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Luke 17:11-19 tells us of one of the miracles Jesus performed during his ministry: “On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, 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 went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then He said to them, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’” (ESV).
I can’t imagine what this was like for the thankful leper. Luke tells us that they kept their distance. The required distance for lepers was 100 paces which would estimate to be 400 feet. In his weakened and shamed state, shouting at the top of his lungs for Jesus, who was 400 feet away from him, “Have mercy on me!” Then, Jesus shouts back, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” That’s all. The law for leprosy had been given to Moses by God in Leviticus 14. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: This shall be the ritual for the leprous person at the time of his cleansing: He shall be brought to the priest; the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall make an examination. If the disease is healed in the leprous person, the priest shall command that two living clean birds and cedarwood and crimson yarn and hyssop be brought for the one who is to be cleansed. The priest shall command that one of the birds be slaughtered over fresh water in an earthen vessel. He shall take the living bird with the cedarwood and the crimson yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was slaughtered over the fresh water. He shall sprinkle it seven times upon the one who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease; then he shall pronounce him clean, and he shall let the living bird go into the open field. The one who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes, and shave off all his hair, and bath himself in water, and he shall be clean. After that he shall come into the camp, but shall live outside his tent seven days. On the seventh day he shall shave all his hair: of head, beard, eyebrows; he shall shave all his hair. Then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.”
Jesus did not tell them they would be healed. He was asking them to be bold in their faith. To begin the journey back to the populated area to go to the priests while they were yet contagious and ill? Surely if they arrived and nothing had changed the punishment would have been severe. And yet, they set out. Their faith made them well, and what bold faith it was.
And as they walked, they were made clean. The sores and scabs fell away. Their skin was restored. I cannot imagine the emotion that accompanied this. They had been separated from their families, from society in general, and now they were just a week away from being welcomed back in. The excitement must have been overwhelming, and most of them were in a hurry to begin the process to start their normal lives.
And yet – the thankful leper turned back. While the other nine hurried toward the temple rejoicing, he turned back. Loud, pure, thankful praise began to pour out of him. The Bible tells us it was LOUD. It was unadulterated, beautiful praise that brings joy to the heart of the Father. He ran back toward Jesus and found himself at His feet. Up close. The Son of Man, who had just been a form he could barely make out from 400 feet away was now so close he could touch Him. He fell down in a prostrate position and thanked Him over and over. The thankful leper set his thanks and praise to the Lord above his official cleansing, above everything in his life he would soon gain back. How this must have touched Jesus’ heart.
All ten lepers received a gift that day. For the nine that kept on course for the temple, they experienced a bold faith in God like never before. They experienced His restoration and healing. The thankful leper received more than that. In Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, he writes, “A sense of our spiritual leprosy should make us very humble whenever we draw near to Christ. It is enough to refer ourselves to the compassions of Christ, for they fail not. We may look for God to meet us with mercy, when we are found in the way of obedience. Only one of those who were healed returned to give thanks. It becomes us, like him, to be very humble in thanksgivings, as well as in prayers. Christ noticed the one who thus distinguished himself, he was a Samaritan. The others only got the outward cure, he alone got the spiritual blessing.”
I encourage you today to give thanks. Make your praises loud. How it touches the heart of the Lord, and how beautifully it corrects our perspective by placing Him ahead of all else in our lives and giving Him the passionate worship He is so deserving of. Give thanks with every prayer, with every breath. He has done great things in our lives.