Luk_17:17-18. And Jesus answering, said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
AS the miracles of our Lord were greatly diversified, so were the effects produced by them. Sometimes they were regarded with stupid indifference; at other times they were made effectual to the conversion of sinners: we have an instance of both in the history before us—
Consider the various circumstances mentioned in the context—
The leprosy, though little known amongst us, was very common in Jud
a: ten persons infected with it made application to Jesus for relief—
[Jesus had just been refused admission into a Samaritan village [Note: Luk_9:52-53; Luk_9:56. with ver. 12. See Dr. Doddridge’s Fam. Expos. sect. 127.]. On his entrance into another village the lepers saw him. How graciously was the bigotry of the Samaritans overruled for good! Had they used the common rights of hospitality, perhaps the lepers might never have had the opportunity that was now afforded them. It was not permitted to lepers to approach even their dearest friends. They therefore “stood afar off,” crying earnestly for relief. A sense of need will make us importunate in our supplications. But, alas! the generality are far more anxious for the removal of bodily disorders, than of spiritual maladies. Happy were it for us, if our fervour were most expressed in the concerns which most demand it!]
Jesus instantly vouchsafed a gracious answer to their petition—
[He did not indeed pronounce them whole, or even promise to make them so. He only ordered them to go to the priests, the appointed judges of leprosy [Note: ver. 14. with Lev_14:2.]. This however amounted to a virtual promise of healing, unless he intended only to mock and deride their misery. And it answered many valuable and important purposes. It served as a test of their faith and obedience. Their instant departure would prevent any combination to discredit the miracle. It would make the priests themselves to attest its reality, and might lead them to receive him as the promised Messiah. In obedience to his command, the lepers went, expecting a cure: nor were any of them disappointed of their hope. In going, they were restored by the almighty power of Jesus; and they felt in themselves infallible tokens of perfect health.]
The effects however produced upon them were not alike in all—
[Nine of them prosecuted their journey mindful only of their own comfort. Having obtained all that they wished, they forgat their Benefactor, nor ever thought of paying the debt which gratitude demanded. One, however, was more sensible of the obligations conferred upon him, and burned with a desire to acknowledge the mercies he had received. Returning instantly, he prostrated himself at the feet of Jesus. With heartfelt gratitude he glorified God as the author of his mercy, and gave thanks to Jesus, as the instrument by whom it was sent. Nor was he less ardent in his thanksgivings, than he had before been importunate in his prayers [Note: ver. 13, 15.].]
To open these more minutely, we shall,
Make some reflections on the text in particular—
The first reflection which naturally arises from the text is,
What ingratitude is there in the human heart!
[We are amazed at the conduct of the ungrateful lepers. We are ready to suppose that nothing could induce us to act like them. Yet we may see in them a true picture of the world at large. How many temporal mercies have we experienced through our whole lives! What continuance of health, or deliverances from sickness! What freedom from want, or relief in the midst of it! What comfort in the society of our friends and relatives! Yet how little have we thought of him, who bestowed these blessings! How many spiritual mercies too have we received from God! What provision has been made for the healing of our souls! The Son of God himself has suffered, that he might “heal us by his stripes”: and offers of pardon and salvation have been proclaimed to us in his name; Yea, we have been promised a deliverance from the leprosy of sin [Note: Rom_6:14.], and have been entreated to become children and heirs of God. Are not these mercies which demand our gratitude? Yet what returns have we made to our adorable Benefactor? May not God complain of us as he did of the ungrateful Jews [Note: Isa_1:2-3.]? Let us then abase ourselves before God under a sense of our vileness [Note: Job_42:6.]; nor let us justify our conduct from the example of the world. Who does not commend the singularity of the grateful leper? Who does not admire the singularity of Noah among the antediluvians, and of Lot in Sodom? Let us then dare to be singular in loving and adoring our Benefactor. Let a sense of gratitude far outweigh the fear of man. Then, though the world despise us, we shall have the testimony of a good conscience; and “our record shall be on high” in the day of the Lord Jesus [Note: Job_16:19.].]
How often do they, who enjoy the greatest advantages, make the least improvement of them!
[The nine ungrateful lepers were, by profession, the Lord’s people. They had been instructed out of the law by God’s appointed ministers. The wonderful works which had been wrought for their nation could not be unknown to them. The examples of David and other eminent saints had been set before them: they therefore could not but know much of God’s will respecting them. The poor “Samaritan,” on the contrary, was a “stranger” to God’s covenant. The prejudices of his nation forbad all intercourse with the Jews. By this means he was cut off from all opportunities of instruction: yet he returned to glorify his God, while all the Jews overlooked the mercy vouchsafed unto them. And are there not many amongst ourselves, who are far from improving their spiritual advantages? Are we not surpassed in virtue by many who never enjoyed our privileges? Are there not many illiterate and obscure persons whose hearts overflow with gratitude, while ours are as insensible as a stone? Let us remember that God expects from us according to the means of improvement he has afforded us [Note: Luk_12:48.]; and let us labour to yield fruit suited to the culture bestowed upon us [Note: Isa_5:2-6.].]
How plain is our duty both under a need, and after the receipt, of divine mercies!
[The lepers could not possibly have adopted a wiser measure than they did: they were persuaded of Christ’s power to help: and they sought help at his hands. And is not Jesus as mighty now as in the days of his flesh? Will not the diseases of the soul, as well as of the body, yield to his commands? Has he not encouraged us by many express promises of mercy? Let us then, like the lepers, cry, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”; nor let us cease from our importunity till we have prevailed: but, if we have received answers of peace, let us be thankful for them [Note: Psa_30:2-4.]. Justly did Jesus express his wonder at not seeing the other nine; much more will he if we should forget to pay him our tribute of praise. Waiting for our approaches, he says, “Where are they?” Let him then see us daily prostrating ourselves before him. Let us be earnest in our thanksgivings, as well as in our prayers. Let us often consider how we may best express our sense of his goodness [Note: Psa_116:12.]. In his strength let us go and shew ourselves to the world. Let us compel his very enemies to acknowledge his work [Note: Psa_126:2.], and constrain them by our lives to confess the efficacy of his grace. Thus shall we most acceptably honour him on earth, and ere long be exalted to magnify his name in heaven.]