On Jesus’ final trip south from Galilee to Jerusalem, He had a divine appointment with ten men outside an unnamed village on the boarders between Samaria and Galilee. From a safe distance the ten called out the required warning, “Unclean! Unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45). The troop of ten, in varying stages of death and decay, were wrapped in their tattered and torn clothing, bandages oozing and nasty. Like the four lepers in the days of Elisha (2 Kings 7:1-20), the community of beggars suffered in isolation, excommunicated from society and excluded from home and family.
Luke recorded their sad story. “While traveling to Jerusalem, he passed between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ ” (Luke 17:11–13).
Before Jesus entered the gates to the small village, Jesus heard their urgent plea. “Jesus! Master!” They knew His reputation. This itinerate Rabbi had healed others in similar circumstances. Could He cleanse them? Yes! Would He help them. They cried out in desperation. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
On another occasion, a leper approached Him saying, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was “moved with compassion... and reached out his hand and touched him”(Mark 1:40-41). But on this occasion, with the ten looking on with pleading eyes, Jesus simply commanded them to “go and show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14). Jesus didn’t touch them. He didn’t pray for them. He didn’t command the disease to leave their bodies. He just commanded them to faithfully turn away and submit themselves to the priest’s examination. This is what the law required for one who had already been cleansed of this hideous ailment (Leviticus 14:2-3).
The lepers must have looked at one another. Leper #1 was still covered with sores. So was Leper #2 and Leper #3. They were still ten lepers. Unclean! Unclean!
Maybe it was the most faithful among them who urged the rest. “Come on guys. Let’s do what Jesus told us to do.” Maybe somewhat reluctantly, they turned, and walked away.
Was it just a hundred yards down the path, or was it a mile? “While they were going, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14). As they walked the dusty road, their bandages began to fall away. Their stiff fingers began to flex. Their steps lightened. Stopping, they looked at one another in surprised realization. The scars were gone. Their wounds were healed. Where there had been open sores, there was new skin, pink and perfect. They were cleansed. They were healed! They were new!
One of the ten, a Samaritan, soon returned to find Jesus. Though Jesus had told him to go to the priests, the Samaritan became a priest and brought his offering of praise to the altar, falling at the Jesus of feet. “One of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at his feet, thanking him” (Luke 17:15-16).
Lifting him into a brotherly embrace, Jesus said, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you” (Luke 17:19). Giddy with thanksgiving and excitement, he sang out the words he had learned long ago. “My soul, bless the Lord, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. My soul, bless the Lord, and do not forget all his benefits. He forgives all your iniquity; he heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:1–3).
Cleansed... healed... saved by grace through faith... a leper no more.