The teachings of Messiah, 9:51-19:44
5. The coming kingdom, 16:14-18:14
iii] Ten lepers healed, only one understands graceSynopsis
Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, journeying between Galilee and Samaria. On the edge of a village he meets a group of ten lepers who cry out for mercy. Jesus heals them and sends them on their way to obtain a health certificate from the religious authorities. A disease like leprosy breaks down racial barriers and so it happened that one of their number was a "foreigner", possibly a Samaritan. This man, out of the ten, turns back praising God, and, falling at Jesus' feet, thanks him. Jesus declares that the man's faith has healed him, and he a "foreigner".
The story of the healing of the ten lepers illustrates the one law that we must obey, namely faith in Jesus. In the story we learn of an irreligious outcast who responds in faith to Jesus, a faith that saves him.
i] Context: 16:14-31. The story of The Healing of the Ten Lepers, 17:11-19, is the third episode of six dealing with Jesus' teachings on The Coming Kingdom, 16:14-18:14. In the previous episode, 17:1-10, Jesus warns his disciples of the danger of causing "one of these little ones to sin". The "little ones" are God's children, Christ's brothers. They could be new believers or weak believers, but probably just believers. The "sin" is law-righteousness, pharisaism, nomism - the corrupting idea that a believer who has been set right with God (justified) controls sin and thus progresses holiness for the appropriation of God's promised blessings by obedience to the law. This fact is confirmed by a saying on forgiveness - an impossible law to keep. The disciples call for faith to do, but Jesus offers them a faith to receive. Such a faith can be weak and insignificant, but it does have the power to activate the full appropriation of God's promised blessings. Luke, in our passage for study, illustrates the one law that we must obey, faith / reliance on Jesus for the full realization of the promised covenant blessings. The amazing thing is that an irreligious outcast is the one who responds with a faith focused on Jesus and it is this faith which saves him.
ii] Structure: This passage, The healing of the ten lepers, a combination miracle and pronouncement story, presents as follows:
The lepers call for mercy, v12-13;
The healing, v14;
The Samaritan's gratitude, v15-16;
Jesus' commendation of a faith that saves, v17-19.
"The story reveals that faith properly conceived is faith in Jesus", Danker, and that this faith, "the size of a mustard seed" (so Bock, Danker, Johnson), "saves" (swzw; "your faith has saved you", NAB, better than "made you well", NIV., etc., v19), cf. 17:1-10. The yoke of faith, rather than the yoke of the law, is the only load that should be placed upon the "little ones", v2. Law-righteousness is bound to trip up a young believer, cause them to "fall away." Faith, weak and feeble, "the size of a mustard seed", saves the "little ones", as it saved the disciples, and as we learn in the story of The Ten Lepers / The Thankful Samaritan, even saves a Samaritan.
When it comes to the type of faith revealed in the story of The Thankful Samaritan, there is some disagreement between the commentators: A faith that saves must be accompanied by "an acknowledgement of what God has done through him", Manson; The story identifies the "internal religious presuppositions for attaining salvation", Betz; The story serves as "a picture of gratitude indicating how one should respond to God's mercy", Bock; The story teaches the necessity of understanding what is received, which in the case of the Samaritan is "God's grace ..... for the new age", but for the others, only a "benefit." Ellis. The implication of some of these suggestions, namely that it is faith + that little extra which saves - an implication that should always be rejected.
We do well to follow Caird when he notes that this story identifies the focus of faith, namely Jesus. Jesus is the source of salvation, he enacts the healing and it is he whom the Samaritan acknowledges. "The story reveals that faith properly conceived is faith in Jesus", Danker.
The miracle is unique to Luke, although some commentators argue that the story is a reworking of Mark 1:40-45. The problem is that Luke uses this Markan story in 5:12-16. So, it is likely that the pericope before us is drawn from Luke's own source (L), probably an oral source known to Luke.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 17:11
The Thankful Samaritan, v11-19: i] The setting, v11. The healing took place on "the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee", NEB. Luke has retained the geographical notes that went with this story while continuing with his overall theme of Jesus journeying to Jerusalem.
kai egeneto "now" - it came to pass. Marking a new literary unit; "Now it happened", Moffatt.
en tw/ poreuesqai (poreuomai) pres. inf. "on [his] way [to Jerusalem]" - in/on to go. The articular infinitive with the preposition "in/on" forms a temporal clause expressing contemporaneous time. Note again how Luke underlines the journey theme, of messiah moving inexorably toward Jerusalem and his enthronement. "When Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem", Barclay.
autoV "Jesus" - he. The singular personal pronoun obviously refers to Jesus, but it is possible that the disciples were with him, so "at that time Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem, and he ....."
dia meson + gen. "along the border" - Here the preposition dia is spacial; "through the middle" = "between". Possibly as NIV or "through the border lands of ..." Bock suggests a broad sense is intended rather than a specific geographical location.
ii] The lepers call for mercy, v12-13. As Jesus is heading toward a village, he is spied by "ten men suffering from a virulent skin-disease", NJB, probably leprosy. The men are obviously gathered well away from the village. When they see Jesus they begin to shout out to him for mercy, for healing. They see in Jesus their only hope, and on him they rest - they put their faith in Jesus.
eisercomenou (eisercomai) pres. part. gen. "as [he] was entering" - entering. The genitive absolute participle forms a temporal clause. The present tense is durative so Jesus is in the process of entering, therefore not "on entering", Moffatt, since the lepers would not be in or at the entry of the village, but rather "as he was approaching a village", Phillips.
aphnthsan (apantaw) aor. "met" - approached, met, encountered. Obviously not "met" as Jesus only sees them in v14, but rather "approached him", "came toward him", TH.
autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after the verb "approached".
porrwqen adv. "at a distance" - from afar. The lepers, or properly "ten men suffering from a virulent skin disease", NJB, (the word "leprosy" was used for numerous skin diseases), followed the custom of the time and kept their distance.
autoi "-" - they. The position is emphatic; "they raised their voices", Berkeley.
legonteV (legw) pres. part. "called out [in a loud voice]" - [lifted up voice] saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb h\ran, "lifted up", "they lifted up .... and said", but better adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the lifting up of their voices, "they raised their voices, shouting, ...."
Ihsou epistata "Jesus, master" - A term normally used by disciples.
elehson (eleew) aor. imp. "have pity on [us]" - have mercy on. The aorist expressing urgency. Probably nothing more than a request for aid, to show compassion. A person begging for alms would say much the same.
iii] The healing, v14. Jesus tells them to have their condition inspected by the priests. This is proper practice, for they cannot return to their community and participate in its religious and cultural life unless they are declared free of their skin disease. Jesus actually tells them to go before they are healed, but as they head off, they are "cleansed". The command to "go" may be a test of faith, but is most likely just a practical directive since they have already acted in faith by asking Jesus to heal them.
idwn (eidon) aor. part. "when he saw them" - seeing them / this. The object is unclear, either "them" or "this". The participle is adverbial, forming a temporal clause. The Greek implies that Jesus had not noticed them until they had shouted out; "directly he saw them", Plummer.
atuoiV dat. pro. "[he said]" - [he said] to them. Dative of indirect object.
poreuqenteV (poreuomai) aor. pas. part. "go" - having gone. An attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "show", so as usual, treated as a finite verb, and here as an imperative; "go and show ..." Interestingly, Jesus asks them to go and show themselves to the priests before they are healed. Normally a person's skin disease would have improved before they went to the priests to have their condition assessed and to then be allowed to return to the wider community. Is Jesus prompting a faith act? At any rate, they all head off.
toiV iJereusin (uV ewV) dat. "priests" - Dative of indirect object. Marshall suggests that the plural of priests implies that the lepers were a mixed group of Jews and Samaritans and that each would need to go to their own priest. A rather long bow!!! The "plural is because there were ten lepers", Stein.
en tw/ uJpagein (uJpagw) pres. inf. "as they went" - in/on to go away. The articular infinitive with the preposition en forms a temporal clause expressing contemporaneous time; "while they were on their way", REB.
ekaqarisqhsan (kaqarizw) aor. pas. "they were cleansed" - "They had not gone far before they were healed of their leprosy." Note the parallel with the healing of Naaman, 2King.5:10. Is Luke hinting at a parallel here?
iv] The Samaritan's gratitude, v15-16. Out of the ten, the Samaritan, the hated outcast, is the only one to return to Jesus and worship him. The point is not that faith without thanksgiving is powerless to save. This would make thanksgiving a necessary work for salvation. Nor is the point of the story that we should always be thankful when confronted by God's grace. Of course, we should always be thankful to God, but this is not the point of the story. The Samaritan's response simply illustrates a saving faith, a faith that rests wholly on Jesus for salvation. Faith in Jesus, for God's eternal acceptance, is the one and only necessary act of obedience for a child of God. The Pharisees argued that law-obedience is the way God's children progress their standing with God, but in this little story a "foreigner" reminds us that God makes only one demand of us, faith in Jesus.
ex (ek) + gen. "[one] of [them]" - Here taking the place of a partitive genitive.
idwn (eidon) aor. par. "when he saw" - having seen. The participle is adverbial, temporal, as NIV. "Seen", in the sense of having seen that he was now healed, rather than gaining spiritual insight.
oJti "that" - Here introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the leper had seen, "that he was healed."
uJpestreyen (uJpostrefw) aor. "came back" - he returned. Of course, he could have continued on his way and praised God at the temple, but in all likelihood, the story serves to make the point that the faith that saves is a faith in Jesus. So, his return to Jesus serves to refocus on the one who saves, and thus, the one who is the proper focus of saving faith.
doxazwn (doxazw) pres. part. "praising [God]" - glorifying, praising. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which he "came back."
meta + gen. "with / in [a loud voice]" - Here adverbial, expressing the manner of his praising God, or strictly by the Gk. text, his return, lit. "he returned with a loud voice glorifying God." "He turned back praising God at the top of his voice", Barclay.
epi .... para + acc. "[he threw himself] at [Jesus' feet]" - [he fell] on [face] beside [the feet of him]. Both prepositions are spacial here, the first with the sense of "down upon" and the second "at, near, beside." The language is descriptive of a prostrate position who stretches out with their face on the ground, a proper position to take when confronted by a theophany. Taking up this worship position at Jesus' feet further emphasizes that Jesus is the proper focus of faith. He "fell on his face before Jesus and thanked him", Phillips.
eucaristwn (eucaristw) pres. part. "and thanked" - thanking, giving thanks. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "fell", as NIV, but adverbial, modal, expressing manner, is also possible, "he fell on his face ....., giving him thanks", ESV. As noted in the introduction, some argue that gratitude is a necessary accompaniment to saving faith. Such a view is contrary to scripture.
autw/ dat. pro. "him" - to him. Dative of direct object.
autoV hn SamarithV "he was a Samaritan" - Is there some point to the identification of this particular leper? The story certainly doesn't set up a Jew / Samaritan dichotomy. Jesus' confrontation with the Pharisees and their law-righteousness in chapter 16, sets up chapter 17 and its identification of the one law that gives life, namely, faith. Religious Israel certainly fails to obey this law, but a Samaritan does. Such prefigures the movement of the gospel from Jew to Samaritan, to god-fearer and finally, to Gentiles. Luke/Acts develops this theme.
v] Jesus commends a faith that saves, v17-19. Jesus observes that the only one to return to him and give God thanks and praise is a "foreigner", an outcast of Israel. In v19, many Bible translations have "your faith has made you well", but "your faith has saved you" carries the sense better.
apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "-" - having answered [Jesus said]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "said", virtually redundant.
ouci "[were] not [all ten cleansed]?" - This negation implies a positive answer to the question.
pou "where" - The position is emphatic, "the nine, where are they?"
Usually treated as a question, although the syntax implies that it is a statement. "It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God except this foreigner", NJB.
ouc euJreqhsan (euJriskw) aor. pas. "was no one found" - they were not found, discovered. "Except this foreigner, none (no certain persons) were found ...."
uJpostreyanteV (uJpostrefw) aor. part. "to return" - having returned. The function of the participle here is somewhat unclear. It is probably complementary, complementing the thought of the main verb "found", often translated as an infinitive, so "found to return", as NIV. The verb "found", with its complement "having returned", together take the sense "appeared / returned", "has no one returned to give praise", as TNIV; "none of them ....... have come back", Rieu. Culy suggests the participle is functioning as a subject complement in a double nominative construction; "have none of them come back to give glory to God", Culy.
dounai (didwmi) aor. inf. "to give [praise]" - The infinitive is verbal expressing purpose, "in order to give praise."
tw/ qew/ (oV) dat. "to God" - Dative of indirect object.
ei mh "except" - Introducing an exceptive clause establishing a contrast; "except, other than."
oJ allogenhV "[this] foreigner" - Hapax legomenon, once only use in the NT. Interestingly, the leper who returned to Jesus is not quite a foreigner, rather, he is a half-cast Jew. The word was used for non Jews on the keep-out sign at the temple. Again, the point may be that this man, who would normally be bared from the religious life of Israel, has a better understanding of how a person is set right with God than a righteous Pharisee, see v16.
kai "then" - and. Here introducing a concluding through so somewhat consecutive; "and so ....."
autw/ dat. pro. "[he said] to him" - Dative of indirect object.
anastaV (anisthmi) aor. part. "rise and [go]" - [go] having arisen. Attendant circumstance participle, describing action accompanying the main verb "go". Usually translated as a finite verb joined to the main verb by "and"; here as an imperative, so NIV. "Stand up and go on your way", REB.
sou gen. "your [faith]" - [the faith] of you. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, although is usually classified as verbal, subjective. Identifying the key ingredient of the story, namely saving faith, faith in the terms of a reliance (doubts and all = mustard seed size) upon Jesus. Elsewhere Scripture fine tunes faith to a reliance on Jesus' word - a reliance on his promises.
seswken (swzw) perf. "has made [you] well" - has saved [you]. The perfect tense indicates a past act with ongoing consequences. As noted above, "your faith has cured you", Barclay, etc., is unlikely, given Luke's theological intentions, it is more likely "your faith has saved you", Rieu, NJB, NAB, Berkeley.