Luke 17:16, “And he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.”
As I was reading through Luke 17, I became somewhat infatuated with this passage. There were ten lepers who came to Jesus to be healed. Presumably, nine of them were Jewish and certainly, one was a Samaritan.They were all considered unclean because of their leprosy, so scripture says that they stood at a distance when they asked Jesus for mercy. An unclean person would never approach or touch a Rabbi. That would have been an ultimate taboo. Yet Jesus extends mercy to heal the unclean.
The lepers were sent to the temple to show themselves to the priests. The priests would examine each individual to verify that they were clean. Then each person would present an offering (pay a temple tax) for the service of the priest. When an unclean individual was declared clean, he was restored back to the community. Restoration meant freedom to worship God and participate in the community . It also meant acceptance by others and freedom from shame.
The ten lepers did as they were instructed, but they did not all respond the same way. Nine of the men simply went to the temple to take care of their duty. They never directed their hearts toward Christ to extend gratitude and praise. Scripture records that there was one of the ten who, when he saw that he was healed, turned back and praised God with a loud voice. He was a Samaritan who was considered an outcast and object of shame both because of his disease and his heritage as a Samaritan. This man had everything going against him, but he responded appropriately.
Jesus said that the Samaritan’s faith made him well. It brought him salvation. While the other nine were clueless about the magnitude of mercy that Christ extended to them in their misery, the Samaritan abased himself before Christ. Bowing down with the face to the ground was done before before kings, military figures and especially deity and was considered an ultimate demonstration of submission and humility. Miracles of mercy are given so that we would humble our hearts before Christ and bring him praise.
The Samaritan leper, like the woman who wet Jesus feet with her tears, was forgiven much, and he loved much. That is why he praised God with a loud voice. I can almost picture him hysterically unable to keep himself together. When considering his situation, it is no wonder that he could not contain himself. I think that the reason why I became so infatuated with this story is because I often fail to realize how much mercy has been given to me. God is constantly forgiving me for my shortcomings. There are hurts, habits, and hang-ups that corrode my life. They come to surface every once in a while. But it is precisely at my moments of weakness where I have the greatest opportunities to honor God and praise Him as His sacrifice on the cross overwhelms my inadequacy. We all have been extended mercy. All of us. Yet not everyone who has been given mercy will find mercy when they die. The Samaritan found salvation when he humbled himself before Christ and gave Him praise.
We all have to ask who we are being like. Are we like the nine who received mercy and then disappear without giving thought about the One who extends such mercy? If we find ourselves just “going on our way” without humbling our hearts and giving God praise, we are in trouble. Life is not all well. But if we see ourself as the one who is unclean, if we truly understood just how immense our depravity is and the shame that we carry, then our hearts, like the Samaritan’s, will not be contained when we find mercy, and we will find salvation.