10 November 2010

Luke 17:11-19

"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?" (v.17-18)


This story of the healing of the ten lepers is in some ways very straightforward and speaks for itself. But on the other hand, it isn't ... 

As Jesus was travelling on the border between Galilee and Samaria he was met by a group of ten people who were made outcasts from their communities because of their leprosy.

The lepers were directed by Jesus to go to Jerusalem and show themselves to a priest. Under Jewish Law, it was only priests who had the authority to certify they had been made well, which they were as they made the journey.

In verses 17 and 18 Jesus questions why only one of them comes back to give thanks after he is healed. Why was it that the Samaritan - the foreigner from the despised northern territory of Samaria - was the one to return to Jesus in order to express his thanks to God?

We are told that all ten were cured, so why was it said of one only that his faith had saved him? Being cured of leprosy came from God through Jesus, and gratitude demanded that the agent as well as the source of the healing be acknowledged. God was acting through Jesus, and through him God must be thanked.

For the Gospel-writer Luke, the most important part of the story was that the Samaritan, by his gratitude, showed up his fellow-sufferers from the south who considered themselves to be true Jews (although the Samaritans did follow the Jewish Law) and, by his 'otherness', gave an introduction to the opening up of the kingdom to the Gentiles (non-Jews).

To Ponder

What does 'healing' mean to you?

Are you full of gratitude to God? How can you show it to God today?

Bible notes author

The Revd Richard Teal

Richard Teal is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Cumbria Methodist District. He has a deep interest in ecumenical relationships, Church growth and liturgy.