“And Jesus said, ‘Were there not ten (lepers) cleansed? But the nine–where are they? Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:11-19)
A friend doing a study on the healing of the ten lepers wondered why only one returned to give thanks to Jesus. When he posted his question on Facebook, he received a myriad of answers.
I’ve thought about the question ever since and have come to a conclusion. Each man had his own reason for not returning to Jesus to say ‘thank you.’
1) One did not return to give thanks because he wanted to wait and see if this miracle was lasting. There would be plenty of time for that later.
2) One was so excited to go tell his family and friends, he did not have time to stop and worship.
3) One did not return because his buddies didn’t. Luke 17:12 calls them “ten leprous men who stood at a distance…” That could indicate they were functioning as a team. Had their leaders returned, the others would have followed.
4) One was angry at God for the leprosy and was not willing to give up his resentment this easily. He had carried that grudge for weeks, months, or even years, and had grown quite accustomed to it.
5) One felt he deserved healing, and the Lord did not merit any special consideration. God gave it to him and now God removed it.
6) One of the nine had a list of other needs which God should meet before he would be bowing before Jesus with gratitude.
7) One was not so sure he wanted the change that this healing would require. He had been a beggar for so long, quarantined from society, and now everyone would expect him to go home, be restored to his family, get a job, and carry his share of the load. He just wasn’t ready for this. Some people enjoy their homelessness.
8) One did not want to join with this fellow of another race who had turned back, but hung with his own racial group. In 17:18, the KJV calls him a “Samaritan;” the NASB makes him “a foreigner.”
9) And, finally, the ninth fellow was displeased with how Jesus had done the healing. He wanted it to be more dramatic. In fact, there was zero drama. “And it came about that as they were going, they were cleansed.” (17:14) Nothing like he’d seen on television where the healer slaps him up side of the head, slays him in the spirit, or even uses a prayer cloth.
We’re doing this with tongue firmly planted in cheek, of course. No one knows why the nine kept on walking while only one man turned back to thank Jesus.
But the question is legitimate: “Where are the nine?” Our Lord asked it (17:17), so we have good reason to wonder also.
Humans do not like to be beholden to anyone. We prize our independence, even when we have it demonstrated a hundred times a day how interrelated and inter-connected we are with one another and independent not at all.
To give thanks is to admit to a dependency. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
It’s the same reason people do not like grace. They will sing about it forever, and brag on its virtues. But something about grace implies we are not good enough, not holy enough, not capable enough, to meet our own needs.
Smiley-face goes here. Brother, does it ever!
We are not good enough.
We are not holy enough.
We are not capable enough.
Why that should ever be an issue for mortal man is beyond me. “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5). “Without me (Jesus), you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
What about that is hard? Paul once asked a congregation that was feeling proud of itself and splintering into egotistical factions, “Who regards you as superior? What do you have you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (I Corinthians 4:7).
Let us give thanks today and every day of our lives. We are the most dependent people in all the universe. We who are in Christ Jesus have more reason to be on our face every day praising the Lord of Heaven and earth for His goodness.
“O, that men would give thanks to God for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!” (Psalm 107:8)