Thanksgiving in prayer
The Ten Lepers
In Palestine in the time of Jesus there was a disease called leprosy. A person who had this disease was known as a leper. Lepers were not allowed to mix with other people and if anyone happened to get near them, they had to shout out, “Unclean! Unclean!” as a warning to keep away. As no one would employ them, the lepers had to rely on what money people gave them in order to keep themselves alive. They were also forbidden to live in towns or villages, and so used to gather by the road just outside and beg for money from the passers by. If the signs of leprosy disappeared the person had to be examined by priests. If the priests were satisfied that all was well, the person was certified as clean and could mix with other people again.
One day, as Jesus was entering a village, he met a group of 10 lepers who had banded themselves together for company. As soon as they recognised him they called out to him to have pity on them. “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” (NRSV, Luke 17:13). In reply, Jesus said what seemed a most extraordinary thing. “Go and show yourselves to the priests” (NRSV, Luke 17:14). The normal order of events would be for the people to be cured first and only then to go to the priests to be pronounced clean. But Jesus sent them to be certified as cured when they still had all the signs of their disease.
Without waiting to think, the 10 lepers went off but before they had gone very far they saw that they were cured. They were lepers no longer! From now on they would be able to live an ordinary life like anyone else. As soon as they realised what had happened, they hurried all the faster so as to get certified as clean – that is, all except one. He was a foreigner from Samaria and he, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and with a great shout glorified God and fell down as Jesus’ feet giving him thanks.
But what struck Jesus most of all was the conduct of the other nine who had gone off without even a ‘Thank you’. “Were not ten made clean?” he asked. “But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (NRSV, Luke 17:17,18).