“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.” Luke 17:11-19 (NRSV)
The story of the ten lepers is familiar to man people, and what most people remember is that one of the lepers, a Samaritan and not necessarily a desirable person to have around for any self-respecting Jewish person, turned around and praised God loudly, thanking Jesus for the healing. However, the story is a little more complicated than that
Leprosy in Jesus day could have been any sort of skin disorder: psoriasis, eczema, a red rash, or Hansen’s disease (no relation to me!). Whenever someone ended up with something like this, they were banished outside the city gates, considered unclean, unapproachable, and ostracized from their community, family, friends, neighbors, and their own city or town. Whenever someone approached, they were required to shout, “unclean, unclean” so the people would be able to pass by them at a safe distance.
In this case, Jesus was passing by, and they must have heard of his reputation, so their cry became “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (v. 13). Although Jesus didn’t go over to touch them (which was often his pattern when healing people), he told them to go show themselves to the priests, and as they went, they discovered that they were clean. They did as they were told, and they knew that seeing the priests would certify that they had been healed and would be able to be restored to their communities.
The one exception was the outcast among the outcasts, a Samaritan. Relations between the Samaritans and the Jerusalem and Galilean Jews wasn’t good. They were seen as “half-breeds” and considered not truly Jewish. Their worship center was in a different location, although they worshiped the same God. So when the only one to return was a Samaritan, Jesus noticed that he was the only one who had returned to give thanks and to praise God. He told the man that his faith had made him well.
Healing was one thing, wellness has a much larger connotation of wholeness and total well-being. The other nine were healed and followed the correct protocol, but the Samaritan (who probably would not have been welcomed by the priests) put the pieces together and not only was healed but recognized the hand of God in his physical healing. He was healed inside and out: body, mind, spirit.
Isn’t that what we all would like? I sometimes wonder if all the negatives in our world cause us to be sick in body, mind, and spirit. Maybe we simply don’t see the hand of God in our lives. Maybe we just don’t praise God enough for the blessings we have. What would happen if we started a praise journal where we recorded at least one great thing that has blessed our lives each day? It’s worth a try! That’s my challenge to myself this week – and to anyone who might read this post. May God bless your week!