The Faith of a Leper

In Luke’s Gospel (17:11-19), Jesus encounters 10 lepers as he is about to enter a certain village. They cried out to him, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” In response, Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests, and they are healed of their leprosy on their way. It was the responsibility of the priests to ultimately judge whether one was cured from leprosy. Being declared cured was important because a leper was excluded from the community as a whole, and specifically forbidden from worshiping in the Temple. Simply put, lepers were unclean.

We are told that one of the cured lepers, the foreign Samaritan, never makes it to the priests. Instead, upon being cured, he returns to Jesus “to give thanks to God.” He glorified God and fell at the feet of Jesus to thank him. Jesus then declares that this one has been saved by his faith. We can presume that the other 9 lepers presented themselves to the priests, performed their ritual washings, and were reunited with the community.

What did this Samaritan leper experience that the others missed? Why did this leper seem to disobey Jesus’ command to present himself to the priests, but was then rewarded by being proclaimed saved by his faith? Perhaps he realized that the gift of being cured and reunited with the community was indeed a gift, but paled in comparison to the Giver. It’s easy to reverse the two. Perhaps he realized that while the Temple priests could certainly declare him physically clean and reunite him with the social community, only the One True High Priest could declare him spiritually clean and reunite him with the Creator himself.

Heavenly Father, give us the wisdom, insight, and faith of the Samaritan leper, so that we may choose you, the Giver, over the gift. May we recognize your Son as our High Priest, the one True Mediator who atoned for our sins so that we may be reunited with you in the eternal community of your Heavenly Kingdom. Amen.

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