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“And it came to pass, as He went to Jerusalem, that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered into a certain village, there met Him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And He said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole”—Luke 17:11-19.
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This is one of the incidents of our Lord’s life recorded only in this Gospel. There are quite a few parables which Luke alone gives us, and there are several of His miracles of which no other Evangelist tells us. This is an outstanding instance. Jesus had left the upper parts of Galilee and was now on His way to Jerusalem for the last time. On two other occasions He had gone there to keep the feast of the Passover, and on one occasion to keep a winter feast. Soon He was to partake of the Passover with His disciples for the last time, and then to die as the One of whom every Passover lamb was but a type. He started out from the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, passing through the province of Galilee into Samaria, and thence over the Jordan and down through Perea until He came to the Jordan ford, opposite the city of Jericho, and so on to Jerusalem.
“And He entered into a certain village.” We do not know its name but it was evidently near the border of Galilee and Samaria. As He drew near the village, “There met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off.” In keeping with the law of Moses when a man was found to be a leper he had to leave his home and friends and dwell apart from them in the wilderness. When anyone came near him he had to cry, “Unclean! unclean!” There is a previous instance of a leper who came to the feet of our Lord and besought Him to heal him, and the Lord touched him and the leper was cleansed immediately. But these ten, having respect to the law, felt that they did not dare draw near; so they stood afar off and cried, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” That reminds me of a certain class of sinners—men who feel their sins so keenly that they do not have the assurance that they are free to draw near to Christ. But the fact is, Christ invites sinners of every kind to draw near to Him. He has ever a welcome for them, no matter how defiled they may be. But these men were under the law and acted in accordance with it when they called to Him from a distance. They were tremendously in earnest. The great trouble with many today is that while they acknowledge their need of a Saviour and admit they are sinners, yet actually they are not in earnest about finding salvation. If you speak to them and press upon them the importance of coming to Christ, they say, “I know I should be a Christian, and some day I intend to trust Christ.” But they do not come to the point of settling the matter now. Hell is filled with people who expected to come some day to Jesus for salvation. I do not suppose there is a lost soul in the pit below who ever intended to be there; everyone thought that some time things would be changed, and they would feel more like closing with the gospel invitation. They hoped, like Felix, for a more convenient day. But a more convenient season never came, and they, unsaved, unforgiven, uncleansed, passed out of time into eternity. Oh, if you are still out of Christ, I plead that, like these ten unclean lepers, you will be in earnest about the question of your deliverance. The lepers were so anxious to be healed, so desirous to be cleansed, that though they did not feel they dared to come near to Jesus, they lifted up their voices and cried from afar, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” No one ever cried to Him like that to be refused; no one ever came to Him for salvation to be turned down. You need not be afraid to come. It is written (Romans 10:13), “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
“And when He saw them, He said unto them, Go show yourselves unto the priests.” Now I fancy that was a disappointment to these men. They had heard that the Lord Jesus healed immediately other people of all kinds of diseases. He had cleansed many lepers by a word or a touch. He had said to one, “I will; be thou clean,” and the leper was cleansed. But the Lord does not deal with everyone in the same way. In response to the plea of these lepers He tells them to go show themselves to the priest. In the book of Leviticus (Chapter 14) we read that when a man was healed of leprosy he was to go and show himself to the priest, and then the priest was to offer certain sacrifices for him in order that he might be officially cleansed and restored to his place in the congregation of the Lord. So the Saviour said to these men, “Go show yourselves unto the priests,” implying that ere they reached the priest they would be cleansed. There would be no use to show themselves to the priest if they were still leprous, for in that condition there was nothing he could do for them. Possibly everyone of them, with the exception of the Samaritan, had been to the priest long ago, and he had proclaimed them lepers and told them they would have to live apart in a desert place. They might have hesitated and said, “Well, Master, look at these hands; look at these blotches upon our faces; we are covered with leprosy. Why should we go to the priest?” But they did not hesitate. They knew what His words implied: they would be cleansed. And so they turned to go as He had commanded. They were acting in obedience to the Word of our Lord, and cleansing came. It is just as true today when men and women act upon the Word, our Lord delivers them. I think I can see these men as they went along the road trying to cheer one another as best they could. Their faces must have been horrible to look upon, their bodies in a terrible state; but on they go to Jerusalem. Suddenly one of the men turns to another and says, “Oh, you are healed!” The other exclaims, “I thought I felt some change taking place. Have all those blotches disappeared from my face? Why, you have none on your face!” All begin to look at each other and find that each of them has been healed, and they recognize that the healing had been wrought by the Lord. How they must have rejoiced!
Jesus had said, “Go show yourselves unto the priests.” Why did He want them to do this? Because it would be a testimony to the priests. For fifteen hundred years after the law was written we never read of one solitary Israelite who had been cleansed. Miriam, Moses’ sister who became leprous, was healed; and many years later Naaman the Syrian also was healed, but he was not an Israelite, and naturally he was not required to obey the law about going to the priests. Otherwise we never read in all the Old Testament records of one leper being cleansed during fifteen hundred years, and the priests must have wondered why that fourteenth chapter of Leviticus was in the Bible. They would naturally say, “I have read that chapter over and over but have never had to apply it.” But when Jesus came things were different. One leper after another was sent to the temple at Jerusalem to be pronounced clean, and when he appeared before the priests he was found to be healed of his leprosy. What a witness this was to those priests in Israel. They saw so many testimonies to the power of the Lord Jesus Christ that it ought to have been easy for them to believe that He was the Son of God. So in keeping with the law these lepers journeyed on toward the temple.
But there was something even higher than that. We find that one of the lepers, who was a Samaritan, when he saw that he was healed of this awful disease, and the terrible ulcers were gone from his flesh, turned about and hastened to the feet of Jesus. He felt there was no use for him to go on to the priests. He went back to the One who healed him, “and with a loud voice glorified God and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks.” At whose feet? Notice what it says: “With a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet.” When you have a pronoun like that you must have a noun as a precedent of it. The noun that precedes His is God. He realized that God was there in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and so he glorified God and fell down at the feet of God manifested in flesh, to worship and adore Him. He realized that only God could cleanse a leper, and that Jesus was worthy of worship and adoration. This man, who might have been considered the very worst of the whole company, manifested more spiritual insight than the rest, who were Israelites. The Jews ordinarily despised the Samaritans. We are told in the fourth chapter of John that the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. But Jesus healed this poor leprous Samaritan. His heart was filled with praise and thanksgiving for the blessing he had received. It is true that the more God does for a person the more grateful he is likely to be. People are sometimes amazed when they hear the testimonies of men and women who have been saved in missions, who have been outcasts and have been delivered from gross sin, and now their hearts are filled with such praise and thanksgiving that are far above that of those who have been Christians for years and lived lives of respectability. The more sin there is in the life to be forgiven the more a person realizes how wonderfully God has dealt with him. When this cleansed leper fell down at the feet of Jesus and worshipped Him, did Jesus resent it? Did He say, “Oh, no; do not worship Me; worship God. I am only a Man?” No; Jesus gladly accepted the worship, for He was the Eternal Son who came from God, and He was going back to God. But He asked a question which indicated disappointment or a grieved spirit: He “answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.” Well, Jesus had told them to go to the priests, but this man felt there was something that must come first: he must go back to the One who had healed him and tell Him how grateful he was for his cleansing. If there had been the same gratitude in the hearts of the others they, too, would have fallen down at the feet of Jesus, then gone on to the temple to show themselves to the priests as a testimony. They did the thing Christ had bidden them, but this Samaritan had recognized there was a higher responsibility, and he returned to worship and praise the Lord ere he went on to the priests in the temple. Is there not a lesson in this for us? There is so little real worship on the part of Christian people today. Even when believers come together so often it is not to worship God. Do we realize God is seeking worshippers? I am afraid too many have the idea that God is seeking workers, but there is something that must come before work, and that is worship. To be in the presence of God with a heart filled with adoration means more to Him than to busy ourselves in His service. We shall not serve any less acceptably or earnestly because we worship first, rather than if we gave all our time to service. The Lord Jesus is still saying, “Where are the nine?” He appreciates those who come into His presence with worshipful hearts, but He misses those who have been saved by His grace and do not return to give Him glory.
Then He turned to this man and gave him the assurance that perhaps the others did not receive. It is one thing to be cleansed, to have forgiveness, to have salvation; it is another thing to have the full assurance based on the Word of God. And so Jesus turned to this Samaritan and said, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” I take that expression as an indication of far more than the assurance that he was physically whole. I take it the Lord was telling this man that he was not only healed of his disease, but also that he was spiritually cleansed because of the faith which he manifested. I can see him rejoicing as he returns to his own home which he had left so long ago when afflicted with this dreadful disease. I can see his friends retreating as they see him coming, and calling out to him, “Don’t come near us; you are unclean!” But he answers, “You do not need to be afraid, for I am healed, and He who cleansed me made me perfectly whole.” That is what Jesus is still doing for those who trust Him fully; they find themselves cleansed completely from sin. Then it should be our delight to come into the presence of God to worship Him and adore Him for His matchless grace. How little time we usually take in telling the Lord how grateful we are for what He has done for us. This is so important. Take that little prayer our Lord taught His disciples: Have you noticed that about two-thirds of it is taken up with worship and only one-third with petitions? Oh, may the Lord teach us more and more the blessedness of worship, of coming into His presence to praise and adore Him, and then may we go forward to serve in newness of spirit!