Article: BUT WHERE ARE THE NINE? | Jacob Varghese

Let us turn our attention to Luke chapter 17:11-19 for this meditation. One day, Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one of them returned to give thanks. Where are the other nine? But where are the nine? There are several stories about Jesus cleansing lepers in the Gospels. The story as it is told in Luke’s Gospel is perhaps the most familiar one to us. This passage is often used as a story of gratitude and is certainly a lesson in the necessity of being grateful. What is gratitude for you? How thankful are you? How thankful are you for the one who rescued your soul? How much appreciation you show to God for saving you for eternity?
Jesus met ten men who were lepers as He entered a certain village. As we know leprosy was a horrible disease with pain in the body and separation from other people. Now it is so interesting because we see a Samaritan in that group with the Jews. Traditionally they did not hang out together. Ever since the children of Israel had come back from the exile in Babylon, they had been at odds with the Samaritans. Samaritans were a hated people by the Jews. Most Jews wouldn’t pass through Samaria but would actually go around. But what made them come together? Normally, they wouldn’t have had anything to do with a Samaritan, but in their need, they are ready to make concessions. They are lepers and notice that they stood afar off. This is what they were commanded to do. These lepers never knew a loving touch or face to face interaction with people. Leprosy was a dreaded disease and basically considered incurable. It was horrible and people had to be isolated because they were very infectious. And they shall be unclean, they shall dwell alone and their dwelling shall be outside the camp or community.

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Let us come back to the read passage; these lepers seemed not only to know Jesus’ name but more importantly who He is? They addressed Him as Master. They lifted up their voices and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us! The word Master has an idea of a king, the commander or an officer in charge. Essentially here the lepers are appealing to their commander in chief one who is over all diseases, the Lord Jesus Christ and their appeal is very simple. No matter what desperate situation you find yourself in your life, go to Jesus. These ten lepers went to Jesus, and they were not disappointed. When He saw them, they received their miracle from Jesus. You may be crying out “Have mercy on me”, step in and do something about my dreaded situation. Notice that Jesus is the God who sees. He sees you today. Jesus is mighty to save. I want to proclaim that Jesus is the savior- He will forgive your sins! And Jesus is the Healer- He will heal your sickness! But you must come to Him. The unclean should plead for Jesus’ mercy. Yes, the unclean should entreat Jesus’ mercy. In another words, when you are unclean, unhealthy and there is no other place to turn to, but then turn to God the almighty. And you should petition Him for His mercy. Now may be these lepers had heard that Jesus had cleansed other lepers. Back in Luke chapter 5, we see there was a man with leprosy. In verse 12 we see, now there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” it is very interesting to see it mentioned in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospel that there was an individual who was full of leprosy and Jesus had healed that man. So perhaps word got around. Here is the master of the universe who can even heal lepers so they come to Him seeking mercy.

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But how did these lepers in our passage respond? Out of the ten people who were healed, only one of them returned to Jesus to thank and praise Him. The sad thing about it is that nine of them, though they were healed, went on their way to the priests. We never hear of their return. The cleansed should express thanksgiving to God. Yes, the cleansed should express thanksgiving to God. Now you may say Jesus commanded the lepers to go and show themselves to the priest. This was the Old Testament prescribed method that those who were formally infected would be permitted only by the priests to go back in to the society but something miraculous happens when they heed the word of the Lord Jesus Christ. They took God in His word and He acted upon it and so it was. That is faith. As they went, they were cleansed. Jesus extends 100% mercy to the lepers and all the ten are healed. But He only gets 10% gratitude, because only one came back. This world is dry of thankfulness to God! 9 out of the 10 lepers were content with blessings from Jesus. One came back with a loud voice and glorified God. And when we get into the specifics, we see he fell down on his face at His feet giving Him thanks. That is the right thing to do.
In Pslam107:8, 15, 21 & 31 say “Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind”. We see the same exact words repeated four times and in four verses in the same psalm. If it is repeated once or more than once we understand it is important. Here we see it is something repeated four times in the scripture that means it is very very important. Let us give thanks for His goodness, mercy, loving kindness and faithfulness in our life. How often do you thank God for His goodness? How often as you go through the day, you stop and say God is good and you thank Him all the time and you give Him the praise that He is worthy of. We need to understand the goodness of God and thank Him. Don’t think that He is holding back any goodness from you. We need to thank God for His goodness. We receive the blessings of Jesus but never return and give thanks to Him. Where are the nine? Have you come to Jesus and encountered His grace? If so, it is time to become the people of gratitude, people of thanks giving, people of love, grace and forgiveness. It is time to stop being a follower of the nine and but to become a follower of Jesus! Follow the example of the one. Do not go along with the majority. The one leper models for us what true praise and thankfulness look like.
So what is Jesus asking in verse 17, were there not ten cleansed? Why? Because only one came back to Him but where are the nine? Nine out of ten did not come back. How often do you thank God? When we do something for people, how often do you expect people to thank you? When you do something for people and if they don’t even say a thank you, how do you feel? Then how much more, God who has done everything for us? How it must hurt His heart not to hear back from us. Why do we need to thank God? Because God is good and no one else is good, we need to thank God for His goodness. We have to think about the goodness of the Lord when we have food on our table, when we have a place to stay, when we are in good health and so on. Don’t be forgetful about the goodness of our Lord! Don’t be ungrateful! By the way our forgetfulness often times is willful. We choose to forget the goodness of God or we take it as granted. Now the good guy in this story is a Samaritan and from a Jewish perspective there was no such thing as Good Samaritan. Jewish people look down upon them, but yet he is the good guy in this story and we have so much to learn from him. The first characteristic of his praise is its promptness. As soon he saw that he was healed, he came back to Jesus immediately. If God has been good to you, then thank Him and Praise Him. The second characteristic of praise is its intensity. He glorified God with a loud voice. He was not ashamed to praise Jesus. The third characteristic of his praise is its humility. The man fell down at Jesus’ feet. The final characteristic of his praise is its worship. He fell down at His feet, glorifying God and giving thanks to Him. And here in verse 19 we see the blessing of thankfulness. Jesus said to him, Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well. The word ‘well’ means totally saved, delivered and healed.
Ephesians 2:1 says “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins”. Yes, we were dead in Sins and trespasses. We walked according to the course of this world; we went in the direction we wanted to go and so we were unclean. But God, though we were all unclean and separated from God, stepped in to our situation. God who was rich in His mercy stepped in to our life situations giving us that which we do not deserve. Think about it! What did we deserve? Death, eternal separation from God, isn’t it? But He stepped in to our dead situation because that is who we were spiritually and He lavished us with His mercy. Ephesians 2:13 says “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ”. What were those ten lepers doing? They were standing far away; they were standing at a distance. Were they not? They were unclean and they had to yell out unclean, unclean. But in Christ Jesus, we who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Jesus Christ. Not only just lepers, each and every one of us. The closer we get to God, the more we understand how sinful we are. When we start to understand who God is and how great His mercy, like the lepers, we understand we are outside the camp. We need to understand how sinful and unclean we are and how gracious and merciful the loving God is. We don’t deserve it to be His children but He is giving it to us graciously. Think about it for a moment. Why is He doing that? He wants to bring us into a right relationship with God through the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When the lepers realized they had been cleansed, the nine Jewish lepers went to the priests so that they could offer the required sacrifices and be declared clean. This step was necessary before they could rejoin their families, their communities. This step was necessary before they could enter the Temple or the synagogue. This step was necessary before they could engage in commercial activity or ordinary human exchange with their fellow Jews. Who wouldn’t run to the priests in that situation? Now imagine the nine show up to see the priest just because they were sent by Jesus. What happened to the nine when they showed up and had no more leprosy? They would declare clean. They were told they can go back in to the society. They no longer need the tenth man. The Samaritan did not have to have a priest declare him clean. He was free to go back to Jesus to give thanks for his cleansing. Even if he had wanted to continue to be part of that group, he would have been rejected because he was a Samaritan. Jesus asks a rhetorical question. Where are the other nine? The question is rhetorical because he knows where they are. He knows what they are doing. But what about the one man who comes back and give thanks to the Almighty. You know that is what happens here that your faith has saved you. By grace you have been saved. He was declared saved. His faith in Jesus Christ did something that was extra ordinary. How often we just stop, reflect and give Jesus thanks for who He is and what He has done in our life. We all should see ourselves as these lepers were: unclean before God and men and need to call out to Jesus the Master for mercy. We all should respond with obedient faith. We should respond to God’s blessings by glorifying Him at Jesus’ feet from thankful hearts. Every day we should be filled with gratitude for all that the Savior did for us.

JACOB VARGHESE

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