“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’” Luke 17:15-19
It was the smell and the pain that woke him from his fitful sleep, not the ever-present hunger or the night’s cold wind blowing into the cave. In that first moment of wakefulness, he realized once again that the stench of rotting flesh came from him. As he tried to rub the agonizing pain from his hand, he recoiled in horror at the fingers that came away from his limb like dead leaves falling from a tree. Extending his trembling arms in front of him, he saw the whiteness of the leprosy almost completely covered him now. Sobbing in complete and hopeless despair, he sank back down onto the rags that covered the rocky ground underneath him, praying for a death that could take years to claim him.
It had been three years since the first lesion appeared; three years, six-months and ten days exactly since he had held his wife, ruffled his son’s hair, and kissed his baby daughter’s downy cheek. Three years since he had been to temple, three years of praying for a miracle while he gradually lost feeling in his hands and feet. He knew there were sores covering his face and head. Hair had fallen out in clumps from his beard, and his left ear rubbed away one recent night in his sleep. Three years of living on the outskirts of town with no human contact except that of other lepers. Three years of scrounging for food and ringing a bell to shouts of “UNCLEAN” whenever he came remotely near someone from the village But the physical deformities and pain was nothing compared to the agony in his spirit. Who was providing for his family now? Did his wife even miss him? Did his children remember him? They would grow up without him ever seeing them again. Did God even remember him? Though he was a Samaritan, he was a student of the Scriptures, eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah. He knew the priests considered him just as unclean spiritually as he was physically, and the thought of being rejected by God doubled him over in grief. It was with this broken heart that he joined nine other lepers that day foraging for food in the countryside between Samaria and Galilee. It was as he helped his friend hobble into wheat field near town that they heard the laughter and conversations of men coming towards them. Cresting the hill, though still a distance away, the men stopped. The lepers began shouting “UNCLEAN” to warn them, but one man came purposefully towards them, with such compassion in his eyes that the lepers could not look away. Whispering to each other, “Wait! Isn’t that Jesus, the one we’ve heard of? The one who heals people? I think it is! It is Jesus!” Loudly, the lepers called out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” If ever there were wretches who needed help, it was this cluster of torn rag-shrouded men. Though they cried out for mercy, none were prepared to hear Jesus tell them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
With puzzled looks, they turned towards town and the temple. The Samaritan knew that only a priest could declare them free of this disease. He also knew that had never happened. He could not comprehend what the penalty might be for appearing in town, at the temple, before the priest while still diseased. But there was authority in the voice of this Jesus that commanded obedience, and all nine walked forward with the smallest mustard seed of faith to do what Jesus told them to do. It was as they walked that they began to experience changes in their body; feeling returned to numbed feet and hands, sores disappeared as new limbs and ears and noses appeared; the smell of rotting flesh was gone. They stopped, looking each other over with cries and shouts of wonder. They were cleansed, they were healed, they were whole! Jumping and laughing with joy, they took off running – towards home, towards wives and children, towards the life they thought was gone forever. All but one.
The Samaritan stood transfixed. Then he, too, began to run – not forward to his old life, but back down the road towards Jesus. His shouts were just as loud as those of his friends, but his were shouts of praise to God, shouts of worship and awe. When he saw Jesus, he threw himself at His feet, crying in thanksgiving and recognition, for he knew Messiah had come and he was changed forever. With a heart full of gratitude, he heard Jesus say, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” He was healed, his body mended and repaired; he was cleansed, all impurities and sin washed away; he was made well, saved for all eternity from death and destruction. Despair turned to delight, hopelessness to Hallelujahs, loss to love unending. Only then did he go to the priest. Only then did he return to his family and a life that would never be the same but would forever be infused with thanksgiving.
Jesus, forgive me for the sin of ingratitude. Let every day be Thanksgiving in my heart, for I have been healed, cleansed, and made whole by Your blood shed for me. Washed, white as snow, let me shout Hallelujahs and praise loud enough for everyone to hear. Let me fall in worship at Your feet and let this be the priority of my life. Grant me the smallest mustard seed of faith to walk forward, even if it hurts to walk. Let my heart be surrendered in obedience to Your command, trusting You fully, even when I don’t see the miracle right away, for You, Jesus, Messiah, have changed me forever.
One thought on “Thankful”
When I was in Ghana with Project Cure I visited a leprosy hospital. I was taking pictures of their facility to document what they had and what they needed. One guy called out to me to stop taking pictures. I was surprised, but realize it was from a place of hurt. Thinking I documenting them. I understand this passage in my heart a little better