The grateful Samaritan leper

Today’s lectionary reading, Luke 17: 11-19, tells of Jesus healing ten lepers. After their healing, only one returns to Jesus, a Samaritan, whom Jesus praises for his faith and his gratitude.

All too often this parable is only seen in terms of gratitude for healing. But I think there’s much more here.

When the ten lepers come to him, Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priest which was the way that Jewish lepers could be reincorporated into the community after being healed. And so, when Jesus healed them, he made it possible for them to become full, accepted members of the community.

But only one returns to give thanks – the Samaritan.

The Samaritans were outsiders, not accepted by the Jewish religious leadership because of their “heretical” views. And so this Samaritan was an outsider and would not be accepted into the Jewish community, even if he were healed.

I find it interesting that while they were lepers, nine Jewish and one Samaritan leper were able to go around together. Their identity was in their leprosy which made them outsiders.

When all were healed, the Samaritan was probably no longer accepted by the Jewish lepers – and definitely not by the Jewish religious community. He was still an outsider.

And where did he go?

He went to Jesus, since the Jewish authorities would not welcome him, but Jesus would.

The community of Jesus is one that welcomed strangers, lepers, women, tax collectors, public sinners, and Samaritans. It was a community open to all those who were willing to put their faith in Jesus and in the Good News he brought.

The returning healed Samaritan is not only an example of faith and gratitude; he is a reminder that our faith community must be as accepting of the outsider, the “other,” as Jesus was.

And who are the outsiders today?



2 responses to “The grateful Samaritan leper

  1. Would the Samaritan not be allowed to see the Jewish priests for examination (to verify that he was healed)?Would he have to go to a Samaritan priest or did he go back to Jesus as his priest?

    • A very good question. I have often wondered that myself.

      What does seem to happen is that, as the New Jerome Biblical Commentary suggests, “Jesus is the one who saves from disease and restores one to human concourse. In him disciples find the fullness of human wholeness.” (p. 709)

      The Jewish Annotated New Testament suggests: “The Samaritan would have gone to the priest on Mount Gerizim in Samaria; the other nine (v. 17), presumably Jews, would go to Jerusalem.” (p. 637)

      What I think is important is that Jesus is shown as the one who restores the marginalized to full participation in the society.

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