Luke 17: 11-19
And so it was that he went on through Samaria and Galilee on his way up to Jerusalem. And upon entering one small village he was met by ten lepers who, standing afar off, shouted out:
“Jesus, teacher, please have pity on us!”
And upon seeing them he said:
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
And so it happened that as they went they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing that he had been healed, returned [to Jesus] and with a loud voice was glorifying God and falling on the ground at his feet giving him his thanks. And this fellow was a Samaritan. And in response to this Jesus said:
“Were there not ten who were cleansed? Where are the nine others? What are we now to make of the fact that it was only this stranger who was found to turn around and give thanks to God?”
And giving the man leave, he said to him:
“Stand up and go on your way; your faith has healed you!”
This is a remarkable account. Jesus continues on his way, travelling through Samaria and Galilee, going up to Jerusalem. And here he is confronted by ten lepers, outcasts, brought together as a group by the stringent administration of cleanliness laws of the Torah (Leviticus 13-14).
The ten knew they were required to keep their distance, but they had obviously heard of Jesus and put their request to him. Luke in telling us this story reports that Jesus “beheld” them and there is no mention of him doing anything more than directing them, as a group, to go for a check-up with the priests who served in that small town. They had been living according to the requirements of Leviticus 13:45-46, a leper colony of ten.
John tells us in his report of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman that:
Jews have no dealings with Samaritans (John 4:9).
However, Luke has already told us about the encounter of James and John with Jesus when the Samaritan village refused to receive him on his way to Jerusalem (9:51-56). And so we are being told about a complex social situation in which Jesus confronted outcasts. He bade the lepers to go to the priests – according to the requirements of Leviticus 13-14, a community’s leper colony come under the care of the community’s priests. (Now Samaritans also adhered to the books of Moses).
Luke – who is referred to be Paul as “the beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14) – records the astounding fact that as the group of them went off, in response to Jesus’ command, they were, indeed, cleansed (ἒκαθαρίσθησαν).
On your way, Jesus had said to them, Go present yourselves to the priests!
And Luke is explicit. What occurred here, he writes, is their verified cleansing, referring to the prescriptions of Leviticus tat were laid down for those who had been healed of their disease. He is writing that this healing was verified by the local priests, or at least the Jewish priests. Checking and due process protocols had been followed.
And then he tells us that one of them, seeing that he had been cured (ὅτι ἰάθη), returned to Jesus, thanking him and giving God the praise.
Is Luke telling us that for this Samaritan Jesus became his priest? There was now a subsequent command from the Master to this man:
On your feet, get up and go on your way – your faith has made you whole.
Earlier in Luke’s narrative we had heard that Abraham has said to the rich man, languishing in the fires of torment,
If they have not obeyed Moses and the prophets, neither would they be disposed to believing someone raised from the grave.
Here, Jesus receives the praise of a Samaritan, one raised in a community attentive to the teachings of Moses. Those teachings had meant that his status, as one suffering from leprosy, was as an “outsider”. The teachings from Leviticus about the care of lepers placed great emphasis upon the oversight and pastoral care of Israel’s priests. Samaritans, as adherents of Torah, were also subject to these restrictions. Maybe that is what Luke has in mind when he reports that Jesus used the plural form “priests”. But having prostrated himself before Israel’s Messiah, thanking him for his healing, Jesus gave this Samaritan man leave to be on his way cleansed. As far as God’s Kingdom is concerned this man, healed by Israel’s Messiah, could now go on his way as an insider, no longer an alien.