Guy N. Woods
Enroute to Jerusalem from a brief period of retirement in Ephraim, whither He had gone following the raising of Lazarus from the dead, at some point on the border between Samaria and Galilee, not certainly known to us, our Lord encountered ten lepers. Nine of them were Jews, and the other was of the Samaritan race (Luke 17:11-21).
When Jesus saw them, He said to them: “Go show yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed” (17:14). He who never turns His back on one who comes to Him in distress, heard and heeded the pitiful plea of these afflicted men. He saw their need, their desire, and their faith. He looked, not only on their ruined and diseased bodies, but also into their hearts; and what He saw prompted Him to bestow His beneficent grace upon them.
They were bidden to go to the priests. When a leper was cured, before he was restored to society he was required to show himself to the priest, make an offering, and be officially pronounced clean (Lev. 14; Matt. 8:1-4). Jesus required this procedure in this instance for several reasons: (a) It was the law, and He always enjoined strict adherence to the law while it remained in force, (b) It impressed on the cleansed man the necessity of continued adherence thereto, (c) The action would serve as a testimony to others, and (d) Their faith was tested by the command. Had these men refused to act upon the command of Jesus, they would not have been healed. Faith never produces a blessing until it leads its possessor to obedience (Jas. 2:20-24).
Their response was immediate. Acting on the Lord’s command to present themselves to the priest, the leprous men hurried away. After they had gone some distance, perhaps out of the village, the miracle of healing occurred. Suddenly the Samaritan, seized with the irresistible emotion of gratitude for the wondrous blessing of healing he had experienced, turned back—not in disobedience to the Lord’s command, but to express to Him the thanks that welled up in his heart for the blessed miracle of healing so wondrously wrought upon him. (a) He glorified God as the author of the good he had received, (b) he knelt before Jesus as a token of the reverence he felt, and (c) he offered thanks for his unspeakable gift.
Observing that only one out of the ten returned to express gratitude, Jesus asked: “Were not the ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there none found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger?” (Luke 11:17-18). Ingratitude is one of the most universal and deeply seated of all the human vices, and our Lord felt its crushing weight again and again while upon the earth. On this occasion He seemed to have been unusually moved by the dept of the thankfulness manifested. It is true that the nine had gone to on literal obedience to His command, but they did so from selfish motives and were conscious of no gratitude to God and their Benefactor. The Samaritan, untrained in the religion of Jehovah, and from whom less might ordinarily have been expected, did the best. All stood the test of faith, to be sure; otherwise they would not have been healed. But the nine failed in the test of love!!
Many of us today are very much like the ungrateful nine. We are far more ready to pray than to praise, more disposed to ask God for what we have not than to thank Him for what we have. Murmuring, complaints, and discontent abound on every hand. The nine represent those among us today who receive unnumbered blessings from Christianity, whose comforts, education, wealth, liberty, homes, and hopes are all gifts of Christ, and who yet refuse to love Him, worship Him, serve Him. We should pray for a daily, thankful heart. It is a spirit which God loves and delights to honor. The prophets, with great poignancy, wept often because of the ingratitude which so often characterized Israel. Hear the plaintive cry of the great prophet of old:
“Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for Jehovah hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (Isa. 1:2-3).
A hard, ungrateful heart, both toward God and man, is all too often characteristic of mankind. “Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.”