Jesus is getting closer to His destination, that is the cross, which has been Jesus’ goal since He came in the flesh, Genesis 3:15. In context between verses 10 and 11, we see that Jesus went to Bethany, Ephraim, Samaria and Galilee, John 11. He’s on His way to Jerusalem, Luke 9:51, Luke 13:22.
The term ‘leprosy’ which includes the words leper, lepers, leprosy, and leprous occurs 68 times in the Bible, 55 times in the Old Testament, ‘tsara’ath’ and 13 times in the New Testament, ‘lepros’, ‘lepra’. In the Old Testament, the instances of leprosy most likely meant a variety of infectious skin diseases, and even mould and mildew on clothing and walls.
In the New Testament, it seems to mean an infectious skin disease. The disease itself was considered by some as some kind of sin but not necessarily a specific sin relating to the leper themselves.
We can’t begin to imagine what life would have been like for a leper as they lived in their own colonies, separated from society. Their food and clothing needs would have been provided by their families and close friends. Living in isolation can never be easy, not being able to shake someone’s hand or hug your husband or wife or even your children. This explains why they stood at ‘a distance’.
Imagine never being able to go to the temple to worship God, imagine not being able to work, imagine the itchiness and daily struggles they would have had! This was through no fault of their own, but because they were lepers they couldn’t associate with society because they were classed as unclean by the law. Leviticus 13:45-46 / Numbers 5:2.
After any leper was cleansed of his disease, the law said they were to present themselves to a priest in order to receive confirmation that he was clean, Leviticus 13:1-6 / Leviticus 13:45-49 / Leviticus 14:1-32 / Luke 5:14. Unlike other miracles of Jesus, they seemed to be healed along the way to the priests.
Interestingly, the text implies that we have ten lepers, nine seem to be Jewish and one a Samaritan but here they are in the same place, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, there’s no hatred of the different races here, they are all helpless and in a hopeless situation, they all called out for pit and they all received it.
I wonder if they would have associated with one another after their healing? Or would it be life back to normal?
It’s also interesting that only one of them praised God and even more interesting that he happened to be a Samaritan man, Luke 5:25 / Luke 18:43. It’s interesting because he was the one that the Jewish society as a whole would have rejected, whether he was clean or not but because Jesus showed him mercy, he was filled with thanksgiving, which is something we all must do, Acts 13:46-48 / 1 Corinthians 15:10 / 2 Corinthians 4:15.
Not only did he praise God, but he also praised God ‘loudly’, we can only imagine the joy in his voice as he shouts ‘thank you, God’.
Imagine how their lives would have been changed after their healing, imagine them hugging their wife or husband and children for the first time in whatever amount of time they’ve had this disease. Imagine being able to go to the priests to show themselves and to be able to socialise again and worship God in the temple again, get a mainstream job and walk through the market places in Jerusalem. This healing was life-changing on all kinds of levels, physically, socially, mentally, and spiritually.
I believe there may have been a tone of sadness in Jesus’ voice when He asked this question and it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t ask this question because He didn’t know the answer, He asked the question to get everyone to think about their thanksgiving to God when they are shown mercy. This one grateful leper shows the contrast between him and the other nine lepers.
We don’t really know why the other nine didn’t return to Jesus, but I like what Coffman says concerning this question.
One waited to see if the cure was real.
One waited to see if it would last.
One said he would see Jesus later.
One decided that he had never had leprosy.
One said he would have gotten well anyway.
One gave the glory to the priests.
One said, Oh well, Jesus didn’t really DO anything.
One said, just any rabbi could have done it.
One said, I was already much improved.
We will never know why the nine didn’t return but what we do see is that people can be healed physically but remain sick spiritually. The Samaritan was healed both physically and spiritually, hence Jesus tells him his faith has healed him, remembering that his faith alone didn’t heal him, he had to trust in the Great Physician, Jesus to do the healing.
We have so much to be grateful for but there are times we simply forget to thank Him for what He has done and continues to do in our lives because of the busyness of our lives these days. But the busyness of life is really just an excuse. We must take time to thank Him and show our appreciation for everything He does in our lives.