Luke 17: Saying 'Thank You' to the Healer
In the middle of lots of disturbing parables in this latter half of Luke comes a parable-like true story of Jesus on the way to Jerusalem.
Passing through the region between Samaria and Galilee, Jesus entered a village and was approached by ten lepers.
I went to a hospital for lepers one time in Uganda and saw and touched people who were lepers. One thing I think I understand about leprosy is that it causes your skin to lose sensation. Often leprosy looks like fingers and toes have been eaten away but often it comes because you can easily then get burned, a rat can gnaw on your foot at night and chew a toe off and you’d never know it.
Ten deformed, suffering, ostracized people came to Jesus that day. As they’d been often instructed, likely not so kindly, they were to keep their distance from people. They shouted from a distance, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
Jesus simply said, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” They went and they were healed. The priest served a role of doctor in relation to the community and the need to quarantine or separate people contaminated from diseases. A priest could declare you clean or unclean, and if unclean you would be isolated from the community. When the priest declared you clean, you were also returned to your community, social life, friends, and family. What Jesus did was not simply to heal physically. He was returning ten people from exile, loneliness, isolation, back to friends and family.
As they went, they were made clean. We don’t know if he went on to the priest or not, but one of the lepers turned around and praised God with a loud voice. He fell down at Jesus’s feet with his face to the ground and thanked Jesus.
About a half dozen times Luke makes points about how Jesus cares for, praises, and associates with Samaritans. Here Luke points out that this one of ten who comes back to thank Jesus is a Samaritan. The story is not simply about being grateful or saying “thank you” but also about the irony of how Samaritans receive Jesus with thanks when they were looked down upon by Jews. This is a pretty strong theme of the story, because Luke ends emphasizing this again in the words of Jesus to no one in particular.
“Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Then he said directly to the Samaritan former leper, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
There’s so much in this parable we can discuss. Notice the themes of a foreigner worshiping Jesus and thanking him while others, and we don’t know where they are from, do not come back to thank Jesus. Jesus is amazed, and we need to pay attention to things that amaze Jesus. There are themes of sickness, isolation, mercy, healing, clean and unclean, praise, and thanksgiving.
I read this chapter Wednesday, February 27, 2019 with a friend in the neighborhood who does some street preaching. As two stubborn men discussing some things in our neighborhood over the past year, we have had some strong arguments. Since then, we have confessed our pride and arrogance and decided to not argue and to encourage one another in our work of preaching in East Tulsa. So we sat together and read this chapter and tried not to add commentary.
Though some things in scripture may perplex us, we could without comment take the words of Jesus to heart or not: “Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And earlier in the chapter we were challenged with strong words not to cause other people to stumble. Misdirecting people and causing them to stumble instead of pointing people to Jesus is worse than having a huge millstone tied to your neck and getting thrown in the sea.
We learned that day that we don’t need a lot of discussion to take the words to heart. Further, when my friend tried as he often does to talk about politics, to promote something the current president is doing or saying, I
Greg Taylor, M.Div.
Greg Taylor is the preacher for The Journey. He holds degrees in Print Journalism from Harding University and a Master of Divinity from Harding School of Theology. Greg is working on his Doctor of Ministry at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where The Journey is located. Greg is married to Jill, who is a math teacher at Broken Arrow High School. They have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob, and of course they are very proud of each of what God has done in each one of their lives. Greg is author of several books you can order from your favorite bookseller.