Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 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, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.
Many great short stories contain a surprise – that is, an outcome that we don’t see coming, but makes the story memorable.
This brief story, only nine verses in length, actually packs three surprises – each greater than the one before.
The first surprise is that ten lepers are made clean through faith in Jesus. In that day, leprosy was believed to be both some kind of punishment from God and incurable. Yet, these ten afflicted men come to Jesus begging for mercy and go to show themselves to the priests (the only people in that culture who could proclaim them to be clean) trusting only on the word of Jesus. He said so. So they did. And they were healed.
The second surprise is that although ten men were cleansed from the suffering, humiliation and hopelessness of leprosy, only one returned to thank Jesus. Even Jesus himself seems mildly surprised at the missing nine. “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” Jesus asked.
The third surprise doesn’t come across nearly as strongly to us as it would have in that time and place. The great surprise is that the man who came to offer his praise and worship was a Samaritan. Most of us have heard or read about the animosity that existed between Jews and Samaritans in Jesus’ day. Samaritans were considered “unclean” by the Jews and therefore were disqualified from worship in the presence of God. So for this Samaritan and former leper to wind up worshiping at the feet of Jesus is a shocker indeed!
What does this tell us about the Samaritan? What does this tell us about Jesus? What can we learn about ourselves?
It tells us the Samaritan no longer cared about the centuries-old prejudice that rendered him unworthy to worship. He was clean; he was overflowing with gratitude; and he worshiped with both humility and unbridled joy.
It tells us Jesus loves us as we are – leprosy and all – and offers to make us clean again. It tells us Jesus will receive our praise and thanksgiving – no matter what labels we have been placed on us by others.
Today is Thanksgiving Day – what a great time to return to Jesus and offer him our praise and thanksgiving.
Pastor Brian Coffey