There’s so, so much going on in this piece, apart from simple gratitude.
Jews and Samaritans were enemies and each justified despising and hating the other for political and religious reasons.
So all around there’s dislike, hatred, and division.
There’s another ingredient too – both Jew and Samaritan considered leprosy to be God’s punishment for sin so the lepers were rejected for religious reasons – and obviously on health grounds.
But leprosy introduced an additional fear factor.
So there’s so much in the air as Jesus walks along the border; dislike, hatred, division and fear, indeed terror, the terror of countracting leprosy.
Even the geography is noteworthy, Jesus is walking along the border between the two feuding tribes, Jews on one side, Samaritans on the other, and lepers approach him. This is coming to a head!
He tells the ten to show themselves to the priests. They’re not healed immediately but only as they’re going away. There’s an element of trust as they turn to go find the priests… but is it hope or faith or a bit of both that motivates the ten to keep going? It’s likely they’d try almost anything to be healed so they may be some way from faith at this stage. But something is stirring even if it’s only human need. Glorious human need… the beginning of conversion.
In sending the ten to the priests Jesus is putting it up to the priests; who am I? Take a look – the lepers are healed. Decide about me.
And at least one of the ten newly healed lepers is a Samaritan… ouch 😓… so the leper colony contains both Jew and Samaritan. Isn’t it remarkable that leprosy could unite Jews and Samaritans but in health they were divided and justified that divide by using God?
Jesus is having none of it!
Finding himself cured, the Samaritan leper returns and throws himself at the feet of Jesus. This is an act of adoration due only to God. It’s worship. It’s more than gratitude. Jesus says, “stand up… your faith has saved you!” This is an absolute insult to the Jews!
But what about the other nine? They heard nothing about being saved. Were they healed but not saved?
Yes, it seems just one of the ten healed lepers reached faith.