The Bible never promises our lives will be free from pain and difficulties, instead the Bible promises we will have many trials and tribulations in this life. The secret to a successful life is knowing where to turn for help when you have a problem. That’s the lesson we are going to learn today from a man who had leprosy. Let’s read about it in Luke 17:11-17.
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
As we study the New Testament, we find Jesus performed many miracles and spoke many parables. Always take time to pause and look below the surface of the Scripture because there is a miracle hidden in every parable, and there is a parable to be found in every miracle.
On the surface, Jesus heals ten men of leprosy and only one returned to thank Him. But in addition to this miraculous healing, there are some valuable spiritual principles to be found. I want us to look below the surface because there are at least seven important lessons we can learn about ourselves from this passage.
1. WE HAVE A DEADLY PROBLEM ONLY JESUS CAN FIX
In biblical times, leprosy was a terrible problem. The word was often used to describe a variety of skin diseases, but doctors believe most of the people suffered with what we now call Hansen’s Disease. It starts with a white patch of skin that becomes numb, so much so that the victims cannot even feel a needle piercing the spot. The patch begins to spread all over the body and often manifests itself on the face, so the disease is impossible to hide. It then begins to form spongy tumors on the face and, at the same time, attacks the internal organs as well. The nerve endings become numb so the victim cannot tell when something is hurting him, like fire burning his hand. The leprosy itself was not fatal, but more lepers died from other diseases they contracted because of their weakened condition.
Lepers were called “the walking dead,” and were kicked out of their homes and villages and forced to live in colonies with other lepers. They couldn’t work or worship at the temple.
Even though none of us have leprosy, that’s a good description of us. We are all born with a deadly disease the Bible calls terminal sin; it causes us to be spiritual outcasts. It’s part of our genetic code. I got it from my parents who got it from their parents, and it goes all the way back to a couple named Adam and Eve.
You may feel healthy today, but if you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, there is a terrible, invisible, insidious cancer growing inside your soul. No MRI, CAT scan or other diagnostic tool can find it, but God’s Word says it’s there. What are you going to do about it?
2. WE MUST ADMIT OUR NEED AND CRY OUT TO JESUS
When these ten lepers found Jesus, they didn’t engage in small talk about the weather or politics. Instead, they cried out as one voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
It would have been easy for them to look at each other and think, “We’re not so bad, we’re all in the same condition.” One of them could have said, “My leprosy is not as bad as his, so I’m doing okay.” Instead, they said, “We’ve got a big problem! We’re going to die! We need to get some help!”
Too many people today are living in denial. They don’t want to admit their need because they look around and they can usually find someone worse than themselves. Because we live in a spiritual leper colony called America, there are plenty of chances to think, “I’m not so bad. I’ve never robbed a bank, I’ve never murdered anyone. I’m not a drug pusher or a child molester. In fact, I’m better than many of those hypocrites who go to church!”
But before Jesus can help us, we must quit fooling ourselves and admit we have a problem. All the twelve-step programs agree the first step for recovery is to admit “I’m an alcoholic; I’m addicted to pornography; I’m addicted to cocaine.” But that’s not enough, you must seek help. Before you can have a relationship with Jesus you must say, “I am a rotten sinner! Jesus, have mercy on me! Help me, Jesus!”
Have you done that? Have you come to a place of total surrender where you’ve said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner?”
3. GOD’S POWER IS NOT RELEASED UNTIL WE STEP OUT IN FAITH
Instead of laying hands on the men and immediately healing them, Jesus simply said, “Go show yourself to the priest.” Jesus brought them to a crisis of faith. They could have said, “No, Jesus, can’t you touch us or something, or say some words?” Or they could have looked at their infected limbs and said, “What? We’re not healed yet!”
Instead all ten of them obeyed Jesus and headed off to see the priest. And as they were going, they were healed. There is a powerful lesson about faith here. It wasn’t until they stepped out in faith and obeyed Jesus, that they experienced His healing power. Jesus gave them the Word–then they stepped out in faith and–BOOM–they were healed! That’s when it happened. They didn’t just stand there and say, “Well, after you heal me Jesus, then I’ll go show myself to the priest, but not a moment sooner.”
That’s the way faith works. Faith is trusting and obeying God even if you don’t have any visible, physical evidence supporting your decision. I love the story in Matthew 14 about the disciples of Jesus out in the boat in the middle of a stormy night, and Jesus came walking on the water to them. They were terrified and thought He was some kind of a ghost. But Jesus told them, “Don’t be afraid.”
Peter who was always shooting off his mouth blurted out, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to walk on the water with you.” Jesus said, “Come on!” Now here is a picture of faith: Peter threw his leg over the side of the boat and started walking toward Jesus.
But when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and started looking at the wind and the waves, he began to think, “This is impossible! I can’t walk on water.” When he took his eyes off Jesus and began to doubt, then he began to sink. So Jesus grabbed him and said, “Oh you of little faith, why did you begin to doubt me?”
Faith is walking on the Word of God. Faith doesn’t need any evidence, it simply obeys. The Bible is full of God’s directions on how we are to live, and with every single directive, He also provides the power to accomplish it. Our job is to step out in faith and simply obey Him.
What is God telling you today to do? What are you waiting for? Step out in faith and obey Him, and only then will you experience His mighty power.
4. IT IS GOOD TO SPEND TIME AT THE FEET OF JESUS
On the way to the priest, the ten lepers began to look at each other and suddenly they realized they were healed. Can’t you see them jumping up and down hugging one another?
At this point, we don’t know what happened to 90% of the group. Perhaps they journeyed on to show themselves to the priest, or maybe they ran back to their families–we don’t know. One of them could have said, “I want to see if this healing really lasts.” Or, “I was getting better anyway, I knew it was just a matter of time and good exercise and diet.”
But we know from Jesus’ response only one of them did the right thing. He wasn’t content just to go to church and see the priest, he turned and ran back to Jesus and fell at His feet to give Him thanks. He wanted a relationship, not a religion!
Falling at someone’s feet is a picture of submission and worship. Mary spent time at the feet of Jesus when He came to have supper at her house. The woman at Simon’s house spent time at the feet of Jesus washing His feet with her tears. In the book of Revelation, the 24 elders, who represent all the redeemed of all the ages will bow before the Lamb who is on the throne. It is good to spend time at Jesus’ feet.
Here’s the key lesson of this passage: ten men were exposed to God’s power, but only one sought a personal relationship with Him. Nine of them were content to receive the blessing of God, but only one of them cared enough to return to the source of the blessing to worship God. That’s so true today as well. God’s blessings are poured out on all people, not just His children. Jesus said God makes it rain on the just and unjust alike. But only a relatively small group of people are interested in having a personal relationship with Jesus.
Have you found you only come to God when you have a shopping list of prayer request? Or maybe you use God like a heavenly 911 call? “Help, God I have an emergency, bail me out!” God loves you and wants you to spend time with Him. He desires for you to worship and fellowship with Him.
5. FEELING THANKFUL IS DIFFERENT THAN GIVING THANKS
The man threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. The most amazing thing about this miracle is that out of ten people who were healed, only one came back to say, “Thank you.” In verse 17, Jesus said, “Were there not ten who were cleansed? Where are the other nine?”
I believe God is still saddened by how few people actually express thanksgiving to Him. Many Americans are too busy to stop and acknowledge God and simply say, “Thank you.” Or they have convinced themselves they deserve everything they have, so why thank God?
When I was younger, I used to watch the TV show “The Simpsons.” There was one episode where the family was sitting down for a meal and the dad asked his son, Bart, to give thanks before the meal. Bart said, “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”
Some people may laugh at that line, but I think it reveals a real problem many people have. They live their lives enjoying the blessings of God, but never once stop to say “Thank you.” They are just like the old pig who sniffs among the acorns on the ground, but never once looks up to acknowledge the tree that produced the acorns.
The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you” (People often ask me, “How can I find God’s will for my life?” You can start by reading His Word, and this verse says clearly and plainly God’s will for your life is to give thanks in all circumstances. If you aren’t obeying that portion of His will for your life, what makes you think He’s going to reveal any more than that?
The key is to give thanks, not merely to feel thankful. Now, I’m certain the other nine lepers were thankful about being cleansed. How could anyone not feel thankful after being healed of a deadly disease? But only one of the ten did the right thing by coming back to Jesus and expressing thanksgiving. There is a tremendous difference between simply feeling gratitude and expressing gratitude.
Let’s say someone does something nice for me, but I just think to myself how thankful I am for what so and so has done for me and don’t acknowledge that person. If that is all I do, I miss a chance to be a blessing to that person. But if I write them a thank you note, or speak to them and say, “I really appreciate what you did for me,” then they are blessed, too.
With God, don’t just feel thankful: Give thanks! The Bible says in Hebrews 13:15, “Through Jesus, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that confess His name.” It says “the fruit of lips” not “a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart.” Don’t just feel it, tell God how thankful you are.
But we are not just to thank God for the good things in life. We are to give thanks in all circumstances. Whatever happens, we can always find something for which we can give God thanksgiving.
If you are going through a time of pain and difficulty, why don’t you try to find at least one thing about your situation for which you can thank God? I’ve often wondered as I read about this healing of the ten lepers if Jesus was trying to tell us about 90% of us don’t thank God enough. Don’t be like the unthankful crowd. Determine that you are going to be like the one man who returned and gave thanks to Jesus.
6. A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS MAKES YOU A FOREIGNER IN THIS WORLD
Jesus pointed out that the one man who returned was a Samaritan–a foreigner. He acted differently than 90% of the lepers. There is a powerful lesson here: those of us who have entered into a relationship with Jesus don’t act or think like other people. We are always in the minority about the way we act and think. We never quite feel at home in this world, and we shouldn’t. The Bible says, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).
It doesn’t matter where you came from; it’s your destination that is most important. Although we are citizens of America, our main citizenship is in heaven. That’s why Christians often feel like foreigners in this place. This world is not our permanent home. Are you homesick for heaven? Peter writes: “I urge you as strangers and aliens in this world to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Pt. 2:11).
Just as this one man, a foreigner, acted differently from the crowd, so should we. A marching band was performing in a parade. All the band members were walking in perfect rhythm except one guy who was totally out of step. Upon closer examination, you could see wires running to his ears. He was plugged into his walkman and it was playing a different tune than everyone else was hearing. That’s a picture of us: we are marching to a different beat than this world because we are listening to different music.
7. LET JESUS FINISH WHAT HE STARTED IN YOU
Look again at Jesus’ final words to this man in verse 19. He said, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.” Concentrate on that last word; it’s the word sozo which means “saved.” It’s the same word the Philippian jailer used in Acts 16 when he said, “What must I do to be saved?” The word means to “be made complete or whole.” Jesus didn’t just come to earth to heal people of diseases; otherwise He would have established a hospital. He came to this world to seek and to save the lost. He came to make people whole.
Here’s the result of this miracle: Ten men were cleansed, but only one man became “whole.” Ninety percent of them only received a small portion of what could have been theirs, and only one received full salvation.
Friends, Jesus wants to do more than just clean you up. He wants to make you whole and complete.
One of my favorite promises in Scripture is found in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Have you simply approached Jesus because you wanted eternal fire insurance, or are you continuing at His feet daily so He can make you whole? I don’t know why you came to church today, but I do know why Jesus showed up here: He wants to make you whole!
And that’s exactly what has happened to me. I was as good as dead, but Jesus touched me and He gave me hope. He not only cleansed me of my sin, but He is making me whole. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be like those nine men. I want to be the one who says, “Thank you, Jesus, for what you have done for me!”
We all have a deadly problem only Jesus can fix.