One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:15
At the outskirts of an unnamed village, a miracle that wraps up Jesus’ teaching on Money, Hell, and our role as servants if we follow Jesus.
Here’s the setup: Ten villagers hear of Jesus coming, stand a distance from him, and call out “Master, heal us!”. At the hearing of this cry for help, Jesus commands the lepers to present themselves to the local priest. Perhaps it brings to mind Elisha directing the Syrian general at a distance.
What must not be lost to us is the difficulty of this command. Leprosy is not only a physical ailment, it was also a legal standing: lepers were required by law to keep distant from communities and people. And yet this challenging thing is precisely what Jesus requires of them.
And yet, most surprisingly, they obey. And as they make their way to the temple, they are cured of their leprosy. And yet, of the ten lepers cured, only one returns to thank Jesus. And what would have shocked the original audience, it’s a Samaritan, a people considered rubbish by Jesus’ kin, that returned. Jesus points out that only this ‘foreigner’ has returned to him.
The word translated as ‘foreigner’ is a specific word. It not only designates an ethnic outsider, but to designate those barred from worshipping at the temple.
Thus, this one person
who would never be allowed to worship at the ancient holy place,
overcome with gratitude
Gratitude is crucial. It is to this grateful man that Jesus says, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’ All ten have been physically cured, but only one, having established right relationship with Jesus, is healed. The samaritan’s leprosy is cured, but more importantly, he is now fully reconciled to God.
Now here is the deep truth: it is entirely possible to come to Jesus for help, and to receive what we have asked, and yet fall short of gratitude. Because gratitude is what breaks our hearts in thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for you and for me.
For our healing has been purchased at a price. It’s free to all, but not cheap, as it cost Jesus his life. He gave his life to cleans us from sin, to make us right with God. Like the lepers, it literally heals our very being, and the healing is also a legal one: in Jesus we are able to stand in the presence of God because Jesus has died to cover us in his righteousness. This is the gospel truth.
And it’s entirely possible to dismiss this and make private piety and Sunday worship about something else entirely. We may worship because we did it with our parents, or because we enjoy gathering together, or some other reason that isn't fundamentally about Jesus, so it's important to be clear on this: if it’s not about Jesus, simply lip service, empty symbolism, or practiced piety, but not truly about Jesus, then perhaps you’ve been cured but not healed. Your health, or circumstances have been made better by Jesus but your life isn’t healed and you’re not actually connected with God.
My dear friends, we are all invited by Jesus to evaluate where we are in our faith journey. Some of us are standing at a distance from God, and from that distance, some of us are crying for help. Others have received word from Jesus and been made better on the way.
But how many of us have returned to Jesus in gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise for what he has done on the cross? For it is the cross that has really healed us.
This is the part that really counts. Jesus says, the true way is narrow and few find it.
So don’t sleep on this, but come to Jesus.