Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men met him. They had a skin disease. They were standing close by. And they called out in a loud voice, “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!”
Jesus saw them and said, “Go. Show yourselves to the priests.” While they were on the way, they were healed. - Luke 17:11-14
It is important to understand exactly what leprosy was and why it was such a big deal that Jesus healed these ten men.
You may be wondering what this disease really is. Leprosy is a terrible condition where a person’s skin begins to rot and fall off. Many lepers lose all of their fingers and toes because of the disease. It is very painful and smelly. You could tell if a person had leprosy because their body would be covered with sores. People with these sores are commonly referred to as lepers.
Leprosy was a common skin disease a long time ago, and there are still people in some parts of the world today who have leprosy. Before there were treatments for leprosy, like we have today, it was a very contagious disease and whenever a person caught leprosy in Bible times, they had to live outside the community. In fact, one of the laws that God gave the Israelites in the Old Testament says, “As long as he has the infection [of leprosy] he remains unclean. He must live alone. He must live outside the camp.” - Leviticus 13:46
You can see that leprosy wasn’t just bad for a person’s body, but it was also terrible for their ability to enjoy friends and family, since they lived alone. Sometimes lepers would get very lonely and seek out other lepers to live with. That’s why the ten men in this story were together. They all had leprosy, and they were not allowed to be a part of their original family community.
So, these men in our story stood at a distance from Jesus and called out to Him. These ten lepers knew that they could not go near anyone because they had a contagious illness. The men had been waiting for Jesus at the edge of the village. When they saw Jesus crossing the border between Galilee and Samaria, they yelled, “Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us.”
Jesus then told the them to show themselves to the priest. Because if the priest saw that they no longer had leprosy, they would be declared healed and they could go back to their families and be part of the community again. They believed in Jesus so strongly that they believed that if they did as he told them they would be healed and at some point, as they were going to do that, the ten lepers noticed that their leprosy was gone. They had been healed!
Now let’s continue reading to see what happens next. Look at Luke 17:15-19.
When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back. He praised God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. The man was a Samaritan.
When Jesus saw the Samaritan, He immediately wondered about the other nine men who had also been healed.
Jesus asked, “Weren’t all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Didn’t anyone else return and give praise to God except this outsider?”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
It is hard to believe that only one of the ten men Jesus healed came back to thank Him. Certainly, the other nine men noticed that they were healed, but they did not take the time to return to say, “Thank you.”
It’s very likely that once the other nine saw they were healed; they ran home to their families and friends. After all, they had been living far away from them for some time. Can you imagine how excited they were? Can you imagine how happy their families must have been to see them again?
Though these nine other men were so, so happy to be healed, they didn’t return to Jesus to publicly GIVE THANKS. They didn’t “praise God with a loud voice and throw themselves at His feet” like the leper who did return to thank Jesus.
Like the one leper who returned, we should worship, praise, and thank God at all times.
When Jesus asked, “Where are the other nine?” He clearly was asking, “Why aren’t they giving thanks to God?”
The same question could be asked of us today: “Why aren’t these people giving Me thanks?”
We can be thankful everyday for little things and for big things. Being thankful for little things is like exercising a muscle, we start seeing more and more things for which to be thankful! Being thankful helps us realize the good things in our lives and makes us happier.
Tonight, when you go to bed, before you say your prayers, write down at least three things to thank God for. And do it again tomorrow night, and the next night, and the night after that. And I would bet that your attitude of gratitude will make a difference in how you feel and the way you relate to God.