Were there not ten cleansed?

LUKE 17:11-18 SCC 12/11/11





1. Its time to go 11


††††††††††† First, we learn that Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem. Here Jesus begins his final movement to Jerusalem. This travel note begins to heighten a sense of expectation about what it is that awaits Jesus when he gets there. Luke gives ten travelogues relating to Jesus journey to Jerusalem (Lk 9:51-53; 10:38; 13:22 & 33; 14:25; 17:11; 18:35; 19:1, 11, 28 & 41óhere Jesus finally returns and sees the city and weeps over itís lostness). As Jesus moves closer and closer to his God-ordained appointment, time passes, tension mounts, opposition builds, and confrontation is inevitable.


††††††††††† Second, Jesus was passing between (the borders of) Samaria and Galilee. As Jesus travels toward Jerusalem it is a process that often means he is still not yet getting physically closer to it. Here Jesus begins a loop on the border of Samaria and Galilee that takes more time for ministry amongst the people in this north central region. It is during this loop around several villages that he encounters ten lepers and heals them. The fact that Samaria is mentioned prepares us for the reference to the same in v 16.


2. Ten lepers cry for mercy 12


††††††††††† 12 As Jesus enters one of these unnamed villageís ten lepers intending to speak with him stand at a distance unable to approach due to the nature of the disease. They are unclean and defiled according to the Law (Lev 13:45-46; Num 5:2-3). A leprous person must dwell outside of the campómeaning he has no place amongst the people or their daily lives. He must live alone without his family around him or her. No more business dealings. No more McDonalds. No more campfires with friends. This is why they stood at a distance and could not approach Jesus.


††††††††††† 13 They call to him from a distance by raising their voices to get his attention. There seems to be some type of recognition of Jesus identity since they address him as Jesus, Master. They knew about the name of Jesus form news that had obviously spread throughout the region. Jesus reputation goes ahead of him. What they cry out for is have mercy on us. They are asking Jesus to be gracious and compassionate to their greatest need ever! There could not have been a greater need in their lives. Ostracized from society, business, family, and friends. Social outcasts on top of the physical suffering the disease caused.


††††††††††† The cry for mercy is a frequent one in Jesus ministry (Matt 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:30-31óthe most famous the two blind men; Mark 10:47-48 Bartimaeus; Luke 17:13; 18:38-39ómost famous the ten lepers). Their request is very urgentóas if this may be their only chance and it cannot be missed. The shouting and the call for mercy heighten their helpless state and need for Jesus mercy.


3. Jesus responds by healing them 14


††††††††††† First, in case there was any doubt if Jesus would respond mercifully, he immediately tells the lepers to show themselves to the priests. This is what the Law commanded a leper to do to be ritually cleansed and sanctioned to reenter back into society (Lev 13:19; 14:1-11). What is interesting is Jesus telling them to go to the priest before they are healed rather than waiting until they were healed. Jesus will act on their behalf as they turn to go and present themselves to the priests probably right in the area.


††††††††††† Second, as the lepers leave together they are healed on their way to the priests. It says they were cleansed. The healing is the cleansing of the leprosy from their bodies. Once again Jesus heals from a distance, as he is able to do. Think about the outcome of this healing for these ten lepers. They could resume a normal life! They could pick up their marketplace ventures again. They could enjoy a quarter pounder with cheese, a fish sandwich with extra sauce, and two large sweet teas right next to you. They could enjoy a campfire with several of their buddies in the evening. Deprived of all of this and much, much, more. They have so much for which to be thankful!


††††††††††† NB: God will be merciful to you in the time of your greatest need. You may have one of those now. Cry out to him for mercy. Ask him to be merciful to you. Everyday ask for Godís grace and mercy. Cry. Plead. Beg. Ask. But you have to see yourself as needy and not worthy. God owes you nothing but longs to provide you with what you need and so our God responds with mercy in our greatest of needs! And how should we respond when He so obviously is merciful to us?




1. A grateful response 15-16


††††††††††† When one of the lepers sees his body is cleansed from leprosy, he turns back. The healing is obvious and equally obvious is that God did the healing. He is glorifying God with a loud voice. Physically healed and socially restored he fell at His (Jesus) feet. Once standing at a distance he now approaches right up to Jesus. Here is a bold, joyful, and spontaneous reaction of faith and praise. He is so grateful for what Jesus has done. He credits God for working his mercy through Jesus. And he was a Samaritan. An outsider spiritually as well as physically and socially despised by the Jew shows gratitude. This is not what we would have expected. Attention is focused on this foreignerís response.


2. What happened to the others 17-18


††††††††††† Jesus responds with three rhetorical questions designed to cause us to reflect:

1. Were there not ten cleansed? Yes, there word is the point of the question. Jesus had reached out to all ten of them and each of them had experienced the mercy of God.

2. The NineÖ where? Donít they have anything to be thankful for? Where is their gratitude? This is a form of rebuke for not responding to Godís gracious act on their behalf. They just left.

3. Was not one found who turned back to give glory to God except this foreigner? Yes, just one returned acknowledging the work of God. This question may expose the other nine as Jewish. Jesus expected some concrete response from those who were missing. It is the Samaritan, the foreigner, the outcast, the despised, who has more spiritual sensitivity than the others.


3. Faith and salvation 19


††††††††††† This man not only experienced the grace of God he responded to that grace with gratitude and acknowledgment of God. He also gained a relationship with God the others did not. One can experience Godís grace and mercy in life and not move beyond that toward God at all. Faith however responds to Godís grace and mercy, acknowledges God and Jesus, and gains eternal lifeóthe ultimate expression of a loving, gracious, and merciful God toward those who respond.


1. I need to be thankful for the gracious and merciful work of God in my life.

2. Before I can do that, I must understand that I donít deserve anything and God doesnít owe me.

3. The basis for all that we do in the Christian lifeóit is the grace and mercy of God, granted to those who are unworthy of it, which produces gratitude.