The Faith of Ten Lepers

28 Dec
Ten Lepers - 2

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According to Luke 17:11, Jesus was on a journey to Jerusalem. Some scholars believe Luke doesn’t place his account in chronological order. The reason they believe this is so they can hold onto the unsupported belief that Luke 9:51 announces Jesus intent on going to Jerusalem to be crucified. Yet, as Luke 10:38-42 shows, Jesus was in Bethany just a few miles from Jerusalem, showing he had already completed his journey he had begun in Luke 9:51. Moreover, Luke 13:22 seems to record even another journey to Jerusalem, after, or so it seems, Jesus had already been there (cf. Luke 13:1-5). It is strange to see the hoops otherwise good commentators will jump through in order to embrace a favorite theory. Here, in Luke 17:11 Luke records Jesus is passing through the midst of Galilee and Samaria, something he had to do in Luke 9:51 to reach Jerusalem. Sounds like a different journey to me, and it is this journey (Luke 17:11) that seems to be the one that Jesus took in order to fulfill all that was written about him in the Law and the Prophets (cf. Luke 18:31).

Along the way Jesus met ten lepers (Luke 17:12), they asked Jesus to have mercy upon them and heal them (Luke 17:13).However, instead of healing them right away, as he had done so many times before for those who asked for mercy, Jesus sent the ten lepers to the priests so they could be inspected (Leviticus 14:2-32), and he, i.e. the priest, would witness to their healing (Luke 17:14). It is implied, and they understood it to be true, that they would be healed on the way, so they left Jesus to go to one or more of the local priests. Most of the priests didn’t live in Jerusalem. They lived elsewhere and traveled to Jerusalem to perform their duties there, when their individual courses became the course in charge for the Temple responsibilities. It was to these local priests that Jesus sent the lepers, but afterwards they would have had to go to Jerusalem to offer the necessary sacrifice as a public witness of their cleansing and healing (Leviticus 14:1-32). So news of this unprecedented healing of ten lepers at once would have gone before Jesus, as he journeyed toward Jerusalem (cf. Luke 17:11).

While still on their way, it became evident that the lepers were healed (Luke 17:14). Nevertheless, only one of the lepers returned to Jesus to glorify God. It was a Samaritan (Luke 17:15-16). One cannot help read this story without thinking of a similar healing done by Elisha in the Old Testament (2Kings 5:1-14). There another foreigner, the leper, Naaham, who was also the captain of the Syrian army, was cleansed through a miracle done by God through Elisha. It, also, was a miracle performed from a distance. Naaham was to travel to the Jordan and dip himself seven times in its waters, and he would be healed. When this was done, he, too, returned to Elisha to glorify God (2Kings 5:15), something the other nine healed lepers didn’t do in Luke 17:15-17.

Jesus expected all ten to return, but found only one, a stranger, came back to glorify God (Luke 17:17-19). It seems to me that Jesus was pointing out the ingratitude of the people of God. What do we have that hasn’t been given us by God? Yet, we balk at his commands (cf. Luke 17:3-5), thinking we have no real responsibility to obey. We seem to think that, before we even attempt obedience, we need to be assured that we have the necessary tools to obey (Luke 17:5). Nevertheless, if we were truly grateful for what we know we have (cf. Luke 17:17-19), we wouldn’t be so thoughtless as to believe God would tell us to do something we would be unable to do in the first place. Looking for greater tools is merely an excuse to express our ingratitude for the tools we have. God is glorified in our weakness (cf. 2Corinthians 12:9), not our strength. Our little faith may not glorify us, but it does glorify God, because our little strength exemplifies the fact that we are helped by God.

The miracle of healing the ten lepers would have taught Jesus’ disciples the importance of obedience. In Luke 17:3-4 Jesus commanded his disciples to forgive those who trespassed against them, even when it appeared the offender’s repentance lacked sincerity (Luke 17:4). When the disciples asked for more faith in order to obey the command, Jesus told them great faith was of no more value than a little faith. Both brought the same results. The healing of the ten lepers would have driven this point home. Notice that the lepers didn’t request Jesus to give them the faith to believe they would be healed on the way. It was just as evident that the lepers were unable to heal themselves as it is to repeatedly forgive a man who wronged another and lacked the sincerity of his repentance. Neither did it make any difference which of the ten had the stronger faith in Jesus’ command. All, alike, were healed. Greater faith is simply unable to accomplish any more than a little faith.


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Posted by on December 28, 2017 in Gospel of Luke


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