When Jesus was living on earth, the most dreaded disease was not cancer, but leprosy. Those afflicted with this terrible skin condition were forced to leave their community and wander about the surrounding territory surviving as best they could. No one wanted to catch leprosy from the sufferers.
As the disease progressed, a victim might lose a finger, a toe, a hand or a foot as the lesions on his skin continued to eat away the flesh. There was no known treatment for leprosy, so the victim continued to deteriorate until death released him from his suffering.
When a leper was approached by a healthy person, he had to call out, “Unclean, unclean!”, so the other would not come close and perhaps catch the disease. Often the leper suffered as much from loneliness and isolation as he did from his illness.
One day, Jesus and His followers were walking along a road on their way to Jerusalem. As they passed along by the borders of Galilee and Samaria and approached a village, ten lepers, raised their voices from a distance and called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
They must have heard of this travelling rabbi, who had been going from town to town preaching about the coming of God’s kingdom, curing the sick, casting out devils and performing many miracles. When Jesus saw them, He stopped.
In a kind voice, He told them that they were to go and show themselves to the priest. Before a leper could rejoin his family and community, a priest in the temple had to examine him and declare he was free of the disease. However, this was a rare occurrence indeed, because there was no known treatment or cure for leprosy.
Without another word or question, the ten lepers turned and hurried off toward the temple in Jerusalem. On the way, they were cured of their disease.
Nine of them kept on going, anxious to have the priest recognize their healing, so they could return to their homes, their families and friends. Only one, realizing he was cured, stopped and turned around. He ran back to Jesus and fell on his knees at the Lord’s feet, thanking Him for his cure and praising God in a loud voice.
Jesus was disappointed. The nine who had not returned to thank Him were Jews, His fellow countrymen. This man was a Samaritan, one of a people whom the Jews considered to be enemies. Jesus said,
” Were not the ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God, except this foreigner?”
Luke 17: 17-18
Then Jesus told the Samaritan to get up and return home. He had been made well because of his faith. The former leper gladly obeyed..
Today, leprosy is called Hansen’s Disease. It can be treated with medication and victims do not need to be isolated from their families and friends.
The lesson to remember from this Bible story is that God appreciates it when we say “Thank you” for all the good gifts He sends our way. It’s easy to remember to pray for things we want, but it’s also easy to forget to thank Him when we receive what we prayed for.
The nine ungrateful lepers disappointed Jesus when they took their gifts and ran off without a single word of gratitude. Let us resolve that we will try never to act in a similar manner.