Now on His way to Jerusalem, Yeshua traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.
Messiah Yeshua is making His way to Jerusalem, and it will be for the last time during His earthly incarnation. Once He arrives there, the pace of the narrative will slow down considerably. In 14 chapters Luke chronicled about three full years of Yeshua’s ministry; but almost 5 full chapters describe the events of just one week! Knowing this fact, and knowing that in just a few days Messiah will surrender up His life for mankind’s redemption, everything He says and does during this final journey should rivet our attention.
He is traveling through a despised region. Samaritans and Galileans were held in contempt by the people of Judea, which isn’t surprising, since ethnic rivalry and distrust is a familiar byproduct of the Fall. Samaritans were regarded as half-breeds – people descended from intermarriage between Israelis and other ethnicities dating back to the Assyrian Captivity in the 8th century BC.
The Galilee was regarded as goyishe (very un-Jewish). In the days of the prophet Isaiah, Judeans mockingly called it ‘Galilee of the Gentiles’. They considered the Galileans ill-mannered rednecks. Do you remember how Nathanael’s said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” when he was told Yeshua was from there? But, our Master had no room for such prejudices. He chose several Galileans to be His talmidim (disciples). In fact, the detour through Galilee was probably for the sake of some of the disciples, so that they could visit with family before continuing on to Jerusalem for Passover.
The point here is that Yeshua spent time among people and in places that self-respecting ‘religious’ folks would never show their face. Let’s just make sure we aren’t like that – looking down our noses at those considered ‘low-brow’. From the godless of the world, such behavior isn’t surprising; but from those who claim to be Messiah’s followers, these kinds of prejudices have no place… or do we really believe that every human being is made in the image of God?
As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Yeshua, Master, have pity on us!”
There was just about nothing worse in all the ancient world than to be a leper. You had to live on the periphery of society. Lepers dwelt in lonely, isolated colonies outside of cities or villages, begging for alms or food, and more or less waiting to die. Their only companionship would have been other lepers. In fact, did you know that the word for “leprosy” in Hebrew is tzara’at – from which we get the Yiddish word Tzuris (troubles)? Lepers were feared and loathed on account of the perceived threat of contagion. More than that, leprosy was considered by most to be a curse from God; punishment for sin. And that is why, if you had leprosy, people went out of their way to avoid you. In Israel you were required to call out “unclean!” as you passed, to give people warning. What a stigma to have to live with! Who could blame those ten men for pleading to be made well?
Ten men – a minyan’s worth. But this ‘leper minyan’ would have been about as welcome in town as a minyan of Jewish believers in Jesus. Yeshua is approaching the village, and these men would have been just outside the gate of the village, as Jewish law required. Likewise, the fact that they called out from a distance conformed to Jewish law. But consider the words they cried out:
“Yeshua, Master, have pity on us!”
They called out to Him by His name: Yeshua…
If we take into account Matthew and Mark’s version of His last trip to Jerusalem, then it’s very likely that Messiah Yeshua had a large contingent following Him, and probably one or more of these lepers had heard who it was at the head of the procession. After three years of performing miracles unlike anything ever seen in Israel, everyone had heard of Him. Everyone knew His name.
They called Him Master…
The Greek word is epistata. They are not calling him ‘Rabbi’ but ‘Master’ and that may be a sign of humility, since lepers could never be disciples of a rabbi. They are admitting their status as outcasts from the Jewish community. But what is most important is that they are acknowledging His authority.
They cried out to Him, Have pity on us!
They knew of Yeshua’s reputation as a miracle-worker, and they knew of His authority over all kinds of sickness and disease, but this plea – “have pity on us!” reveals that they also knew of His reputation for compassion towards the outcasts of society. He forgave sinners, He kept company with tax-collectors, He associated with ‘questionable types.’ He was perfectly righteous, but never self-righteous.
One thing is certain: their crying out to Messiah Yeshua wasn’t in vain.
When He saw them, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
His instruction to them conforms to the requirements of the Torah (Leviticus 13-14), in which priests would visually inspect the skin of a leper to confirm that all traces of leprosy were gone. After that, the former leper would be led through ritual purification, leading to their reintegration into society.
But did you ever wonder why, on this particular occasion, Yeshua didn’t lay hands on those He was healing, or pray over them, or even declare them clean? He wasn’t afraid of being infected with leprosy. After all, Yeshua had previously lain hands on lepers and cleansed them. And because He was God incarnate, He was never in any danger of defilement. Yet in this instance, Messiah merely told the ten lepers to go show themselves to the priests while they still had leprosy.
I think it’s remarkable, but it isn’t arbitrary. For them to go as commanded, it would require an act of faith on their part, since it would be futile for them to track down a Cohen (priest) on duty if they were still leprous. So, this healing begins with a test of faith, which would require obedience.
And as they went, they were cleansed.
Can you imagine the wonder they must have felt when, on their way, they sensed His divine healing coursing through their body, and saw their skin transforming before their very eyes? Can you imagine the overwhelming joy of knowing they would no longer have to live as outcasts – that they would be reunited with family and friends, and never again have to walk in public in shame?
But don’t miss the importance of their obedience. Obedience produces blessing.! It is also almost always the precursor to answered prayer. Listen, God is gracious, but don’t expect any answers to prayer if you are living defiantly; either refusing to do the things Yeshua has said to do, or living unrepentantly in sin.
Given what the Scriptures teach about our sinful nature, it should be understood that God doesn’t owe us anything; all that’s good in our lives is by His grace. But at the very least, don’t presume that Adonai will simply look the other way and green light your requests if you are defiant in your sin.
These ten men did what Yeshua said to do, even though it may have felt weird, since in that moment they were still leprous. They were obedient. And through their faith and obedience, they were cleansed on the way.
But there’s something else that needs to be said here. Having faith doesn’t always produce godly humility or even basic gratitude, as we see in this story.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Yeshua’s feet and thanked Him…
Wouldn’t you think that all ten of them, having had to live for who knows how many years with the shame and the poverty and the loneliness of leprosy, would have been beside themselves with joy when they realized they were healed? Yet only one of them returned to Yeshua to say “Thank You!”
To what would you attribute this lack of gratitude? I mean, isn’t it really pathetic that the rest of them just kept walking? I generally try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but how do you explain this? Were they worried that by going back to thank the Lord they would be disobeying His directive to go to the priests, and He would be angry with them? I really doubt it. Was it a feeling of entitlement? Did they figure they were owed a miracle? Had their suffering produced cynicism and resentment instead of compassion or patience, and they just plain forgot how to show appreciation for a good done to them?
- Maybe one of them wanted to wait to see if the cure was real
- Maybe another of them wanted to see if the healing would last
- Maybe a third one decided he would see Yeshua later
- Maybe one of them concluded he never really had leprosy
- Maybe one of them figured he would have gotten well eventually
Do those rationalizations sound far-fetched? Maybe those excuses, as well as this story in the Gospel, tell us something uncomfortable, but true, about ourselves. Maybe we are prone to take God’s kindnesses to us for granted; we feel entitled.
But what about the one who returned to Yeshua to thank Him? It says he was praising God with a loud voice – shouting for joy! And it says he threw himself at Messiah’s feet with gratitude, and thanked Him. That is what we would expect to feel, having been given such a gracious, miraculous gift of healing. What else does it say about him? It says,
…he was a Samaritan.
The historical friction between Jews and Samaritans is well-documented. The fact that Messiah Yeshua even traveled and ministered in Samaria crossed boundaries that had long been in place. It is even remarkable that this Samaritan man was welcome among the other nine men, but sometimes shared suffering helps us put our differences in perspective, and so their status as lepers kept them together.
That this Samaritan man received a miraculous healing from Yeshua is also an extraordinary thing in historical context. But you who have studied the Scriptures know full well that God has wonderful plans for people from all nations of the world to become one with those from among the Jewish people who believe in Messiah, and that together we will serve Adonai forever and ever!
Nevertheless, only the one man returned to thank Yeshua, and he was a Gentile.
Yeshua 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.”
But there’s something else going on. There is a pattern that emerges as we read of the miracles and teachings of Yeshua. It seems that those who were consistently the most receptive and appreciative of His ministry were non-Jews. Meanwhile, there were numerous occasions where Jewish people who received miracles or instruction from Him were unappreciative. And here we have nine out of ten recipients of a wondrous miracle being unappreciative, and the only one who comes back to thank Him is the non-Jew.
Now, lest you think I am being unduly critical of my own people, let me say that whereas there certainly is in the Jewish community a sense of entitlement and a considerable amount of ethnocentrism, this story of ingratitude isn’t “the other guy’s” sin problem. Don’t think for one minute that you and I aren’t in view here.
Taking God’s goodness for granted is closer to every one of us than we’d like to believe. It is a byproduct of mankind’s rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden, and it affects all of us.
Haven’t we all known people who weren’t believers, who seemed to have more grace and humility and kindness than people we’ve known who are Christians or Messianic Jews? And there is the matter of the mirror in front of us – our lives measured by the objective and holy standard of the Word of God. And in that regard, don’t we all come up short?
The fact is, that we are more prone to be like the nine than like the one. This very real, historical event in the ministry of Jesus should be a caution to all of us not to take God’s good gifts to us for granted. He is all-powerful, and He is caring, and He is exceedingly patient. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Their calling out to Yeshua wasn’t in vain, and when you call on Him, it won’t be in vain, either. But whatever you do, don’t let yourself become cynical and thankless. Draw close to the Lord and count your blessings.
And if you live in Florida, you can recount your blessings.
Pastor Jerry Vines once wrote: “Thanksgiving is an amazing medicine. When we are thankful, worries cease. Complaining disappears. Peace comes into our hearts. When we learn to be thankful, when we develop the attitude of gratitude, we’re on the way to being happy, contented people. It spares us from being complaining, critical, angry, depressed people. Thanksgiving has a marvelous healing, soothing quality to the people who learn to display it.”
But be sure of this, gratitude is far more than merely an internal feeling. Those who are grateful to God for having been saved and restored and being given eternal life are likely to manifest their appreciation in tangible ways. Those who have that ‘attitude of gratitude’ reveal it through consistently helping others. It inevitably results in deeds of kindness, in compassion toward others, and in generosity with our talents, our money and our ‘free’ time.
Are you genuinely thankful? What are you doing to show it?
Like the Samaritan leper, Your faith has made you well… But that’s the beginning of the new story. How is the rest of your life of faith going to play out?