As we have highlighted along the way throughout our march through the gospel of Luke, he writes with certain unique emphases, as do Matthew, Mark and John. Of all passages in this book and arrangement of the highlights of Christ’s life, today’s reading contains the varied elements that make Luke’s account unique.
Here we see the emphasis upon the determination of Jesus to get to Jerusalem. We also note the gracious treatment Jesus extends toward social outcasts, like lepers. Though Christ’s teachings upset the entrenched leadership, he does not fail to conform to the norms of the Jewish faith – here requiring the lepers to present themselves to the priests for a declaration of health. As well, the theme is again emphasized that a miraculous event should elicit faith in who Christ is and trust and praise to him as the Messiah. And finally, Luke especially emphasizes how God’s grace is extending beyond the Jews to such as Samaritans, previewing the expanse of Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The general setting for this healing of the 10 lepers is in the region of Samaria bordering Galilee. Here is a mixed group of people who have a new common component – the disease of leprosy that made them social outcasts in both cultures.
There was an element of a faith component for the lepers. Jesus told them to go to the priests, and it was on their way that they were cleansed.
Only one returns, surprisingly a Samaritan. He recognizes Jesus as God, given his experience of healing. The others apparently just went home without any display of gratitude or faith. And this presents a picture of the nation (another theme of Luke’s) as to how the vast majority were not responding appropriately to the words and works of Jesus.
And we may also say that this is a timeless theme. Though all mankind has the provision of spiritual healing in the cross work of Jesus Christ, the vast majority do not accept or believe in its efficacy for them. There is no gratitude, simply because they do not “get” it. And indeed, they have not got it; they do not possess it.
Gratitude for God’s gracious provision in Christ is surely appropriate and is to be a regular part of our experience in the faith. The call to remembrance in the ordinance of communion is especially for this purpose. It is a reminder, and without that reminder, it is our nature to slowly forget or undervalue the great grace we’ve been given – a grace that makes all the difference for both time and eternity.