Most of us are familiar with the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers but in our familiarity, it’s easy to miss the profound lessons tucked away in this story. Life-changing lessons on faith and gratitude are woven throughout the story. We find the story in Luke 17:11-19. Unlike other stories of Jesus’ miracles, the focus of this story is not on the healing itself but on what happens before and after the miraculous healing.
Open your Bible to the gospel of Luke, chapter 11, and take a look.
The Story of Jesus Healing the 10 Lepers
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and was walking along the border between Samaria and Galilee. It’s significant to note that Jesus was on His way to the cross. He knew what lie before Him in Jerusalem, the greatest most horrific sacrifice of His ministry. Yet, Jesus was able to look beyond His own horror to give hope to ten lepers who approached Him.
Leprosy is a horrendous illness that affects the skin, eyes, nose, and peripheral nerves. Highly contagious, those who were diagnosed with leprosy were quarantined and isolated from the rest of society. Jewish law required that those with leprosy shout, “Unclean, unclean” when people approached, to avoid contaminating others. At the time of Jesus, there was no known cure which left those with leprosy without hope.
Jesus saw and heard the lepers crying out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:13). Moved with compassion, Jesus responded with “Go, show yourselves to the priests” (Luke 17:14). Instead of healing them immediately, Jesus asked them to go to the priests. It was the priests who would make the determination whether or not they were healed and declared clean. What’s interesting is that Jesus didn’t heal them first! He gave them a command which would test their faith in Him. “As they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14b). Don’t you wonder what might have been going through their minds as they turned and headed towards a meeting with the priest? Was the healing gradual or did it happen the moment they turned and obeyed? We don’t know, because Scripture doesn’t tell us. However, what we do know is all the lepers exercised faith in turning to go. The lepers had taken Jesus at His word. What happens next is pivotal for our spiritual journeys.
One out of the ten realized he had been completely healed and filled with gratitude ran back to Jesus, praised God in a loud voice, and threw himself at the
feet of Jesus to thank Him (Luke17:15-16). Interestingly enough, he was a Samaritan. The Jews hated the Samaritans and considered them to be half-breeds and very unspiritual! At this point in the story, Jesus asked a profound question, “Were not all ten lepers cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God other than this foreigner?” (Luke17:17-18).
What Can We Learn from the 10 Lepers Encounter with Jesus?
While there are many lessons, there are three primary lessons that stand out.
God Values the Least
In our culture of platform building and rising celebrity status, we forget that God values the least. He places honor on the poor, the broken, the messy, and the marginalized. The 10 Lepers were outcasts of society. Beyond just having leprosy at least one was from Samaria which would have made him the lowest of the low. He had absolutely no status and was looked down on as an untouchable. Yet, Jesus treasured each one, even the Samaritan, heard their cries, and healed them.
God Honors Faith
The 10 lepers weren’t healed until they acted in faith and turned to head to the priest. Did they have lots of faith or just a little faith? We don’t know. What we do know is they acted on the faith they had and started out on the journey to show themselves to the priests. In your life and mind, God will never let us off the hook of faith. As the writer of Hebrews wrote, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). God rewarded the 10 lepers’ faith by healing them.
God Cherishes Gratitude
Even more than the measure of our faith, God cherishes gratitude. Only one of the 10 lepers turned back, fell at Jesus’ feet, and thanked Him with a loud voice. Though Jesus was Almighty God, He was sensitive. His sensitivity didn’t make Him weak. It was a powerful gift. Since Jesus came to reveal the Father to us, we can assume that our heavenly Father is also sensitive. I believe we offend Him when we take His gifts for granted and forget to say, “Thank you.” The Apostle Paul alluded to this when He wrote to the church in Thessalonica, instructing them to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude is a core discipleship issue for the believer and it’s God’s will that we learn to be grateful in every situation.
The question then is how do we give thanks and keep an attitude of gratitude in our busy everyday lives?
5 Practical Ways to Thank God Daily
1. Keep a blessing journal at the dinner table. Tuck a thin journal in the napkin holder on your dinner table and get in the habit of listing your top three blessings of every day. By writing down your blessings every day, gratitude will grow in your heart. Not all blessings are huge. Perhaps a blessing is beautiful weather or a hug from a friend. Perhaps it’s that a baby slept through the night, or you got a bonus at work. Maybe the blessing is a delicious warm cup of coffee or an encouraging phone call. Whatever the blessing, practice writing it down as a form of giving thanks. In this way, you will be strengthening your gratitude muscle so that you, like the 1 of the 10 lepers will remember to say thank you.
2. Develop a daily rhythm of thanking God for His love every morning and His faithfulness every evening. Our early church fathers had rhythms to their days so that Christ would be central in their gratitude. Develop a morning and evening rhythm of giving thanks so that it becomes a lifelong pattern. The Psalmist wrote, “It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and our faithfulness at night” (Psalm 92:1-2). Before you even get out of bed in the morning, thank God for His deep love for you. Before you fall asleep at night whisper a prayer, thanking God for His faithfulness that you experienced during your day.
3. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to thank God for His gifts. The Psalmist wrote, “Seven times a day I praise You” (Psalm 119:164). What a beautiful pattern. In our day and age, we have the benefit of alarms on our phones. We can set reminders on our phones so that at specific hours of the day we can pause and give thanks. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we followed the example of the Psalmist and paused seven times a day to give thanks?
4. Forgive those who have hurt you. What does forgiveness have to do with gratitude? Everything. God has forgiven you for all the times you’ve hurt Him. Out of gratitude for His forgiveness, forgive those who have hurt you (Ephesians 4:32). When you realize the depth of your own sinfulness and the depth of God’s grace, gratitude wells up inside you and it becomes far easier to forgive those who have hurt you.
5. Listen to worship music to prompt your thanksgiving. Worship music is a great tool to prompt our praise and thanksgiving. As you listen, ask the Holy Spirit to stir up gratitude in your heart for all the Lord has done. You don’t have to sing your thanksgiving (although you could), the point is to allow the music to remind you of all the ways God has been good to you. As you are reminded of His goodness, thank Him. A great song to get you started is, “How Good He Is” by Vertical Worship. You can find the song on YouTube. Listen and allow the words to prompt your thanksgiving.
The story of the 10 lepers is one of the most profound stories found in the gospels. We can learn that God values the least, He honors faith, and He cherishes gratitude. As you seek to offer Him gratitude daily, try one or more of these practical ideas; Keep a blessing journal, develop a morning and evening rhythm, set an alarm on your phone, forgive those who have hurt you, or learn to use worship music to prompt your thanksgiving. Above all, ask the Holy Spirit to help you develop a heart of gratitude. This pleases God so very much.
Authentic. Passionate. Funny and Biblical all describe Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and other events. She is the author of 11 books, including Our Father, Psalms for the Anxious Heart, How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, and The Extraordinary Power of Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and a seasoned Bible teacher. You can connect with Becky at www.beckyharling.com, www.harlingleadership.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/beckyharlingministries, Twitter, @beckyharling, or on Instagram at Becky Harling