As we continue our study in the series “OUTCASTS” we’re going to open our hearts and Bibles to the Word of God in Luke chapter 17. Now over the past weeks, we’ve been walking with the Lord Jesus through the gospel of Luke, and for many months he’s been crisscrossing Israel preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. We’ve seen miracles, healings, genuine compassion and mercy previously unknown. Time and time again we’ve seen Jesus attempting to awaken people to the reality of his identity as their Savior, the Messiah.
As we get to the 17th chapter of Luke, Jesus is moving in the direction of Jerusalem, and during these many months of traveling from town to town he has healed most every disease. As a matter of fact, the Bible testifies that the things that he said and had done; in John chapter 21, John tells us:
“If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
Now we’re in the final months of Jesus’ life, but there’s still time for some amazing miracles, and this one here in Luke chapter 17, involves 10 people with a most devastating disease, the disease of leprosy. Now as we look at this story we see an amazing story of God’s mercy and power to reverse disease, power to bring it to a screeching halt, and power to fully restore 10 people. As in the case of all of Jesus miracles, it was instantaneous and complete, but as we look at the story we also find that it’s an amazing story of entitlement, and more importantly it’s a wonderful story of gratitude, worship, and salvation. So, let’s pick up in chapter 17 and verse 11,
“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee” (Luke 17:11).
Now in those days, when Jewish people traveled from Galilee to Jerusalem, they would go out of their way just to avoid having to pass through Samaria, because they looked down on the Samaritans whose Jewish ancestors had married people of other nations. In other words, they hadn’t remained separate as God had advised, and so therefore they were a mixed race. Here, Jesus and his disciples, were on their way to Jerusalem, walking along the border of Samaria and Galilee, and though Jews typically avoided this area because of racism and prejudice toward the Samaritans, Jesus wasn’t going to play that game, because Jesus had a different attitude towards those who were considered outcasts. As Jesus is moving along the border between Samaria and Galilee, verse 12 tells us,
“As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance” (Luke 17:12).
Now the reason they stood at a distance is because leprosy is a highly contagious disease. These “10 men who had leprosy” were outcasts, they kept their distance, because it was required that lepers not come in contact with the general population. Therefore, they were miserable people, they were rejected, their bodies were literally falling apart, their flesh was dying, stinking, and oozing with sores, and so it was a disgusting disease, yet they longed for intimacy. When they saw Jesus, they were filled with hope and began crying out. Verse 13 says they,
“Called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" (Luke 17:13).
Now, the use of the word “Master” is interesting, because of all the words they might have used, this Greek word is a word used only by Luke and only used elsewhere to refer to Christ by his followers. This is a very meaningful word, a word of great honor, that referred to someone with great authority, and in this case miraculous power. For these 10 men to call Jesus “Master” is to say that these men knew his reputation, they’d heard of his healing ministry in Galilee, and therefore they called out loudly and with desperation. This was their chance! This was their only hope, because there were no cures, and so even though they may have had little faith, they were desperate men. They cried out, “Master, have pity on us!”
Verse 14 tells us,
“When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests…” (Luke 17:14).
Now notice he didn’t just say, “Be healed,” but he tested their faith number one and he affirmed the Law number two. So, in accordance to Leviticus chapter 13 and 14 he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priest,” because the priests were the health inspectors, they were the ones who would declare that you were clean, and so, Jesus commands them to fulfill the obligation of the law and they did it by faith. The last half of verse 14 says,
“And as they went, they were cleansed” (Luke 17:14).
And you know, it always amazes me how you read about the miracles and it comes across so casually, it’s stated as a gross understatement, because you might expect something amazing like an earthquake, lightning bolts from the sky, or maybe angels singing, and yet there’s nothing. The Bible says they just start walking and as they went they were healed. Now this must’ve been amazing, because you can just imagine them all of a sudden looking at each other and realizing what had just happened. In this stunning moment, bodies that had decayed were suddenly cleansed, meaning there was nothing, no evidence of the disease left from head to toe, their bodies were cleansed and they were made whole. Verse 15 tells us, then…
“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice” (Luke 17:15).
One of them turned back, one of them for a brief moment started in the direction of the priest, but recognizing that he’d been healed, stopped in his tracks, spun around and came back, full of wonder, praising God in a loud voice. You see, this one man understood the implications of what had just happened, that he had been in the presence of Almighty God, and so like Moses, he wanted nothing more than the presence of God. This one man turned back, recognizing that he was unworthy of such grace, seeking that one thing that he knew he really needed, longing for a relationship with his Healer, and therefore he wasn’t about to be content with just the physical healing. He wanted more and verse 16 tells us,
“He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him — and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:16).
He knew that God and God alone was to be worshiped and so he takes a posture of worship knowing that it was God in Christ that had given them this gift, that had healed him, and so he couldn’t restrain his gratitude. But even beyond that, his posture says, “Jesus I surrender, I need you, I want a relationship with you, and I want everything, I want all the benefits of your Kingdom.” You see, he knew he was in the presence of God and he recognized the futility of going to the temple. He knew where to worship God and that was in Jesus Christ, because it was there that he had experienced the power of God. It was in Christ that he’d experienced the grace of God, and so he knew that where Jesus is, that’s where God is, and so therefore Jesus is the true temple. This one man recognizes all that, he knows that God offers more than just the physical healing, and so he returns to seek what he really desired and needed, the salvation of his soul.
Now verse 17 is interesting, because Jesus noted, Jesus asked,
“Were not all ten cleansed?” (Luke 17:17).
In other words, “There were 10 cleansed weren’t there?”
“Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:17).
But the other nine guys were still moving toward the priest, like many in Israel, they’re going to the temple, they’re going to make sacrifices, they’re going to do which required of one who’s been cleansed. They should’ve came back too, but they haven’t connected the dots; in their minds when they get to the temple they’ll worship God, when they get to the temple they’ll give thanks. They had a form of godliness but they denied his power, they didn’t know that God doesn’t dwell in temples made by hands, that God hadn’t lived in the temple in a very long time. They were heading to the temple, but it was just an apostate temple and a dead form of religion; and that’s why Jesus said in John chapter 4 as he was speaking to another Samaritan,
“A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem…A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:21-23).
The other nine got what they wanted and didn’t have any desire to worship Jesus, because they don’t see him as God and they don’t glorify him as God. This was the dominant attitude among people that we see all through the ministry of Jesus; there’s a sense of righteousness, because they think we’re the people of God and God gives us what we deserve. They’re just like Simon the Pharisee, there’s no sense of sin, there’s no sorrow, no repentance, no desperation, and they don’t recognize their need for a Savior. They’re okay as long as they’re getting a free meal, they’ll push their way to the front of the line so that Jesus will heal their diseases, they’ll take all that, but they don’t want anything else.
And you know, as a matter of fact, there are a lot of people like that today. But this one man had come face-to-face with God and his soul was traumatized because he knew he was a sinner, he knew that God had showed him great mercy, and so he was working out the emotions and implications of what had just happened. Meanwhile the others were satisfied with themselves, they sought nothing more from Jesus, and unfortunately they cheated themselves out of what he really came to bring. And Jesus didn’t just let it pass, he asked again in verse 18,
“Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:18).
Now for the second time, Luke comments that he was a foreigner, he was a Samaritan, and so from the Jewish viewpoint he was least likely to experience the mercy of God because he was an outcast. But I am reminded of John chapter 1, verse 11, which tells us,
“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:11).
And Luke is careful to note that he’s a Samaritan, he’s a foreigner, he’s outside of the covenant people of God, outside the promises, outside the adoption, he’s a Samaritan, a foreigner. He wasn’t even allowed into the inner court of the Temple, but instead he walks back to Jesus and meets God face-to-face. He goes straight into the holy of holies, falls on his face before the holy one himself, and worshiped in humility and joy. The other nine, walked away to their dead, cold, blind religion without a thought of Jesus. And now in verse 19, the story reaches its climax,
“Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19).
You see, Jesus knew what he wanted, for he knows what’s in a man, and yet the translation here is misleading, it’s misleading because all 10 were made well, but that’s not the end of the story. This man, this one, had a different faith, a greater faith; and this word here in verse 19 translated “well” is not the same Greek word for “healed” in verse 15, which means to heal or make whole. It’s not even the same word used in verse 14 which is translated “cleansed” and means make clean, purge, or purify. But this word, this Greek word translated “well,” literally means to save, deliver, or protect. And its translated “saved” or “salvation” elsewhere in the Gospels as well as in the Letters.
For example, last week we looked in Luke chapter 7, at the woman who is worshiping at Jesus feet, and maybe you remember, Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you” (Luke 7:50). It’s the same word, your faith has “saved” you. Here in Luke chapter 17, it’s obvious that this man turned back aware of what just happened, that Jesus had healed his body, and so now as the man worships he experiences a second miracle as Jesus saves his soul. This one returns, because he has a faith that embraces Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior. This one has a faith that’s humbled in the presence of Divinity. It’s a faith that Jesus says “saves”.
This man fell down, glorifying God, even though his theology wasn’t fully developed, he knew that God was in Jesus, and he worshiped knowing that worship belongs to God alone. He knew God was the source of his miracle and he thanked Jesus as he worshiped him. He came back with the right attitude.
Today in the remainder of our time together I want to show you three ways to be the one. I want to give you three attitudes so that you can be the one. You see, I don’t care if there's only one out of ten, or one out of a hundred, I want to have the right attitude and I want to be that one.
What I want to do in the next few minutes is show you three statements that will help you choose to worship Jesus. Three statements, that I believe all of us can adopt and put into our hearts, put on the dash of our car, or on the refrigerator at home, that will help us to have the right attitude. The first one is that I know every good thing I have comes from God.
In fact, James chapter one, verse seventeen, tells us this very thing. James says,
"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).
The Holy Spirit through James tells us that everything we have is a gift from God. In fact, it’s hard to escape this truth as you look at the Bible, when you see what people were able to accomplish with what they had. Just think about Noah, God gave him a plan and the ability to build the ark. God gave the Israelites bread from heaven in the morning and fire by night. God gave David a stone to kill Goliath, he gave Jonah a fish to take him safely to shore, he gave Mary the faith to say yes, he gave the Magi a star to lead them to Jesus, and God gave us the Prince of peace, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Lion and the Lamb, the Savior of the world.
God gives you peace that goes beyond your ability to understand. God gives you his word to direct you. David said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalms 119:105). He gives you life to bless you, friends to love you, and a body to use to glorify him. Every good thing we have comes from God, because he’s completely good, constantly good, and unchangingly good. God will never not be good, because he can’t be less than good, and so when we embrace this, that everything that we have is a gift from God it changes our attitude. And then number two, I won’t let what I want rob me of what I need.
Each one of those 10 lepers knew what they wanted, but only one of them took the initiative to go back to receive what he needed. And in the same way, so many of us are distracted, because we want a better car, a bigger house, or new clothes; we want this and that, and yet Solomon said in Ecclesiastes chapter 6,
“Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite” (Ecclesiastes 6:9).
It’s better to embrace what God is giving you than to always want something more. That’s what this one man did and that’s why the Bible tells us in Hebrews chapter 12,
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2).
You see, Jesus is better. The one man determined not to go with the crowd, but to stop and go back, to fix his eyes on Jesus and to receive what was right there in front of him. Better is what the eye sees than a roving of the appetite. So, we can’t let what we want rob us of what we need. Every good thing comes from God who makes the sun rise on all of us, the rain falls on the just and the unjust, because he’s good to all men; but only one man came back, fell on his face before Jesus Christ, and embraced him as Master, Lord, God, and Savior. You see, when you get to that place where Jesus is all you want, suddenly what you have is a such a blessing, because when you have Christ, you have what you need, he’s what matters, and he’s what satisfies. Therefore, number three… I’ll turn every blessing into praise.
We’re going to turn every blessing into an act of worship before God. In fact, I love what David said in Psalms chapter 63,
“I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you” (Psalms 63:4-5).
David said, "I’m not wanting anything. My soul is fully satisfied because of you my God." When you get to that place, suddenly you can start praising God for what you already have. “God, I thank you that I’m alive to praise you, thank you for my friends, and my church, thank you that I've got a roof over my head.” We can turn every blessing into praise, because we've got a really good God. This week, I want you to recognize that every good thing comes from God, I want you to fix your eyes on Jesus and not let what you want rob you of what you need, and then purposely turn every blessing into praise, because our God is worthy of our praise.
That’s exactly what David did in Psalms 103, and I pray this becomes the cry of your heart.
“Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's” (Psalms 103:1-5).
Since our God fills our lives with good things we worship him. Because our God gives good things to all of his children we can’t let what we want rob us of what we need. And therefore, because we’ve received blessing upon blessing, let’s turn every blessing back into praise. Our God is worthy of our praise. He is that good!
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
April 02, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.