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Luke 17:11-19

Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.  And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,  and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?   Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

And so we come to an event in Jesus’ ministry as He is on His way to Jerusalem.  Luke mentions, in passing that Jesus is passing between Galilee and Samaria.

Samaria was considered an unclean region for Jews.  They viewed the Samaritans as dogs, as unclean people.  The Samaritans were related to the Jews as the Northern Kingdom of Israel had existed there.  But the Northern Kingdom had passed away centuries before due to the idolatry of that nation.  The Samaritans had intermarried with the pagan nations and had only retained a perverted form of the religion of the Scriptures.  They worshipped in the high places in the North and not in Jerusalem as commanded nor did they offer sacrifices in Jerusalem.  And so, many Jews would walk completely around Samaria if they ever had to venture outside of Judea.  They would rather go days out of their way by foot then even touch the unclean soil of Samaria.

And so it is in passing that Luke mentions that Christ is passing near that region on His way to Jerusalem.

As Christ is entering a village He encounters ten lepers who stood afar off.

Why did they stand afar off? Why did Luke mention that Christ encountered them outside of the town? Let us turn to Leviticus Chapter 13.

I will not read the entirety of Leviticus 13 but it gives several different examples and rules for the Priests to use to determine whether not a person has leprosy. Leprosy is a term to refer to different types of skin diseases, the worst of which would cause hands, legs, nose, and other body parts to wither as the person became increasingly disfigured until they eventually died a horrific death. Whether a milder form of the disease, Leviticus 13 gives many examples of how to diagnose and the end result is the same in all cases for the leper. Let me read for you the concluding verses in Leviticus 13:45-46
Lev 13:45-46

Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry,’Unclean! Unclean!’  He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

Have any of you ever had friends who have found a spot on the skin and gone to the doctor who grows concerned about it?  The person has to come back after a number of days to have a biopsy performed on the spot and even wait further as lab results reveal whether or not that person has cancer.  What concern we all have for the person as we wonder:  “Does my dear friend have cancer.”  What prayers might we lift up for that person as they undergo treatment and receive the blessings of modern medicine.  We may even embrace that friend and let them cry on our shoulder as they express their fear that the cancer might spread.

Beloved, a leprous man could only be so lucky to merely get a diagnosis of cancer.  Consider Levticus 5:2-5

“…if a person touches any unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean beast, or the carcass of unclean livestock, or the carcass of unclean creeping things, and he is unaware of it, he also shall be unclean and guilty.  Or if he touches human uncleanness — whatever uncleanness with which a man may be defiled, and he is unaware of it — when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty.
‘Or if a person swears, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatever it is that a man may pronounce by an oath, and he is unaware of it — when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty in any of these matters.
‘And it shall be, when he is guilty in any of these matters, that he shall confess that he has sinned in that thing;”

Do you understand the implications for leprosy?  A leper was considered human uncleanness.  You could not hug a leper who received a diagnosis from the priest.  You could not even touch him or her.  That was a sin.  If you did so, even by accident, you had to confess your sin and offer a sacrifice at the Temple.  I don’t mean to state the obvious here but lepers were human beings too.  They had mothers and fathers, they had wives and children at one point.  Then one morning they wake up and find a spot on their skin.  They try washing it but, over days and weeks the spot doesn’t seem to go away.  What fear they must have experienced as they walked to the priest.  Can you even imagine the horrible words of the priest as he says to a man or a woman:  YOU HAVE LEPROSY.  YOU ARE UNCLEAN.

Oh the horror of it.  I cannot weep with my wife.  I cannot hold my children.  I cannot embrace a friend and cry on his shoulder.  Even worse, according to the Law he must stay outside of town and every time a person comes near him he must yell out “Unclean!”  I cannot even imagine such a horrible condition.

And so it is with people in misery that the unclean gather together as lepers would into colonies and Christ meets ten of them on His way to Jerusalem.  We understand all the more now why in Luke 17:12, why the lepers are afar off.  We should also appreciate why in verse 13 there is anguish in their voice as they cry:  “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”

And Christ, the one who came to give Mercy, told them to present themselves to the priest.  A very strange command is it not?  Not so strange and I again commend to you the Study of God’s Word.  You see in Leviticus 14, it gives the instructions for the cleansing of healed lepers.  The ceremony is very elaborate and requires the sacrifice of doves and washings and, after a week, the leper may be pronounced clean by the Priest and rejoin his family.  This was unfortunately, very rare, and the OT only records a couple of miraculous healings of leprosy in the Old Testament.

So the lepers are obeying this command and, on their way, shortly after leaving, they realize they are cleansed.  Perhaps some of them had withered hands restored.  Christ’s healing was always so powerful in Scriptures that people knew, without a doubt, they had been healed.

What joy!  What a blessing!  I am cleansed!  Years of pain.  Years of private suffering.  Years of reproach calling out to passersby:  “Unclean!”  No more pain of seeing little children run from you afraid.  I will see my family again!  I’ll embrace my wife.  I will hold my child!

And so, as dutiful Jews, 9 of the 10 continue on their way to the Priest to obey the requirements of the Law and be pronounced clean.   But they don’t all continue on their way.

No.  One man,  A SAMARITAN, returns in a loud voice, glorifying God.  Not only that, He falls down at Jesus’ feet in worship of Him, thanking Him for healing Him.  He thanks Him for delivering Him from His leprosy.

But we have a problem here don’t we?  The problem is that this man has not undergone the cleansing rite specified by the Law.  Leviticus 14:9 makes it very clear that one must undergo the full ritual cleansing, wait a week, shave off all their hair all over their body and then they will be pronounced clean by the priest.  This man has not been pronounced clean and so, according to the Law, he is very much UNCLEAN.  Add to that, he is a Samaritan, a dog, a person from an unclean land.


Beloved, this is powerful stuff.  You see, a normal Jew could not touch an unclean thing and remain undefiled.  A normal person became unclean and had to undergo cleansing and repent of sin when they touched unclean things.  Unclean things made the ceremonially “clean” people unclean.  That’s the way of the Law.

But not Christ.  This is the power of the Messiah.  This is the power of the Son of God.  Christ was the truly CLEAN one.  He was the only Clean One in fact.  When Christ came forward and reached out His hand to touch the unclean thing, that thing did not have the POWER to corrupt the Son of God.  No.  Christ made that which was unclean, CLEAN.  He touched unclean dead bodies and they rose from the grave.  He touched women with discharges and they were cleansed.  All through the Gospels we see Light dispelling the darkness.  We see Christ, the clean one, the whole one, making that which was broken, that which was unclean, restored.

Christ looks down with compassion on this Samaritan man at His feet and receives the worship that is due Him for Christ is the Son of God.  Angels refused worship as being only worthy of God.  Christ receives the Worship from this man whom He has restored and then He marvels:

Luke 17:17-19
So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

What do you mean Jesus?  The nine are on their way to the Temple.  That’s what the LAW requires.  That’s what a Pharisee would have said.

Jesus remarks that only the foreigner, the only one who wasn’t a Jew, was the one who came back to Worship God.  The other’s missed the whole point.

You see beloved, Christ did not come to be a magic worker.  He didn’t just beam out powers to show off and to merely cure disease.  Sure Lazarus rose from the dead but, years later, he did die and they had a funeral all over for him.  Sure, it’s great that these men were free of their physical affliction here on this Earth but they too are now dead.

Ten Lepers had heard about Jesus and ran into Him that day.  They must have heard that He healed people.  Ten lepers called out to Jesus that day.  Ten lepers went on their way in obedience to His command.  Only one returned and worshipped God.  The other nine were healed in their body but missed the whole point of their healing.  Their healing attested to the Son of God.  Their healing attested to His authority over the Law itself.  In obeying the letter of the Law they missed the Spirit of the Law.

And so it was that Jesus said to the Samaritan:  “Your faith has made you well.”  All of the lepers had received healing but only one returned to express His faith in the Son of God.  Only one of them understood that the most important healing of all was the healing that Christ was to provide to reconcile mankind back to a Holy God.  And so Christ sent a true Worshipper of God on His way.  A man saved by faith in the Son of God.

Leprosy is a great picture of our fallen spiritual condition.  We were all once enemies of God.  We were the unclean ones.  Our first parents were born clean and then rebelled against the Lord of the Universe.  All of their descendants, including us, have been born unclean spiritual lepers.  Our souls are spiritually dark and decaying.  As the Pharisees were, we often look really good on the outside, but the inside is a cesspool of filth and sin.  As Romans 1:29-32 so accurately expresses about mankind:

Rom 1:29-32
…being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

And so at one time, in God’s presence, we were forced to draw our hands to our mouths and shout “UNCLEAN!”  And God had every right to leave us to die in the horrible state of sin.  It is we who had sinned against Him and not He against us.

But God is rich in Mercy.  God is rich in compassion.  He sent Christ to live for us in complete obedience and He sent Christ to die for us so that our sin, our filth, might be washed away.

And so, Christ is being proclaimed to you this day.  If you have never heard the call for the healing of your souls and you yet remain defiled in your sins then Christ is being lifted up before you in your midst.  Do you see the filth of your sin?  Do you smell the stench of a life that is causing your very soul to rot from the inside out?  Christ is before you.


He will cleanse you from your sins so that you may fall at His feet and worship Him.