January 2012 - Vol. 56

The Healing of the Ten Suffering from Leprosy
“Jesus, Master, Have Mercy!”
By Jeanne Kun
Gratitude makes us see the good. When we are grateful, we acknowledge that we are indebted, that we have received more than we deserve. . . . What we need is to have some “Samaritan” in us; what we need is to follow our natural instinct to be grateful. The first characteristic of the Christian is to be grateful.
– Archbishop Marcel Gervais,Homily at Notre Dame 
Cathedral, Ottawa, Canada
Luke 17:11-19
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 him, “Get up and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

Leprosy was a dreaded disease in biblical times. Besides suffering physical disability and disfigurement, a person afflicted with leprosy was considered ritually unclean and was forbidden to come into contact with healthy people (Leviticus 13:45-46). Segregated from society, those suffering from leprosy lived on the outskirts of towns and begged for alms, relying on charity for their survival.

The ten whom Jesus healed in the gospel story were drawn together by their common affliction. Since Jews despised Samaritans as apostates – people who rejected the faith – the two groups usually avoided each other (2 Kings 17:24-41; Matthew 10:5; Luke 9:52-55; John 4:90). But in the desperation of their condition, these people ignored this customary animosity and shared a fellowship of suffering.

Conscious of their “uncleanness” and the risk of transmitting their contagious disease, the ten were careful not to approach Jesus too closely when they cried, “Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13). The distance they kept, however, presented no barrier to Jesus’ compassion and power.

Jesus didn’t heal these people on the spot; instead, he commanded them to show themselves to the priests (Luke 17:14). Mosaic law stipulated that a cure of leprosy had to be certified by the priests (Leviticus 14:1-32) – in this way, a person was declared clean and was no longer a social outcast. Sensitive to every aspect of their pain, Jesus’ intent was not only to restore these people to health but also to ensure that they would be fully restored to normal society by officially receiving a “clean bill of health.”

Perhaps this group of people had heard about the wonders Jesus was performing throughout Galilee; their cry for mercy was filled with expectant faith. If they already believed that he could make them whole again, they may have left Jesus filled with rising hopes and confidence. Or, still marked by the ravages of their disease, they may have departed with disappointment, wondering how the priests would respond to them. In any case, it was only after they went on their way, obeying Jesus’ directive, that they were cured (Luke 17:14).

As soon as one of the ten – a Samaritan (Luke 17:16) – became aware of his healing, he raced back to Jesus, loudly praising God (17:15). No waiting for a more convenient moment for him! He simply couldn’t let the master go without thanking him right away. And when the Samaritan found Jesus, he threw himself at his feet (17:16) – the proper place to humbly acknowledge how undeserving he was of God’s mercy and to give thanks. Surely such an expression of gratitude brought Jesus great pleasure.

Jesus’ healing of the Samaritan recalls the prophet Elisha’s encounter in Samaria with Namaan, a foreigner who also suffered from leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-14). Initially Namaan balked at Elisha’s command to wash in the Jordan River, but when he eventually obeyed the prophet, “his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean” (5:14). He returned from the river to thank Elisha for his cure and honored the God of Israel (5:15). Namaan’s cleansing through water is a type of baptism. The story also points toward the adoption of foreigners into God’s covenant and the universality of salvation (Isaiah 56:3-8). Similarly, the gospel account of the leprous Samaritan’s faith is a prelude to the influx of many Samaritans in to the church through the preaching of the apostles, after Jesus resurrection (Acts 8:5-8, 14-17, 25).

Jesus’ final words to the Samaritan – “your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19) – echo his message to the woman he cured of a hemorrhage (8:48). Like her, the grateful man was given far more than physical wellbeing. Through his faith and obedience, he had received wholeness of body and spirit, peace, and friendship with God in Christ.

In the Spotlight
Hansen’s Disease

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects the eyes, skin, peripheral nerves, and mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract. It was known in ancient Egypt, Israel, India, China, Greece, and Rome. In the Middle Ages, leprosy also spread rapidly across Europe. To protect the populace from contagion, strict laws were enacted that banned those afflicted with the disease from all social contact. There was little palliative treatment for the disease and no hope for a cure. As a consequence, in addition to their physical afflictions, leprosy sufferers also bore the stigma of being “outcasts,” rejected and excluded from society. By the fifteenth century leprosy had declined in Europe, but the disease is still common in India, Brazil, Myanmar (Burma), Indonesia, Nepal, Madagascar, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In 1873 a Norwegian doctor, Gerhard Hansen, first identified the bacillus of leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae. Today leprosy is curable with Multidrug Therapy (MDT), a powerful combination of clofazimine, rifampicin, and dapsone. Once treatment begins, the disease’s advance in the body is halted and the patient is no longer contagious. At the beginning of 2005, approximately 300,000 leprosy patients were under active treatment worldwide.

Ten million leprosy patients have been cured during the past fifteen years. Nonetheless, Hansen’s disease, as leprosy is now called, still remains a serious illness. Currently, an estimated two to four million people around the world have been so visibly and irreversibly disabled by leprosy that they require ongoing care.

Excerpted from Mighty in Power: The Miracles of Jesus, by Jeanne Kun (The Word Among Us Press, © 2006).  Used with permission. This book can be ordered online.

Jeanne Kun is President of Bethany Association and a senior woman leader in the Word of Life Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. 
In the Spotlight
Giving Thanks – and Joy – to Jesus

It is evident from the whole teaching of scripture that the Lord loves to be thanked and praised just as much as we do. I am sure that it gives him real downright pleasure, just as it does us and that our failure to thank him for his gifts wounds his loving heart, just as our hearts are wounded when our loved ones fail to appreciate the benefits we have so enjoyed bestowing on them. 
    What joy it is to receive from our friends an acknowledgment of their thanksgiving for our gifts, and is it not likely that it is a joy to the Lord also?

– Hannah Whitall Smith,
Daily He Leads Me


1. With what attitude do you think the ten people with leprosy approached Jesus? What does Jesus’ command to them (Luke 17:14) suggest to you about the relationship between obedience and faith? Did Jesus always require that those he healed have faith?

2. List the verbs that describe the Samaritan’s successive actions in response to his healing (Luke 17:15-16). What do these actions say about the man’s relationship to God? Think of others in the gospels who prostrated themselves at the feet of Jesus, for example, the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25), Jairus (Luke 8:41-42), and Mary of Bethany (John 11:42; 12:3). What did they express by their posture?

3. Jesus asked the Samaritan, “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?” (Luke 17:17-18)? In what tone of voice do you think he asked these questions? Why? What do Jesus’ questions add to your understanding of him? Of his relationship with the Father?

4. Why was it significant that it was “this foreigner” (Luke 17:18) who gave thanks to God? What does the Samaritan’s presence in this story indicate about Jesus’ mission? About Jesus himself?

5. What similarities do you see in the healing of the ten people with leprosy and the healing of the paralyzed man (Luke 5:17-26)? What differences? What do the differences as well as the similarities suggest to you about Jesus, the Great Physician?

In the Spotlight
In the Words of the Saints

What better words may we carry in our heart, pronounce with our mouth, write with a pen, than the words, “Thanks be to God”? There is no phrase that may be said so readily, that can be heard with greater joy, felt with more emotion or produced with greater effect.

– St. Augustine, Letter 72
We should not accept in silence the benefactions of God, but return thanks for them.
– St. Basil the Great


1. In ancient times, leprosy was considered incurable, yet Jesus miraculously healed ten people afflicted by the disease. What sin or difficulty in your life do you consider to be “incurable,” hopeless, impossible to overcome or change? How free do you feel to cry out to the Lord in your need? What hinders you or limits your faith and expectation?

2. The ten people who came to Jesus to be cured acted on his command to show themselves to the priests without any proof or assurance of what the results would be. Think of an occasion when you stepped out in faith, obeying Jesus’ word. What happened? What effect did this have on you?

3. The Samaritan thanked Jesus by praising him in a loud voice and falling at his feet (Luke 17:15-16). How could your actions, as well as your words, give thanks to God?

4. How does a sense of gratitude to God change us and our outlook on a situation? What happens when we fail to acknowledge God’s generosity?

5. Think of someone you know who is ill, lonely, suffering from a mental or physical limitation, or in some way “marginalized” or cut off from society? What is one thing you could do this week to make them feel less isolated and more connected to the body of Christ?


1. Examine your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you any attitudes –  for example, discontentment, taking God’s benefits for granted, holding on to your own agenda, complacency –  that blind you to God’s blessings and block you from experiencing and expressing gratitude. What could you do to overcome such hindrances and change your outlook? To make giving thanks to God a more conscious & active part of your life?

2. Reflect on the following Scripture passages that portray expressions of gratitude to God for his goodness & gifts:

[David] appointed certain of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to praise invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel. . . . Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and the priests Benaiah and Jahaziel were to blow trumpets regularly, before the ark of the covenant of God. Then on that day David first appointed the singing of praises to the Lord by Asaph and his kindred.

     – 1 Chronicles 16:4, 5b-7

 It is good to give thanks to the LORD,  to sing praises to your name, O Most High;  to declare your steadfast love in the morning,  and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp,
  to the melody of the lyre. For you, O LORD, have made me glad  by your work;  at the works of your hands I sing for joy.    

– Psalm 92:1-4

 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul,  and do not forget all his benefits –  who forgives all your iniquity,  who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit,  who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live  so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  

– Psalm 103:1-5

[B]e filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.     

– Ephesians 5:18-20

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.    

– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


Count your blessings! Write your own personal “litany of thanks.”

Make a list of what you are grateful for and keep adding to it. Recount this list occasionally as you pray, thanking God for each of the particular benefits he has bestowed on you. You may find it helpful to use Psalm 103 as a model for your litany of thanks.

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