Jesus heals ten men with a skin disease (Luke 17:12-19)

Jesus went into a village on the border between Galilee and Samaria. He was met by ten men suffering from a dreaded skin disease. They stood at a distance and shouted “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us!” Jesus said to them “Go and let the priests examine you.” On the way they were healed. One man returned to thank Jesus, and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked where the other nine were who were healed and concluded “Your faith has made you well.”

Background

In Bible times, people suffering from the skin disease of leprosy were treated as outcasts. There was no cure for the disease, which gradually left a person disfigured through loss of fingers, toes and eventually limbs.

Leprosy sufferers had to leave their homes and families and live together with other sufferers on the outskirts of the town. They would have to scavenge for food.

They were forbidden to have any contact with people who did not have the disease and they had to ring a bell and shout “unclean” if anyone approached them. They could not go to the market place and were forbidden to take part in worship.

If anyone had a skin disease from which they were cured (which was unlikely in the case of leprosy), Jewish Law stated they could not re-enter society unless they first went to the priest to be checked before receiving a certificate to say they were now ‘clean’.

Palestine was divided into three regions - Galilee, Judea and Samaria. The Jews hated the inhabitants of Samaria who were known as Samaritans. In the past, their ancestors had married foreign invaders from a non-Jewish background. Since then, the Samaritans were treated in an inferior way as they were not ‘pure’ Jews.

Understanding the text

The ten men with leprosy stood at a distance as they understood the law forbidding them to have contact with people who did not have the disease.

Jesus does not immediately heal the leprosy sufferers, but tests their faith by asking them to go and see the priests. They are healed on the way there. However, it is the one who returns who shows the most faith and thankfulness towards Jesus.

We do not know how many of the men were Samaritans, but it is significant that the only one to return was a Samaritan. Jesus commented “Why is this foreigner the only one who came back to give thanks to God?”

curriculum-key-fact
This miracle shows Jesus’ attitude towards people who were marginalised by others in society. Jesus shows no prejudice towards the leprosy sufferers and is willing to heal them. He also makes a point of praising the Samaritan for his faith.
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