Monday, March 23, 2020

"It’s Always Right to Turn Back to Jesus"

Luke 17.12-16 NASU

“As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ When He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’

And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.”

There’s more to the account of the ten lepers than the typical “moral of the story” which commends one in ten who actually stops to say “thank you.” The fact that the one who turned back was a Samaritan despised by first century Jews offers drama and contrast, but there’s even more to the story than that. Christ’s healing of the ten lepers offers a glimpse into the meaning of faith and faith’s inter-relationship with obedience...
  • Ten “leprous men” asked Jesus for mercy.
  • Jesus told them to “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” [1]
  • “As they were going” on their way to see a priest, “they were cleansed.”
  • “One of them, when he saw that he had been healed,” presumably before he found a priest, “turned back” to offer thanks to Jesus.
We may reasonably assume that nine of the ten cleansed lepers did just exactly what Jesus told them to do; that is, “Go and show yourselves to the priests. One man, the hero of the story, did not, strictly speaking, obey Christ. Instead, he “turned back” from doing precisely what Jesus (and the Law of Moses) commanded. Once healed, the former leper returned to the One who healed him. There the thankful man fell “on his face at His feet.”

This man’s actions do not preclude the possibility that he later fulfilled Christ’s requirement to see a priest, yet the text suggests otherwise. In fact, it appears the Lord expected all ten to come back. Jesus was surprised when only one did…

“Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine – where are they?”

The one who “turned back” was given a new command, superseding the first:

“Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”

It appears the healed Samaritan was not required to go to the priest at all. His decision to “turn back” to Jesus was enough.

I well remember occasions when I doggedly followed the course I once heard Jesus chart for me, even after I already found what I sought from Him along the way. Perhaps Jesus never intended the lepers to make it “to the priests.” His intention may have been only that they take the first step of obedience to “go,” and in their “going” receive what they sought from Jesus, then come to the realization that what they really needed was more of Him! 

The original destination (e.g., “the priests”) was not the point of Christ’s command. It was the journey (e.g., the healing) and the ultimate destination (e.g., Jesus) that mattered. Herein lies the mystery of faith and faith’s inter-relationship with obedience. 

It’s always the right course of action to return to Jesus. 


[1] According to Law of Moses, a cleansed leper was to confirm his healing with a priest followed by an elaborate eight day sacrificial ritual involving sprinkling of blood, washing, and shaving (Leviticus 14.1-32).

The painting "Ten Lepers Healed" is an oil on panel (1997) by artist Brian Kershisnik (1962- ). You can check out Brian's amazing work at

No comments: