Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 17:11-19 – Where True Faith Leads

Grace For The Journey

If we were going to make a video of this passage, the hymn, “Give Thanks With a A Grateful Heart” could be the theme song and musical score playing in the background of verses 11-19.  The passage tells us of ten lepers here who are all healed by Jesus Christ and only one of the ten returns to “Give thanks with a grateful heart.”  What does God want to show us from this passage?

Let’s take a walk back through this passage of Scripture and see what God wants to show us in this passage.  The greater context of these nine verses reaches back eight chapters ago to Luke, chapter 9 where Luke writes in Luke 9, verse 51, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”  Jesus sets out – resolutely – for Jerusalem.  Why?  To die, and He says so again in Luke 13, verse 33, “Go tell that fox, Herod, I am on my way to Jerusalem, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.”

That is why we read in the first part of verse 11, “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem.”  Jesus is on a mission to go to Jerusalem to die for our sins.  He is on a mission to save us from the penalty we deserve.  The Bible condemns every man guilty of sin and deserving of punishment for our sin.  Jesus takes the punishment we deserved upon Himself.  He dies in our place.  God charges Jesus with our sin and God credits us with Christ’s righteousness.

This phrase at the beginning of verse 11, “Now it happened as went to Jerusalem,” is not just a nice little way Luke thought he would begin a story about gratitude . . .

It is a reminder that God has visited us in

The person of Christ for the purpose of dying

And taking care of our sin problem.

This is the greater context of our passage and extremely important to us if we are going to see that this passage is more than a short story about being thankful. 

Verses11 and 12 tell us, “Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.  Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.”  Most of you know why they “stood afar off.”  In fact, verse 12 says this all happened, “AS He entered a certain village.”  Jesus is not IN the village, it is AS He entered a certain village or AS HE WAS ENTERING a certain village.  These lepers were not allowed IN the village.  Lepers were expelled from the community.

If you have never heard that term “leper” before, just know that this was someone who had a terrible skin disease.  Lepers were expelled from the community and from local worship because they were considered “unclean” according to Jewish Law and custom.  These two passages, Leviticus 13:38-46 and Numbers 5:2-4, tell how Old Testament priests could determine whether someone had leprosy by looking at his skin and then pronounce the guy leprous if he was found to have leprosy.  Leviticus 13 and beginning in verse 44 says, “He is a leprous man. He is unclean. The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean…Now the leper(‘s)…clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’…He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”  These were outside of the camp or outside of the village because if anyone should accidentally come into contact with one of these lepers then they too would be considered unclean.  The only way a leper could gain re-entry to the village was to be pronounced “clean” by a Jewish priest. The priest would examine him and make sure the leprosy or skin disease was in fact gone and if so, the priest would declare the guy clean and he was able to go back to his family, go back to work, go back to worship, and so forth.  That is the background of why these 10 lepers are standing off to the side just outside the entry point of the village Jesus was entering. 

Verse 13 tells us that from a distance they cry out to Jesus, “And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  They are wanting Jesus to heal them.  It is interesting that apparently word had gotten out about Jesus.  These 10 lepers had heard about Jesus’ healing folks who were sick.  Maybe they had heard about the guy back in Luke 5 when Jesus had entered a certain city and this guy “full of leprosy” saw Jesus and fell before Him and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Jesus put out HIs hand and touched him and said, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  I am sure they had heard how “immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:12-14).  In fact, the Bible says that right after that happened, “the report went around concerning Him all the more.” (Luke 15:15).

These 10 lepers likely had heard a great deal about Jesus’ ability to heal and they are crying out for help!  What is Jesus going to do?  Verse 14 says, “So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’  And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”   Now this is awesome.  When Jesus saw them, He does not do like he had done back in chapter 5.  He does not reach out and touch the lepers here; Here He heals from a distance!  He simply calls out to them in verse 14, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”  In other words, “You guys go and see the priest who will determine whether you are fit to re-enter society.  Just go ahead and go,” and it’s AS THEY WENT, “they were cleansed.”  The healing came as they went, as they obeyed, the Lord Jesus.  It is reminiscent of2 Kings 5:10-14 where Elisha sent a messenger to Naaman of Syria to go wash in the Jordan River seven times and he would be cleansed of his leprosy.  “Obey Me; trust Me.”

These guys are on their way to see the priest and AS they are on the way, they are like, “Hey, check me out! My fingers aren’t falling off, my skin is normal!”  Like Elisha’s God in 2 Kings, Jesus heals at a distance.  Or Luke may put it this way, “The God of 2 Kings is the God of Luke 17.”  Do not miss the weighty Christological emphasis here.  Never forget Luke set out to write his Gospel as he tells Theophilus in his introduction, in the prologue in Luke 1:1-5, “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed,” those things concerning Jesus ChristThis is not wishful thinking, Theophilus.  Jesus Christ is God in the flesh.  He does what no earthly priest can do.  He heals from a distance.”

There were ten lepers healed, but verse 15 tells us, “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God.”  I love this!  Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, the one who was thought of as the “go-between” for men and God.  They are to go to the priest and this one guy when he sees that he is healed it seems he recognizes WHO the True Priest really is!  This one leper returns to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Bible says, “with a loud voice glorified God.”  The Greek for “loud voice” is from the word from which we get “phone” and “mega.”  From these words we get the word, “megaphone.”  Luke wants us to know that this leper was not quiet about giving thanks!  He shouted out his gratitude the way we would amplify it with a megaphone today! 

As the leper glorified God, verse 16 says he, “… fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.”  Note that this leper – when he saw he was healed – verses 15 and 16 say he did four things – he returned, he glorified, he fell down, and he gave thanks.

The Samaritan fell on his face at the feet of Jesus.  This is gratitude, praise, and worship directed at Jesus.  How would you feel if someone bowed down to you and worshiped you?  You’d feel funny.  Why?  Because you’re not God.  Why does the leper throw himself down at Jesus’ feet and worship Him?  Because He believes Jesus is worthy of worship.  Why does Jesus NOT rebuke the leper for worshiping a man?  Because Jesus is more than a man.  He is God. 

Verses 17 and 18 tell us, “So Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?’”  Three questions Jesus asks here in verses 17 and 18: “Were not 10 cleansed?  Where are the others; the other nine?  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner–this Samaritan?”  Apparently the other nine lepers were Jews and here is a leper who is a Samaritan.  In Jesus’ day, the Jews and Samaritans did not get along?  Jews had no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9)?  Jews and Samaritans hated one another.  They avoided one another.  But here you have these Jews and a Samaritan hanging out with one another.  Why?  Because when you have a shared hardship and a shared suffering, the things that once seemed so important are no longer important.  Class distinction does not seem to matter anymore; tradition does not matter; race does not matter; wealth does not matter; popularity does not matter.  Everyone is in the same boat now.  By the way, this is a beautiful picture of the church!  Through Christ Jesus there is no longer a distinction between Jew and non-Jew, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, American and non-American.  All are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Jesus EXPECTED all ten to return.  He had told all ten to show themselves to the priest, but the text makes clear here that Jesus expected every single one of them to come back.  All people are to be grateful for what God has done. 

  • Too many people are like the nine.  The nine were healed and then rushed to the priest to get reinstated to society, to go back to hanging out with their friends, and get back to their old way of life. 
  • Too many today are like the nine, “God, get me out of this fix so I can get back to my life.” 
  • Too many are like the nine; like the rich man in the previous chapter, living for this world only. 

To the Samaritan, there is something much more important than time, toys, and treasures. There is something bigger going on here, and His name is Jesus! 

Nothing is more important

Than worshiping Jesus Christ.

The leper returns to give glory to God at the feet of Jesus.  He sees something the other lepers do not see.  Verse 19 says, “And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’”  Literally, the Greek has, “Your faith has SAVED you.”  In other words, “I healed you of your leprosy, but because you see something the others do not see, because you see Me as someone ‘worthy of worship, worthy of praise, worthy of honor and glory,’ because you see something bigger going on here, it’s clear you are  a believer.  Your faith has saved you.”  You have experienced not only a healing of the BODY; you have experienced a healing of the SOUL.”

Some people get close to Jesus, but do not experience ultimate salvation.  The nine lepers got close to Jesus, they even experienced spiritual blessings that come as a result of God’s common grace – they were healed!  But you can be healed of leprosy and still go to hell.  The nine did not experience ultimate healing-spiritual healing, the healing of the soul.  This leper experienced both physical and spiritual healing.

As we close out study today, I want to give you two main principles and two main questions. 

First principle . . .

I. True Faith Leads To Gratitude.

One cannot be truly grateful to God apart from saving faith.  This leper had a faith in the One True God and he came and fell down at the feet of Jesus.  He was grateful because he possessed true faith.  The reason some people go throughout life ungrateful to God is because they have no faith.  They do not believe.  The Bible speaks about this in Romans 1.  This is our default position in life.  We are born sinners, sinners by nature and sinners by choice.  Of those who have not yet experienced saving faith in Christ, the Bible says in Romans 1:12, “Although they knew God (they knew “about” Him) they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful.”  Gratitude to God does not come apart from saving faith in Christ.

The reason some people go through life neither glorifying God nor thanking God, the reason some people go throughout their lives ungrateful to God, is because they have no faith.  They are not true believers.  True faith leads to gratitude. 

Principle number two . . .

II. Gratitude Leads To Glorifying God.

This leper knew God.  This leper knew that nothing was more important than glorifying God, thanking God, and spending time at the feet of Jesus Christ.  So here are two questions to leave you with. 

Number one, ask yourself . . .

1) Am I Truly Grateful For What God Has Done?

Do you thank God for your physical well-being?  Do you thank Him every day for your spiritual well-being?  Do you realize how much God has done for you?

  • Did the sun come up this morning?
  • Were you able to get out of bed?
  • Are you breathing on your own?
  • Does your heart beat work?
  • Are you able to hear, see, touch, smell?
  • Do you know the beauty of color and the brilliance of light?
  • Can you feel the warmth of another human being you are able to embrace?
  • Can you feel inside yourself love, joy, happiness, and peace?

 Then thank God for what the Lord has done!

Second question . . .

2) How Do I Regularly Show My Gratitude?

In other words, “Is it really clear and plain to everyone that I am a grateful person?”  What is my conversation like?  When people ask you how you doing or how it is going, how do you respond?  How do I regularly show my gratitude through my conversation and through my worship?  Am I truly grateful for what God has done and how do I show it?

Gratitude cannot come apart from faith.  Gratitude springs from faith.  Let me share this with you and we’ll close in prayer.  Many of you are familiar with Matthew Henry, the great puritan of an earlier generation.  Many of you have the Matthew Henry commentary set.  Matthew Henry was once robbed by a couple men while walking down the street.  He writes of his grateful response to God following his robbery.  Here is what he prayed: “I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my (wallet) they did not take my life; third, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed and not I who robbed.”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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