10 Healed=1 Thankful?
Bible Background: Luke may have been a physician, and he tells more healing stories (and uses more medical terms) than the other 3 gospels. Leprosy might have been any number of skin diseases, made worse by the determination that you were “unclean” ritually, and therefore unable to participate in community/synagogue life. Lepers were some of the outcasts of their day.
Digging Deeper: 1. Location is important in this story. Where is Jesus? He’s going through the region between Samaria (place Jews would tend to avoid), and Galilee (Jesus’ and disciples’ home turf), on his way to Jerusalem (and the cross!) So things are getting pretty serious-and more tense-in this part of Luke’s gospel.
2. In a village, 10 lepers call out to him “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He “sees” them. There’s no mention of him touching them (many of Jesus’ healings involved touch!). He tells them to go show themselves to the priests. The priests functioned as the public health officials. They determined if someone was well enough to participate in the community again!
3. Luke tells that “as they want on their way, they were made clean!” Wow! As they followed Jesus’ instructions, healing happened! All of them must have realized that they were healed! What should they do? Keep going to the priests? To confirm their status as ‘healed’? Go back and thank Jesus? For whatever reason 9 keep going, 1 turns back. He praises God with a loud voice. He lays flat on the ground at Jesus’ feet (an act of worship!), and he thanks Jesus!
4. That’s when we learn that this guy is a Samaritan, the ‘unlikely’ good guy, just like in the story of Luke 10, of the Good Samaritan! So, the one you’d maybe least expect to thank and praise God-is the one who does! But, there could be a little more complex detail at work here: If he’s a Samaritan, he’s not welcome to go to the Jewish priests! He doesn’t belong? But, he can go to Jesus and thank him! Makes you wonder what he told friends when he went back home! Makes you wonder what they thought, assuming he told them about Jesus!
5. So, is this about ‘thankfulness?’ Is it about Jesus-daring to notice and help outcasts? Does it have anything to do with daring to be in a ‘border’ area? A place where a lot of different needs and opportunities exist? A place where we might be surprised by the kinds of persons we meet there? Give thanks for this story! And for the example of gratitude and worship coming from an unexpected source!