How often have we done something nice for someone, only to have that person neglect to say “Thank you”? We encounter this exact situation in Luke 17:11-19. A group of 10 men, all afflicted with the terrible disease of leprosy, are standing together at a distance from the road, waiting to see Jesus and His disciples.
It is important at this point in the story to explain two things. First, the Bible compares sin to leprosy. Both start small and eventually consume the person. Both often result in heartbreaking separation from those dearest to their victims. Sin leads to alcoholism, infidelity, greed, and abuse, all of which have terrible impacts on families. Likewise, lepers were segregated from society and kept at a distance, so they wouldn’t infect the rest of the community.
Second, these men were Samaritans, a group of people that were considered second class. Most Jews would go out of their way to avoid Samaria on their way to Jerusalem. But Jesus, though an honorable Jew, made it a point to walk through Samaria on His way to Jerusalem. Since Jesus never did anything by accident, rest assured that He walked that road expressly to interact with these 10 men. They saw Jesus and called out to him, begging for mercy. It’s great to see people conscious of their enormous need reaching out to the only One Who can help them.
The law of the day required that when lepers felt they were healed, they had to see the priest for inspection and approval before they could rejoin their family. In telling them to go see the priest, the Lord was saying, “You are healed.” They clearly understood this, and set off immediately to see the priest.
What a tremendous thing Christ did in answering their plea. They asked the Son of God for mercy and He gave it without reservation, yet how ungrateful they were. Of the 10, only one had a truly thankful heart, and he alone returned to Jesus, worshiping and giving thanks. The one that returned was not merely healed of his physical disease, but his heart was touched as he understood Who Jesus was. Thus, two miracles happened to him – physical healing from his leprosy, and eternal life through faith in the Savior.
God is in the business of saving souls for eternity. He wants everyone to love His Son, Jesus Christ, and He desires all to receive salvation by trusting His Son. Soon after this story, Jesus would die on a cross, paying for your sins and mine. If we truly understand this and put our faith in Him, then our response will be one of gratitude, like the one leper and not the other nine. “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (2Cor 9:15).