Luke 17:11-19
The Man Who Came Back To Offer Praise

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1.  "Get up and go.  Your faith has saved you," (verse nineteen).  The entire story we read today is concerned with a healing of a severe skin disease* and in it we should not hear the words "your faith has saved you" as if he were saying "you were healed based on your faith, you know."  Although Luke records this same word four times, interestingly enough, the first time we got to see this phrase was not in reference to the healing of a disease. In chapter seven and verse fifty, it was used for a woman forgiven of her sin.  Therefore, in this narrative as well, we can understand that this phrase in which salvation is spoken about does not just have to do with the healing of sickness.  Furthermore, when we look at what immediately comes after this narrative, the following exchange between the Pharisees and the Lord Jesus is recorded.  "The Pharisees asked when was the kingdom of God coming and Jesus answered, 'The kingdom of God is not coming in a visible form.  It is not a matter of saying 'Here it is.'  'There it is.'  Actually, the kingdom of God is among you,'" (verses twenty through twenty-one).  From this we are made to think, when all is said and done, that this short story we read today deals with the "kingdom of God."  In other words, we ought to understand that if salvation is spoken of in it then when all is said and done it is being spoken in connection with the matter of "entering the kingdom of God."  Who are the ones that are living in the kingdom of God which he said was already "among you," and living under God's grace-based rule?  Furthermore, who will shortly be participating in an ultimate salvation in the perfect government of God?  The answers to these questions are shown to us through this story.

Ten Men Healed

2.  First, let's read from verse eleven to verse fourteen.  "While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he passed through between Samaria and Galilee.  When he entered a certain village, ten men who were afflicted with leprosy met him and as they stood still before him who was in the distance, they lifted their voices and said, 'O Jesus, master, will you please show mercy on us!'  Jesus saw the men who were afflicted with leprosy and said, 'Go to the priests, and show your bodies.'  While they were going there, they were made clean," (verses eleven through fourteen).

3.  This is what happened during Jesus' first trip up to Jerusalem.  These were ten men who were stricken with a very serious skin disease in a certain village.  They probably heard somewhere of the healing miracles Jesus did.  These ten men met the Lord Jesus at the village entrance. Then, as they stood before the one who was in the distance they lifted their voices and begged for mercy.  If we ask why were they standing still before the one in the distance, it was because they were not allowed to go near people.  From chapters thirteen and fourteen in the Old Testament book of Leviticus various regulations are recorded concerning this disease. First of all, it meant that the priests thoroughly checked out and diagnosed [a person] regarding this sickness.  Then, if the case was that [the priests] had identified that this disease, which was translated "severe skin disease," was in existence, then [the afflicted] were forced to become persons who could not participate in the normal every day life of society.  In Leviticus 13:45 and following the following is written:  "Sick persons, upon whom a severe skin disease afflicts, tear their clothes, unfasten their hair, cover the lower part of their faces and are to call out "I am an unclean person.  I am unclean.'  As long as these symptoms continue, that person is unclean.  That person is to live alone outside the camp," (Leviticus 13:45-46).  This is the situation in which the ten men are placed.  It was possible that they were not living by themselves individually but were probably making their lives together as a group.  One of them was a Samaritan.  The rest were Jews.  Samaritans and Jews were at enmity with each other.  But, the suffering of illness and the suffering of being shut out of society took away their awareness to an antagonistic consciousness.  They came in company together and sought the Lord Jesus and shouted together, "Will you please have mercy on us!"

4.  The Lord Jesus spoke to these men in their condition.  "Go to the priests and show your bodies."  They were looking for mercy [from him].  [What they were asking for] specifically must have been to be healed of their disease.  A man burdened with the same disease, who appears in The Gospel Of Luke in chapter five, was healed by being touched by the Lord.  They must have also been expecting that kind of special healing activity.  But, the Lord said to them, "Go to the priests."  What in the world is this about?

5.  In Leviticus, which I just brought up, is recorded the procedures for times when a severe skin disease is healed.  It says the following in chapter fourteen and verses two onward.  "The description to follow shows the time when a person, who was afflicted with a severe skin disease, receives cleansing.  When he is brought to the priest, the priest goes outside the camp to inspect him.  If the sick person's severe skin disease is cured and in order for the priest to perform the rite of purification, he gives an order to the person and he prepares two clean birds that are alive, a branch of cedar, scarlet thread, and a branch of hyssop," (Leviticus 14:2-4).  In this manner they hold a ceremony for cleansing.  It is a set procedure by which a healed person is to be reinstated back into the daily life of society.  Therefore, unless the skin disease was cured, going to show oneself to the priest wouldn't make any sense.  When they were commanded by Jesus, no changes had taken place on them. Notwithstanding, the Lord said, "Go."  What might this mean?  The Lord was looking for faith from them.  He was looking for trust and obedience.  So, they believed in God's mercy and followed his word.  They set out to show their bodies to the priests, and on the way they were healed.  What happened happened in accordance with what they believed.

6.  We have found out that this kind of story, in which a miracle of God appeared along with faith, is not limited to a few scripture passages. Perhaps the closest passage to today's story is the story that deals with the healing of the General Naaman which is recorded in The Book Of Kings. In Second Kings chapter five, a character named Naaman, the Aramaic king's army commander, appears in the text.  Like these ten men, he is afflicted with a severe skin disease.  He heard of a prophet who was in Israel and seeking for healing he proceeded to the prophet Elisha.  He was thinking that Elisha would come out, lay his hand on the affected part, pray to the Lord and would heal him.  But, when Naaman arrived at the entrance to his house, Elisha sent a messenger ahead and said this: "Go to the Jordan River and wash yourself seven times.  If you do that, your body will go back to the way it was and you will become clean."  Naaman resented this message and left.  However, he was encouraged by his own servant and he went down according to the message of the prophet and immersed himself in the Jordan River.  Thereupon, his body went back to the way it was and he became clean.  The disease was healed.

7.  These kinds of Old Testament stories might have been deep in their hearts.  In the same way as Naaman, they trusted and obeyed.  Therefore, what we mustn't overlook is they were not unbelievers in any sense at all. When they moved by faith, they certainly had experienced the power of God. We can see these kinds of stories a lot in the scriptures.  Furthermore, we of today have also experienced them.  When we, who live in modern times, trust in the Lord and go out in obedience to the Lord, we experience miracles from God on various levels.  [We experience various situations of miracles from God] because God is a God who arranges them and gives life.

8.  But, if that's all we got to know, today's story should probably end in verse fourteen.  However, Luke writes the rest of the story.  We should not overlook it either, because there is one other important theme here.  Well, what might Luke be trying to tell us [next]?

The Samaritan Came Back

9.  Please look at verse fifteen and following.  "One of the men knew he was healed and while praising God out loud he went back.  Then he bowed himself before the feet of Jesus and gave thanks.  This man was a Samaritan. Thereupon, Jesus said, 'Weren't there ten men made clean?  Where are the other nine persons?  Are there others, beside this foreigner, who have come back to praise God?'  After that, Jesus said to him, 'Get up and go.  Your faith has saved you," (verses fifteen through nineteen).

10.  Luke continues the story.  The man by himself came back while praising God aloud.  That person was a Samaritan.  What did the other nine do?  As expected, as Jesus had told them, they went to show their bodies to the priest.  But, the Lord was surprised over this and said the following: "Weren't there ten men made clean?  Where are the other nine persons?"  As we read this particular passage, we are driven by thoughts we partly do not understand and would like to pitch some questions back to the Lord. "Jesus, what did you say?  After you said go to the priest, didn't they obediently go to the priest?"  That's what I'd ask.  As I just said, they obeyed the word of the Lord and set out.  They proceeded believing they would surely be healed.  And, in reality, it turned out just as they believed.  In that case, didn't they show themselves later to the priest and just return to society, just as the Lord had said?  But where they are at doesn't cut it.

11.  Changing our point of view here, I'd like us to first think about why the Samaritan came back.  Keeping it simple, the first reason was probably that "he was surprised."  Of course, he himself believed and obeyed.  But, when his body was healed, when the miracle of God came into being, he did not think of it as a plain matter to be expected.  Of course, he had probably been surprised by the healing of the sickness itself among other things, but beyond that I suppose he felt surprised by the very truth itself that God was keeping him on his mind.  Furthermore, he probably realized if God gave him grace, the basis of it did not lie with him at all [but God].  It didn't seem like God healed his disease because of anything superior within him.  Even if he had faith, it didn't seem like God would heal him with that as collateral.  Therefore, he "came back" to the Lord Jesus.  Although he received the favor of God and personally had neither basis nor qualification for it, he came to understand that it was mostly through the Lord Jesus.  Because he was enlightened to the fact that God gave him his grace because of Jesus the messiah and based on his name, he returned and gave thanks to the Lord Jesus.  His thoughts, we know from the words which are written in the text, were such that "he bowed himself before the feet of the Lord and gave thanks."

12.  In contrast to this Samaritan a problem with the other nine men becomes clear.  Why didn't they return to the Lord?  It was because Jesus no longer had any important existence for those who were healed.  Why didn't he have an important existence any more?  We could consider at least two possible reasons.  The first reason was that what occupied their minds was not "my relationship with God" but "my relationship to the sickness [I had]."  The main focus of their request was to be healed of their sickness.  They were seeking the Lord for that reason, they were seeking for a miracle from God for that purpose, and they believed the Lord and they believed God in order to acquire the effect of healing.  They now have acquired that effect.  If the problem was not a relationship with God, but the relationship with their sickness, that problem was already resolved.  Next, shouldn't they just return and be reinstated into society?  Therefore, they go straight to the priest.  As I said earlier, [they went straight to the priest] because it was the procedure for reinstatement into society.  For them, they no longer had need for Jesus as a worker of miracles.  Since this kind of thing happens so much even in modern times, we can surely understand this enough.  If the subject of our main interest is not "my relationship with God" but is "my relationship with my troubles," it will be a matter of course for us that we end up seeing no significance in the existence of the Lord Jesus.

13.  So, the second reason that the Lord did not have an important existence for those who were healed has to do with how they reacted to the workings of God.  They were probably surprised at the very miracle itself, but they reacted taking it for granted that they received God's grace.  It's that they saw inside themselves a sufficient basis for receiving grace.  Luke's sketch that the one who went back was a Samaritan and the ones who did not go back were Jews symbolically expresses this point.  The basis which they had in their consciousness might have been their "faith," because they did believe and obey.  Likewise, a person will end up thinking that even "faith" is a human achievement which can require the grace of God as its collateral.  We should not expect thanks to the Lord Jesus to issue from people who think like that.

14.  It was ten men who were healed of sickness.  But, the one who heard this message of "Your faith has saved you" was only this Samaritan who came back.  Well, I return to the first question.  Who will enter the kingdom of God and live in the kingdom of God?  Who will experience the rule of God's grace and live?  What kind of person is the saved person?  It is not merely the person who has experienced the great miracle power of God.  It is not the person who has had trials and heavy burdens removed through a marvelous working of God.  It is not the person who requested for the grace of God as a matter of course and then acquired it.  It is not these type of people at all, rather, it is the person who knows the basis upon which he or she participates in the grace of God has nothing at all to do with anything on his or her part.  It is the person who knows that he or she is able to participate in the grace of God only through the Lord Jesus alone. Furthermore, it is the person who gives thanks to the Lord, gives praise to God, and lives by worshipping God and that exact such person is the one who will live in the kingdom of God and who will participate ultimately in the perfect salvation of God.

The Author's End Note:

* In the old edition of The Common Bible Translation it is translated as "leprosy," but in the latest edition in order to avoid confusion with what we call Hansen's Disease it has been translated as "severe skin disease." In this sermon I use the latter translation.

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