Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
Luke is the only gospel writer who recorded the familiar story about the ten lepers who Jesus healed and only one returned to thank Him. This account found in Luke 17:11-19 would interest Luke more than the other three gospel writers because Luke was a physician.
The story is often preached in churches and taught in Sunday school classes around the Thanksgiving holiday with a focus on giving thanks. Most of the time, the story is taught only on the surface. When the layers are peeled back, people will see there is more to the story than ten lepers being healed, and only one leper returning to thank Jesus for healing him.
There are reasons that the one returned, and there are reasons the nine did not return. Let's discuss those reasons.
A big clue to understanding the passage is to pay attention to the fact that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when He passed along the border between Samaria and Galilee. The ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance because they were social outcasts. They called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
The group knew Jesus could heal them. Jesus did not touch them or speak a word over them. Instead, He said, "Go show yourselves to the priest." Keep this command in mind as we continue through the story.
"Go Show Yourself to the Priest"
Showing the priest that they had been healed was according to the Law of Moses found in Leviticus 13 and 14 that clearly states that the priest must validate that a person has been cured of the dreadful disease. If Jesus hadn’t sent the lepers to the priest, no one would have believed the miracle had really taken place. The nine lepers knew that and were obligated to obey. When they saw that they had been healed along the way, they kept going to show themselves to the priest like Jesus told them to do,
When the only Samaritan leper in the group saw that he was healed, he returned to Jesus to thank Him because he knew nothing about the Law of Moses. The Samaritan returned to the Healer rather than trying to keep a law he knew nothing about.
"He Was a Samaritan"
Verses 15 and 16 explain exactly why the one leper returned to thank Jesus instead of continuing along the way to the priest.
"One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan."
Luke made sure readers knew that the one leper who returned was a Samaritan and not a Jew. That is a very important part of the story that many people overlook.
The only Samaritan in the group didn't know the Jewish law so he wasn't obligated to go to the priest. When he saw he was healed, he made a major decision. He could have kept going along with the others to see the priest whom he didn't know, or he could return to Jesus who had just healed him. The Samaritan leper chose to change his direction and return to Jesus to thank Him for the grace and mercy Jesus bestowed upon him.
An Additional Blessing
When the Samaritan leper returned, he received an additional blessing. After he thanked Jesus for his healing, Jesus did something for him that he didn't do for the others. In addition to the healing from his leprosy, Jesus blessed the foreigner, according to Luke 17:19.
Had the leper kept going along with the others, he would have missed out on the additional blessing.
We know what happened to the Samaritan leper after he was healed, but there is no word in the Bible about what happened to the nine Jewish lepers. What we do know is that showing themselves to the priest was not a brief encounter. The inspection was a process that took a long time for each one of the nine who no longer was a leper.
The obvious life application from this story is to always thank God for your healing even if you have to change your direction to do so. It also shows that when it comes to thanking and praising God, it is acceptable to leave the group to do so. Sometimes we have to do what we know to do even if we have to do it alone.
Jesus told the lepers to show themselves to the priest even before they saw they had been healed. In other words, we must believe the manifestation of something before it actually happens.
Like the Samaritan leper, return to your healer with a grateful heart. The healing was significant enough. However, when you thank God for one thing, there is more in store for you. In other words, you put yourself in the position to have even more to thank God for. The leper who went back received more.
Jesus is no respecter of persons. He did not discriminate between the nine Jewish lepers and one Samaritan leper. He healed all of them without making an exception.
This story is usually preached around the Thanksgiving holiday. However, it should not be limited to just that time of the year.
Leeann Springer on March 03, 2020:
Also, like today, some take their blessings for granted. They feel no sense of thankfulness. Gratitude comes from the heart. Also, we should all thank God from whom all blessings flow. Thank you for such a great forum.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on September 14, 2019:
Cheryl, I love reading and studying the Bible. When I discover some powerful nuggets, I want to share with those who are teachable. There are lots of gems in the Bible. Unfortunately, many of them are overlooked because the scriptures are only read on the surface without people digging into the background of the context.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on September 14, 2019:
I love this. More people should read it.
Margaret Minnicks (author) from Richmond, VA on September 12, 2019:
Lorna, I am glad my article brought back memories for you from your Sunday School days. Thanks for reading and commenting.
RTalloni, I get excited whenever I see your name at the bottom of my article because I know your comment will be helpful. You never disappoint. Thank you!
RTalloni on September 12, 2019:
Thanks for this look at Jesus work in healing these lepers. Indeed, there are many levels and applications for us to learn from the event. Your comments on Jesus' healing of this group reminds me of the hymn, When This Passing World Is Done, https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/545 . We certainly should not limit our study of it to the Thanksgiving season. So appreciate that you brought out the point that Jesus was not a respecter of persons.
Lorna Lamon on September 12, 2019:
I have fond memories of this story from my Sunday School days. It was so beneficial to go back and look at it through different eyes, with a greater understanding of the meaning, yet still retain the fond memories.Thank you Margaret.