Luke 17:11-19


Assuming that there is a gap between verses 10-11, Morris summarizes Arndt as to the occasion of verses 11-17. It is worth quoting.

Arndt points out that Jesus went to a town called Ephraim after the raising of Lazarus, John 11:54, this being about twenty miles north of Jerusalem. He suggests that when the Passover approached Jesus continued in a northerly direction to join the Galilean pilgrims going up to Jerusalem and that this is where and when our incident is to be located. This is supported by the fact that on His last trip to Jerusalem Jesus went by way of Perea, Matthew 19:1; Mark 10:1, which would be the natural continuation of the journey Luke describes here. The suggestion cannot be proved, but there is nothing improbably about it.

Luke 17:11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.

"Now" means nothing if we hold that the early church rewrote Luke 5:12-14. We believe that this account really happened.

Jesus is going east on the border between Samaria and Galilee toward Perea, according to the better manuscripts.

Luke 17:12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance

We do not know which village. The lepers met Him outside the village. When the one returned later, evidently Jesus was inside the village. A leper could not come into close association with other people. But, when they were cleansed, this restriction was removed. Look at Leviticus 13:45-46. They obeyed the Old Testament injunction.

Luke 17:13 and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"

They shouted. What they say clearly indicates that they had heard about Jesus. "Master" indicates, if nothing else, high respect. They were in a pitiful condition. Leprosy was almost incurable in those days. It was a fatal disease which made a person an outcast in society. Anyone who has witnessed leprosy in is advanced, incurable stages, as did the author of these notes in Nigeria, gets some idea of the pitiful condition of these ten men.

Luke 17:14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.

This plainly indicates Jesus' humanity. Their cry attracted Jesus' attention. And then, what He says clearly indicates His divinity. His command clearly contains a promise. The priests could only declare a leper clean when the disease had been overcome. Look at Leviticus 13:47-59; 14:1-32.

We would say: "Go and show." Why plural "priests?"

Hahn: Either to the priests of their respective nationalities or to the priests of the respective districts to which they belonged.

This implies that there were priests also among the Samaritans. Whether any of them headed for Jerusalem, we know not. but it is highly unlikely.

The command of Jesus in 14a contained the promise and power to heal them. Jesus and His word are the agent of the verb in this sentence.

Luke 17:15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.

From verse 14 it is clear that all were healed at the same time. From verse 15 it is clear that one of them, the moment he realized that he had been healed, turned around and went back. The Greek seems to indicate that they had not gone far.

The man was glorifying God with a loud voice as he was returning to Jesus. He was acknowledging that Jesus had healed him. Did he recognize Jesus as true God? Verses 16-19, we think, plainly indicate that he did. And we'll go even farther: the personal article (not translated in the NIV) means "his" God, and indicates a relationship.

Luke 17:16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him -- and he was a Samaritan.

"And then." In verse 12 the lepers stood at a distance. Here the cleansed leper is "at Jesus' feet" prostrate on the ground. He was so deeply moved that, though a priest had not yet pronounced him clean, he came close to a man who was not affected by leprosy.

Were the other nine Jews? The text does not say that but it is apparently implied. He is called a "foreigner" in verse 18. That implies that the nine were native born. The Jew suffers by comparison. Matthew 15:28; 8:10.

Luke 17:17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?

"Jesus asked" means simply "in response." Jesus was responding to a situation, not to a question. Now follow three questions, the first and third are rhetorical and expect the answer "yes." The second question seeks information. Did Jesus address these questions to bystanders? In verse 20 we read of Pharisees and in verse 22 we read of the disciples. But we can't be certain whether Jesus had an audience in verses 16-19. Nor need we be. The important item is Jesus' disappointment over the nine.

By the way, those who think this account is not told very well say that Jesus should not have expected them to return because, in verse 14, He told them to go, not to return. But what that overlooks is the Person who says it. The Lord Jesus has a perfect right to expect praise and thanks from the person who has received His help.

Luther: That is true worship: to return and praise God with a loud voice, which is the greatest work in heaven and in earth, the only thing we can show God. Anything else we dare not, are not even capable of it, but He loves to be loved and be praised by us. . . . How few there are that return, hardly one out of ten!

Luke 17:18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

"Weren't there any who came back to give God glory except this foreigner?" Jesus does not say that the nine did not believe. He does not even say that they were not thankful. But He does say that they did not give glory to God. That means to acknowledge the Giver for what He is. Even human beings, under ordinary circumstances, are grieved when others do not acknowledge receipt of gifts. Even the unregenerate recognize that fact. How much more should not a human who has received an exceptional gift from God Himself acknowledge the Giver?

Verse 18 is Law for all of us. How little do we really glorify God for our redemption and many other gifts? And what heightens Jesus' argument is that only a foreigner, a Samaritan, returned to glorify God. Whatever nationality the nine were, stress is laid on the fact that the one was a foreigner and, though the text does not say so, they must have been Jews, covenant people. If the nine had faith, what happened to it? We can come up with no other answer than that what faith there was, was short-lived, unless they obeyed the command in verse 14 out of sheer desperation, not faith. But commentators are not willing to go that far.

Luke 17:19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

"Get up and be on your way."

And now a question with which the commentators wrestle: "Did this man have saving faith?" "Did his faith apprehend only physical, not spiritual healing?"

Geldenhuys: Not merely cured him of his bodily sickness, but saved him in the fullest sense of the word.
Ylvisaker: The Jews accepted the material benefits, but close their hearts against the deliverance from sin.
Lenski: The text is misunderstood when Jesus' word to this man is made equal to his word to the pardoned woman in 7:50 . . . He was on the way to this salvation, and to tell him, as Jesus did, encouraged him to go on toward the greater goal of faith.
Stoeckhardt: This faith alone rescues man's body and soul, for it is no benefit to man if he believes for a time.

In any case, we can say with firm confidence that the attitude of this man toward Jesus was the right one. He believed. He thanked. He glorified. Doesn't that indicate that it was saving faith?

Finally, here Jesus proved Himself to be the Messiah. Look at 7:22. And, as mentioned above, this account proves that Jesus' Word is omnipotent. In verse 14 the command contains a promise.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series C Gospel Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1979, pp. 65-67. Used with permission.

Return to top

Return to Buls' Notes Index