Random thoughts about nine out of ten lepers

Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. Just outside a village ten men with skin disease were standing around. They weren’t allowed in the village because people were afraid they would catch their disease. They saw Jesus and knew his reputation as a healer.
“Master, have pity on us!”
“Go show yourselves to the priests,” Jesus told them.
They headed for the synagogue and were healed on the way.
One of them came running back praising God in a loud voice to say thanks.
This guy was a Samaritan and threw himself in front of Jesus “thank you, thank you, thank you!”
“Are you the only one who came back?” Jesus asked.
Jesus helped the man up off the ground and told him, “Get up and go, your faith has made you whole.*” Luke 17:11-19

Jesus did them all a big solid and thanking Him seems like basic manners. One guy comes back to say thanks and Jesus likes that, but, as far as we know the leprosy didn’t come back on the other nine just because they didn’t return. Consider that their healing happened on their home turf. Since leprosy meant being separated from the community, there were probably people that they couldn’t wait to be with and talk with after the priests declared them “clean.” It’s likely they were known to the priests that Jesus sent them to show. Obviously gratitude is the point of this story and Jesus definitely makes an observation about thankfulness in it, but it is faith, not thankfulness, that Jesus tells the guy made his healing possible. All ten lepers believed Jesus could heal them or they wouldn’t have asked and it wouldn’t have happened. If getting what we want from God involves saying certain things, assuming certain prayer positions, quoting from scripture, repetition, crowd sourcing, an appropriate level of drama, etc. etc. we can use this story to include “thanks” as one of the mechanisms of prayer or healing. Prayer and healing isn’t about “doing it right” and neither is faith. Nine guys did it wrong. They didn’t come back to say thanks yet they were still healed and forever impacted by what Jesus did for them. I’m not sure it’s fair to judge these guys as “ungrateful” anyway because we only are told this little part of their story. What if, after the excitement wore off a little bit, some of those guys realized they owed Jesus a thanks. They may have sought him out or sent Him a note. I’m sure He was cool about it. When telling someone else’s story, the details we choose to include and where and how we choose to end their story matters.

Lord, from a grateful heart, not because I’m scared you’ll take it all away or not give me more…Thanks!

*This is that Greek word “sōzō” that can mean a lot of things. In this case it’s most often translated “well” or “whole” but also can mean “safe and sound, saved, made whole, rescued, preserved from danger.”