One man, a leper, interrupted Jesus on the road, and Jesus returned him to his relationships (Luke 5:12-14, etc.). We saw that story last week. This week, we look at ten other nameless men with leprosy who approached Jesus in a different way, but only one of them chose to say “thank you.”
Jesus was already on his way to Jerusalem for the last time (Luke 13:22, On the Way to The Cross series), walking southeast, along the border between Galilee to the north, Samaria to the south, and heading toward the Jordan River valley. He stopped in some little village, which also remains nameless, along with the ten outcasts on its edge. The place isn’t important. The men’s names aren’t important. What matters? Jesus and His power.
#SocialDistancing, 1st-Century Style
Like the many other societal “rejects” we’ve studied, these ten men just outside the village entrance were well aware of their position and their obligation to call out “unclean” any time they came near someone. (Recall the woman with the issue of blood [link]—also nameless!—in Luke 8:40-48.) Every waking moment reminded them of their shame, and every moment trying to sleep probably reminded them of their pain.
Social distancing was a fact of life for them. That’s why Luke tells us,
They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice… –Luke 17:13a
If you’re anything like me here in Spring 2020, you can identify with these ten men now better than ever. I try to stay at least six feet away, and because I’m wearing a mask, I have to speak louder and more distinctly to be understood. I try to smile with my eyes and work past the strain of just being in public to express my gratitude for the man behind the counter or the nurse at the doctor’s office. These men had to stay even further away and avoid public places every day of their lives. And no mask made it alright.
Like I appreciate those who make an effort to socially distance from me at Trader Joe’s, I think Jesus appreciated the intentionality of their distance. At the same time, however, He probably didn’t care because physical/medical cleanliness didn’t concern Him (e.g. touching a leper on the road or a dead body outside Nain).
Parallel With Simon Peter
What did the ten men say to Jesus?
“Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” –Luke 17:13b
The one man we studied last week called Jesus “Lord,” like Simon Peter after Jesus supplied a large catch of fish (Luke 5:8). These ten called Jesus “Master,” which is what Simon Peter called Jesus just before the same catch of fish:
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” –Luke 5:5
“Master” (respect)…obedience…miracle…”Lord” (reverence). That’s the sequence.
Back with our ten leprous men…
Jesus didn’t even ask them to come closer. He didn’t do anything, actually, except tell them to go show their skin to the priest on dermatology duty.
As we noted last week, there were many rules about “a defiling skin disease,” and some of the symptoms required repeated trips to the priests while others were immediately and permanently unclean (Leviticus 13-14). With all those rules regarding any change in the skin, don’t you think some of these guys had visited the priest the day before or two days before? Don’t you think there was something in their minds like Peter with the nets? Maybe, “Well, I was there last week, but since you say to go, I guess I’ll go.”
This is a key moment, and one that shows up over and over in the miracle stories (e.g. The Blind Man’s Been Bluffed, John 9). Jesus responded to their request with the power to heal them, but the fact of their healing was up to them. Peter had to throw the nets back into the water. Would these men obey Jesus before they saw evidence of His power? Would they heed Him even though commonsense told them it was pointless?
Like Peter, they respected Jesus before He did anything, but they had to obey before they saw the miracle. In the act of walking toward the priest—an expression of their faith in Jesus’ power—they found the miracle. If any one of them had remained standing in that spot beside the road, I’m confident that one would have remained leprous.
And as they went, they were cleansed. –Luke 17:14
What does this mean for our own salvation? Our own deliverance? I’m still working through these questions.
The One Who Returned
Seems like we should be at the end of the story, but we’re not. Luke gives us a little more.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. –Luke 17:15-16
Three simple points here:
- Again, we see the pattern Simon Peter established:
And, like the one man in the road last week, this man’s posture reflects the servant-like position of one who recognized Jesus’ authority.
- The best response to deliverance is immediate and loud gratitude.
- Thankfulness and praise aren’t the property of the religious elite. This Samaritan wasn’t even qualified to enter the temple (See Context and Consequences [link]), yet Jesus received his worship.
And one difficult question: Was this Samaritan the only one of the ten who was saved? We don’t know. All obeyed. All experienced Jesus’ power. All were healed. But only to this one does Jesus say, “Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19). I like to give you answers, but on this occasion, we must learn to be okay with not knowing.
At least one #nameless leper learned obedience and praise are part of the package, even in times of social distancing. Because my #deliverance is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks.Tweet
Has Jesus delivered you from something large or small? Maybe it’s just un unkind attitude in the midst of the pandemic. Maybe it’s something much bigger. Was there an aspect of obedience on your part first? Don’t be “one of the other nine” (Luke 17:17) who didn’t return to praise Him! Either in the comments here or elsewhere, respond with (virtually) loud gratitude by sharing your story. To God be the glory!