SCRIPTURE: Luke 17:11-19
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VERSE 11: ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM
11It happened as (Jesus) was on his way to Jerusalem, that he was passing along the borders of Samaria and Galilee (Greek: dia meson Samareias kai Galilaias –– through the middle of Samaria and Galilee).
"It happened as he was on his way to Jerusalem" (v. 11a). Jerusalem is where Jesus will die in accord with God's plan. Luke reminds us periodically that Jesus is on this journey (9:53; 13:22; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11), which will end when he arrives at Jerusalem in 19:28.
"that he was passing along the borders of Samaria and Galilee" (v. 11b). Jesus is still at the northern border of Samaria, far from Jerusalem. This border location explains why the lepers include both Jews and Samaritans.
Jews loathe Samaritans, whom they consider to be religiously compromised. "That is why it is so ironic in a Jewish context that from time to time the 'hero' of an episode or parable is a Samaritan" (Evans, 258).
VERSES 12-14: JESUS, MASTER, HAVE MERCY ON US
12As he entered into a certain village, ten men who were lepers met him, who stood at a distance. 13They lifted up their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master (Greek: epistata), have mercy on us!" 14When he saw them, he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." It happened that as they went, they were cleansed.
"ten men who were lepers met him" (v. 12a). Their leprosy was not necessarily Hansen's disease, the terrible wasting disease that we think of today as leprosy. Biblical leprosy includes skin diseases such as ringworm, psoriasis, leucoderma, and vitiligo (Johnson, Interpreter's Bible, 338).
"who stood at a distance" (v. 12b). The Torah regulates the treatment of leprosy (Numbers 5:2-3; Leviticus 13-14). People tend to regard leprosy not just as a medical condition but also as a sign of God's judgment.
"Jesus, Master, have mercy on us" (v. 13). If they were addressing an ordinary traveler, their cry for mercy might be a simple plea for alms. In this case, however, they know Jesus' name and address him as Master (Greek: epistata) –– a person of authority.
"When he saw them" (v. 14a). Jesus saw them. That is a small but significant detail. Jewish law and human nature conspire to make the leper invisible. People are inclined to ignore sick or dying people, because suffering and death make us uncomfortable. We can draw strength from the knowledge that the one who saw the lepers also sees our pain.
"Go and show yourselves to the priests" (v. 14b). Jesus does not heal the lepers immediately, but instead commands them to show themselves to the priests for inspection as if they had been healed (Leviticus 13). Jesus asks them to step out in faith, just as Elisha asked Naaman to do.
Jesus also has another underlying purpose. These lepers will bear testimony to the priests of Jesus' great healing power. When the priests judge the lepers to be clean, their judgments will authenticate Jesus' Godly power.
"It happened that as they went, they were cleansed" (v. 14). The lepers were not healed immediately, but instead are healed as they obey Jesus' command. Jesus healed these lepers, but this verse emphasizes instead that they were made clean. Healing has to do with the restoration of their bodily health. Made clean includes the additional dimensions of social and religious health. These former lepers are now restored to the point that they can once again re-enter society –– so that they can once again worship in the synagogue and the temple.
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VERSES 15-16: ONE OF THEM TURNED BACK, GLORIFYING GOD
15One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice. 16He fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks; and he was a Samaritan.
"One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice" (v. 15). Just as Jesus saw the lepers whom others failed to see, this man sees that Jesus deserves thanks.
"He fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks" (v. 16a). We admire this man for taking time to give thanks for his healing, but this is more than a thanksgiving story. It is the story of Jesus who is also the Christ –– a man who enjoys Godly power –– a man who is also God.
"and he was a Samaritan" (v. 16b). Luke saves this surprise until late in the story. "The model of faith turns out to be the ultimate outsider" (Cousar, 554). Luke is himself a Gentile, a foreigner. He delights in recounting stories of foreigners whom God has blessed, and he makes foreigners (even Samaritans) the heroes of his stories.
VERSES 17-19: YOUR FAITH HAS HEALED YOU
17Jesus answered, "Weren't the ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18Were there none found who returned to give glory to God, except this stranger?" 19Then he said to him, "Get up, and go your way. Your faith has healed you" (Greek: sesoken se –– has made you well or has saved you).
"Weren't the ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there none found who returned to give glory to God, except this stranger?" (vv. 17-18). Jesus is critical of the nine, and we are tempted to join him in his criticism. How could they fail to give thanks? We should consider, however, how eager they must be, after such long isolation, to rejoin their families and to resume normal life. Under the same circumstances, would we stop to give thanks? How often do we stop to thank God for our blessings?
"Get up, and go your way. Your faith has healed you" (sesoken se) (v. 19). Luke told us in verse 14 that all ten lepers were made clean, so something more has happened to this Samaritan. The Greek that is translated "has healed you" is sesoken se –– from the verb sozo. It can be translated, "has saved you." "What we have, then, is a story of ten being healed and one being saved" (Craddock, Interpretation, 203).
SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.
Barclay, William, The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of Luke (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1953)
Bock, Darrell L., The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: Luke, Vol. 3 (Downers Grove, Illinois, Intervarsity Press, 1994)
Cousar, Charles B.; Gaventa, Beverly R.; McCann, J. Clinton; and Newsome, James D., Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV–Year C (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994)
Craddock, Fred B., Interpretation: Luke (Louisville: John Knox Press,(1990)
Craddock, Fred B.; Hayes, John H.; Holliday, Carl R.; and Tucker, Gene M., Preaching Through the Christian Year, C (Valley Forge: Trinity Press, 1994)
Culpepper, R. Alan, The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume IX. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1995)
Diers, Herman W., Lectionary Bible Studies, "The Year of Luke," Pentecost 2, Teacher's Guide (Augsburg-Fortress, 1976)
Edwards, O. C., Jr., and Taylor, Gardner C., Proclamation 2: Pentecost 3, Series C
Evans, Craig A., New International Biblical Commentary: Luke (Peabody, MA, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1990)
Gilmour, S. MacLean & Buttrick, George A., The Interpreter's Bible, Volume 8. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1952)
Green, Joel B., The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997)
Johnson, Luke Timothy, Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Luke (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1991)
Marty, Peter W., in Van Harn, Roger (ed.), The Lectionary Commentary: Theological Exegesis for Sunday's Text. The Third Readings: The Gospels (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001)
Nickle, Keith F., Preaching the Gospel of Luke (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2000)
Nolland, John, Word Biblical Commentary: Luke 9:21 –– 18:34, Vol. 35B (Dallas: Word Books, 1993)
Ringe, Sharon H., Westminster Bible Companion, Luke (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press)
Sloyan, Gerard S., and Kee, Howard Clark, Proclamation: Pentecost 3, Series C
Stein, Robert H., The New American Commentary: Luke (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992)
Tannehill, Robert C., Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Luke (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996)
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