Only One Returned

Devotion by Andrew Knox

I know Jesus couldn’t have been confused, so obviously he was making a point. He had encountered ten lepers. Well, not up close. As told in Luke 17, the lepers “stood at a distance” from the people. Distance was strictly enforced. They shouted, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us” (v. 13 NIV).

In their plea they never mentioned their condition: leprosy. Jesus knew their condition, just as He knows ours. His response was surprising and simple: “Go, show yourselves to the Priests” (v. 14). (It was the Priest who would declare clean or unclean). Scripture tells us as they went, they were cleansed. Let’s remember, obedience to Jesus is life changing, even if not immediately.

One of the men, only one, was so grateful he came back to find Jesus. This one man was loudly praising God, threw himself at Jesus’ feet, and thanked Him. As we read Luke’s words, this is the moment when Jesus comes across as puzzled, but really, the Master teacher saw the opportunity to reveal truth to the crowds, and to us today. “Were not all ten cleansed?” he asked. “Where are the other nine?”

Now silence. Picture the disciples, and those in the crowd, looking to find the other nine. Did anyone else return? Stretching their necks and shielding their eyes from the sun as they peered in the distance, they saw no one else. Jesus noted only the “foreigner” came back. The grateful one was a Samaritan and had been a leper; a double outcast. Now Jesus had something special for the one who returned. And this is what many people today miss when they read the account in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus tells the overjoyed and grateful man, “Rise [for he was still bent low in worship] and go; your faith has made you well” (v. 19).

Ten lepers were healed, only one was saved. It was the one who returned in a spirit of thanksgiving, of gratitude, and Jesus took notice. As a result the former leper with suddenly beautiful skin received even more. In front of the crowds and disciples Jesus announced the man’s faith had “saved” him. Some Bible translations say his faith “made you [him] well,” and others that his faith “delivered” him. Clearly it was Jesus’ power that took away the leprosy, but it was a thankful response to Jesus that made him well.

In this encounter we learn that our Savior desires and recognizes our gratitude, and one of the reasons is so we can experience even more of Him. The healed man returned to honor Jesus, not to request anything more. Yet he received honor, recognition, and greater revelation from Jesus, even while still at His feet. What a lesson for us this Thanksgiving. Not to be thankful out of some fleshly feeling of obligation. The leper shows us the value of gratitude in the Kingdom of God, and the joy we receive when we express it. Not to mention the greater intimacy with Christ we will experience. This Thanksgiving, like the one who joyfully bowed his knee at the feet of the Savior, let’s express enthusiastic gratitude to the One worthy of our praise. Surely, we all have much to be thankful for.