine companions without some amount of conversation about this, right? I mean, certainly, he would have shared his thoughts with them. Certainly, he would have explained his reasoning, urged them to return with him, tried to persuade them to come join him in praising together their own God. They didn’t come. They didn’t come.
Notice, there was nothing separating these ten lepers. Nothing separated them. They were all a piece, all one, all united, until the grace of God entered in and divided them. Think about it. All ten of these guys had the same, shared the same affliction of leprous disease, physical suffering, dreadful shame. They all experienced the excommunication, barred from their communities, cast out, quarantined, separated from families and friends. They all shared the experience of survival, banding together to make the best of it, get together in this leper colony, share food, gather food, share food, water, all that, to share in the company of, of the rejected. There’s misery, the, you know, misery loves company, so to speak.
And here, once they spot Jesus, they all share in the same elation of hope, the same excitement of anticipation, “that we might be delivered.” They all shared the belief that Jesus is not only able to heal them, but his heart is kind, that he would take pity on them if only they asked. They all shared that in common. All of them lifted their voices together, crying out in unison, this leprous chorus crying out, confessing Jesus by name and acknowledging him as Master and Lord. They all said the same things, made the same confession.
“True disciples forgive, even when they are personally offended, even when repeatedly offended. True disciples forgive.”Travis Allen
And when Jesus commanded them, they all shared one heart of obedience, taking him at his word, going their way to see the priest, trusting his word for the healing. And when the healing happened, all experienced the same cleansing, that outer cleansing of their skin.
And that is where the similarities come to a tragic and ironic end. The nine Jews are ready to finalize their restoration, to make this cleansing official, rejoin the community with their certificate in hand, and get on with their lives.
The one Samaritan saw his cleansing as something completely different. He saw it as a game-changer. He knew what God had just done, and he knew by whom the healing had come. Samaritan knew there is no life to get back to. “I know I need to go see the priest. I’ll get to that.” He didn’t consider, though, the letter of the law is more important than the spirit of the law: to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength.
And it starts now. From this point forward, nothing would ever be the same. He had everything he needed right there at the feet of Jesus Christ, his epistates, his kind Master, his ever-loving Lord. Though this man may have pleaded with his friends, his Jewish friends, to return with him to give thanks to Jesus, they said, “You go your way, foreigner. You go your way, Samaritan, and we’ll go ours.” Hmm, all of a sudden the barriers come up, right? All of a sudden they separated him from them. There’s an “us” and a “them.” They erected the ancient divide. They put those historic barriers to fellowship back in place.
The deepest separation, here, is not Jew and Samaritan. What made the difference between them, what divided them, what separated them from each other, is that Christ had just culled one of his little sheep away from this polluted flock. He just called one true believer from the other nine superficial believers. This one, though, is Samaritan. This one was his true disciple.
I hope that lands on all of our ears today with the weight that we need to see it. There are those who are nominal, there are those who just attend, who just listen, and nothing changes in their life. There are those for whom the preaching of the word and the singing of the songs and the prayers and the fellowship doesn’t make a dent on how they actually live. There’s no trajectory toward Christ-likeness. It’s a flat line, and in some cases, it’s even a dip into greater sin. Beloved, don’t, don’t let this be you. Don’t join the other nine. This one Samaritan, he’s our brother. He’s our brother.
Jesus turns the disciples, verse 18, as if to make this irony plain for them. “How is it that not one Jew could be found to give glory to God and only this foreigner?” That’s not an insult to the foreigner, by the way. It’s just an acknowledgement of the divine judgment that was settling on the Jewish nation. It’s a foreshadowing. It’s pointing to the end of separation, the end of division, the end of a deep hostility between these peoples, between Jews and Samaritans, and also, broadly speaking, between Jews and Gentiles.
Because the word that Jesus used here, translated “foreigner,” it’s the word allogenes. Allogenes. It’s used just once in the New Testament. Here, literally, it means “of a different people group,” “of a different people group.” So he’s, it’s translated “stranger,” “alien,” “foreigner.” It’s a common word in their parlance, but it was also used in the Septuagint.
But most people knew it. It stood out to most Jews because it was inscribed on a stone that stood in a wall at the temple in Jerusalem. The inscription posted on that wall, inscribed in stone, was a warning to any allogenes, to any foreigner, that he should mind himself when he comes near to the temple, and not come into the temple, not cross that wall. This is what the inscription said: “No stranger, no allogenes,is to enter within the balustrade around the temple and enclosure. Whoever is caught will be himself responsible for his ensuing death.” That’s the hostility between Jew and Gentile, between Samaritan and Jew.
That barrier remained in place, physical barrier, after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. The Jews held on to that temple for another forty years, at which time the Romans reduced it to rubble. The authority that was represented by that temple, the culture represented by that temple, the building, the religious credibility that the temple and all of its accoutrements and all of its priests granted and authorized, the history that had guarded the conferring of national and ethnic identity, identity is huge, protection of its community, all that came crashing down when Titus the general, the Roman general, destroyed it in 70 AD, totally reduced to rubble.
Prior to that though, in AD 33, when Jesus died on the cross, something happened there at the cross. It was invisible and imperceptible to any close observer, that this once deeply rooted animosity, thoroughly entangled roots of bitterness, historic roots of offense, a formidable and insurmountable wall of separation, pictured perfectly, by the way, by a mulberry tree, Jesus obliterated that barrier, thus uniting all true disciples in himself.
We read earlier, “He himself is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility,” that’s this wall, “by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, that he might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
What once excluded people like this Samaritan leper, one who received the grace of God, that barrier is broken down and gone forever. Now he’s no longer a foreigner, no longer a stranger. He is a full-fledged citizen of God’s kingdom, and in Christ he is a true child of the great King.
And so verse 19, Jesus turns to this new disciple, a true disciple, “and he said to him, ‘Rise, get up, go on your way. Your faith has made you well.’” “Made well,” that’s an unfortunate translation because it, he says “Your faith has saved you.” Using Paul’s language from Ephesians 2:18, following Jesus, he’s basically looking at this dear man, this recipient of his Father’s amazing grace, and he says to him what he says to each one of us, every single one of us who’s placed our faith in Jesus Christ.
Jesus says to this man, he says to us, he says, “Through me, you have access with all my true people in one Spirit to your new Father. You’re no longer a stranger in, an alien. You’re not an allogenes anymore. You’re now a fellow citizen with me. You’ve got full rights of citizenship with all the saints. There’s nothing that separates you from them and them from you. You’re a member of the household of God.
“It’s no longer about a physical temple, whether in Gerizim or in Jerusalem. As one of my people, you are God’s temple. You’re built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. I myself am the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure being joined together. You’re going to grow into a holy temple in the Lord.”
Isn’t that a wonderful story? That’s our story. That Samaritan, cleansed from his leprosy, saved from his sin, he’s our brother. He’s one of us, and we are one with him. We’re united in Christ with an identity that’s bound up in Christ. Our past is forgiven, our present is all grace, and our future is nothing but bright and glorious in him. Amen? What a great salvation!
Well, just a brief note as the musicians come on up to lead us in a final song. I just want to remark on the providence of God that we get to cover this text at this time, as we think about the conference that we’re about to go into. This is an account that sets the tone for the last leg of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem. But it also sets the tone for us as a church as we prepare to receive guests for “The Science and the Circus” conference, which is just two weekends away.
For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to take a short break from Luke’s gospel, and I want to get into the, the next section we’re going to get into requires a little bit of runway. So I want to do it, its due justice, but we’re going to take a quick break and prepare our hearts with a couple of messages for evangelistic outreach to the spiritual lepers in our own community and the spiritual strangers in our own community, because all of us were once one of them, separated from Christ, alienated from Israel, strangers to the covenant of promise. We had no hope. We had no God in the world. But God showed us grace in Christ by the Spirit, and it was often through the outreach of Christians just like you.
So as we close in prayer, let’s ask God to bless our conference. Let’s ask the Lord Jesus Christ to be leading us in everything that we do, and for every single one of us to have a reminder in our hearts that this is us. We’ve been saved, redeemed, forgiven, and we’re one with all those who are likewise saved, redeemed, or forgiven. Let’s ask God to bless.
Our Father, we thank you so much for what the Lord Jesus Christ has taught us in this text, and we thank you for the opportunities that are coming up in the next few weeks. We know that so much evangelism, outreach has been done from this church, and we just ask for fruit to, to be born unto salvation to your, the praise of your glorious grace, that Christ might be honored and lifted up, and that the Spirit might go in power to save and sanctify.
We long to see the people who come to the conference and those who are going to be affected by the conference content, we long to see them saved. We long to see Christians strengthened, emboldened in their witness of the gospel. This is the message that we share, and we rejoice to share, and we rejoice to belong to one another and to belong to Christ.
We pray for your every blessing on us, and we pray that we would be able to put into practice the things that we’ve learned today, in the days, weeks, and months to come, for your glory, Father, in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, who guides our every step. Amen.