It is truly an important event as barriers are being broken between Samaritans and Jews, as well as between the clean and the unclean. But it is also an event where only one person receives salvation. Indeed, the whole story reminds us that there is more than cleansing taking place here, and that there is a connection between gratitude and salvation, or between gratitude and being made whole (Luke 17:19).
For that’s what salvation means: it means being made whole, or being made well. The Greek word for salvation means wholeness; and wholeness not just in the physical sense but in the communal sense as well, for when we read the text we read how not even the lepers were going to get close to Jesus. They couldn’t. They all had to keep their distance, as they were considered unclean by Jewish law (Luke 17:14). To return into the fellowship of the community they had to go to a priest to receive purification and once they did that they could worship and fellowship with others again.
And that’s exactly what they did. They all went to the priests, and they all were cleansed (17:15). But only one returned to give thanks. Why?
We don’t know. It could be that they had parents who didn’t teach them manners. Or maybe they simply had other commitments. Or maybe they were too busy and simply forgot. All Jesus simply told them to do was to go to the priests. He didn’t say anything about returning to him. They were certainly not required to do so. Once cleansed they could return to the life of the community and do what they wanted.
And yet, it is in the returning of the one Samaritan-leper that the story takes a twist, for here Jesus offers salvation to someone whose identity excluded him on three-fronts: first, he was a Samaritan, second, he was a leper, and third, he was a foreigner. If there was a person we would least expect to show gratitude, or if there was a person we might not expect to receive salvation, it was a Samaritan-leper-foreigner.
But isn’t that like Jesus to surprise us, showing us how it is typically the least likely person to accomplish God’s purposes? Isn’t that how Jesus operates?
How may we allow God to use us this week to share words of gratitude? How may we take time and express gratitude to others? Let us know what you plan to do. We are praying for you.