In Lk. 17:11-19 Luke recounts an incident in which ten leprous men encountered Jesus as He entered a village while traveling between Samaria and Galilee on His way to Jerusalem. The text says, “While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine — where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.'”
This incident is interesting in several respects. First, the Lord performed an incredible miracle when He cleansed these men of their leprosy. What makes this so powerful is that He didn’t openly do anything to heal them. He simply told them to go and show themselves to the priests and they were healed as they went on their way. This certainly demonstrates His great power. The Lord didn’t have to do or say anything in order to heal the sick.
Second, the occasion of this miraculous healing became an object lesson in gratitude. We generally assume that those who were healed by the Lord were grateful for their healing, but the accounts rarely make mention of it like this one does. Ten men with a serious disease asked the Lord for mercy. He responded by healing them, but when only one of them returned to give thanks, the Lord took special note of it. His reaction tells us that He was disappointed in the nine who failed to give thanks. While it might be argued that the nine were doing exactly what the Lord told them to do by going to show themselves to the priests, it is obvious that the Lord would have been more pleased if they had delayed going to the priests long enough to return and say, “Thank You.”
The attitude of the Samaritan who returned to thank the Lord is a model for all of us. He did not take the Lord’s blessing for granted. He so appreciated the healing the Lord bestowed upon him that he could not do anything else until he had expressed his gratitude for it. When we consider the manner of his expression, it makes the ingratitude of the nine all the more disturbing. Luke says the Samaritan “turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice.” There can be no question that the nine heard his cries, but they were unmoved to join him in giving thanks to God.
The Lord made no other statement about the nine, but His question, “Where are they?”, should jar us from any complacency about our gratitude for God’s blessings. The absence of any further comment about the nine suggests that they didn’t return to thank the Lord even after they had shown themselves to the priests. The nine should have been as grateful as the Samaritan was. The fact that they were not says a lot about their character. It says they did not have the faith that the Samaritan had. It says they did not have faith that was grateful for God’s goodness.
As we go about our business from day to day, we must take care that we do not become faithless like these nine men. We are abundantly blessed in many ways, and we should daily give thanks to our Father in heaven for all He does for us. May we never become so complacent about expressing our gratitude that our Father in heaven is prompted to ask, “Where are they?”