While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”
In this passage we are confronted by two groups of people that are similar in many ways, but different in the most important ones. We are likely first struck by the main difference: that only one of the ten returned to thank Jesus. But the impact of this passage is greater if we first consider the many similarities of the ten lepers.
Each of the ten had the same dire need. The life of a leper was one of a total outcast. Not only were they cut off from friends and family, but they were forbidden from taking part in temple and synagogue life. Other lepers were the only company they could keep as they faced a disease that was a prolonged death sentence. Like these ten, all of us are born into a life of spiritual leprosy. Without the saving grace of God, we are cut off from all good and all fellowship with Him. Just like Jesus healed the ten of their disease, He can restore us to a full life of fellowship.
All ten lepers acknowledged that Jesus was their master. Verse 13 records the voices of all ten saying, “Jesus, master, have mercy on us!” They knew that their only hope of healing was a miraculous act. Everyone in our world recognizes the need for a savior. In our books and movies, even in our politics (where it is perhaps most obviously not going to happen), people want heroes. As quoted in a recent podcast by Albert Mohler, an actor in super hero movies opined, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was somebody who can save us from all this?”
The ten even all obeyed Jesus’ command to show themselves to the priest. Notice that they had not yet been healed, but it was while they were on the way that they received healing. This was a step of faith for each of them. The Levitical law gives detailed instructions for the diagnosing of leprosy. The priest had the power to declare them clean or unclean, and without seeing any change they went to show themselves to him. On their way they all received miraculous healing.
This is where the similarities end and the differences begin.
Only one turned back to thank Jesus, nine did not. Only one glorified God with a loud voice, nine did not. Only one fell at Jesus’ feet, but the other nine did not. And only one came to saving faith.
Unthankfulness is what Jerry Bridges calls a “respectable sin.” It is found throughout our lives but we rarely recognize it, much less feel conviction over it. And yet it is a serious sin. In fact, it is one of the main sins that characterizes the heart of the unbeliever.
We all live in a world filled with good gifts. Even this week we will enjoy the bounty of food and fellowship it has to offer. Saved or lost alike, we can all take part in the sweetness of a pumpkin pie, the savory turkey, and the laughter around the table that accompanies it. Like the healing of all ten lepers, these are gifts given freely to all. But how many will pause to remember the Giver of good gifts? How many others actively reject the God who has already showered such gifts on them?
This Thanksgiving we should pray for hearts that increase in thankfulness. Take time to remember that every good thing comes down from above. And whether with family or friends, remember to glorify God with your voices for all He has done for us.
In Christ Alone,